We visited here back in March but I thought I would share our fun! Smithills Farm is a working farm just outside Bolton. I had been once before with my class from school, but we had never got round to taking Annabelle. So we packed up the car and stacked up the layers (it was freezing!) and off we went to Bolton. It was lovely and quiet as we managed to go in term time which I think makes all the difference.
It cost £6 each to get in (under 2s are free), plus extra for a donkey ride, tractor ride and animal feed but by the end of the day we agreed it was defiantly worth it. As we arrived, milking was just about to start so after a quick look at the animals inside the large barn we went to the milking parlour at the end of the barn.
The thing about Smithills is it looks (and smells!!) like a real working farm – because it is. It may be a bit untidy and obviously there is muck about but it is the staff that really make it special. The staff member giving the talk about milking was really funny and informative and I admired this as he must have to do the same thing several times a day (whilst actually getting on with milking the cows!)
After watching this, we were sent over to ‘pet’s corner’ – an area in the same barn with bales of hay for everyone to sit on. This was one of the best bits of the whole day. Lots of animals were brought round for the children to see and stroke and there were plenty of staff on hand to look after the animals and answer questions. We saw owls, goats, donkeys, puppies, chicks, guinea pigs, pigs, rabbits and many more that I have forgotten by now! There is normally a snake but he was busy shedding his skin so didn’t come out of his tank.
The best bit of pet’s corner was undoubtedly feeding the lambs. I remembered this from our school trip and was really looking forward to showing Annabelle. The staff explained to the children how to feed the lambs and dished out bottles, they then asked the children to call the lambs over (of course they wouldn’t come until the children shouted loud enough!) and another staff member let them out their pen in the middle of the barn. They came charging up the aisle, and I mean CHARGING! into the corner where the children were and went straight to the bottles. Although it was all very noisy and slightly chaotic at first the children absolutely loved it and there were plenty of staff to keep everyone safe (and sort out lambs fighting over a bottle!)
After all the excitement in the main barn, we went outside for some fresh air and an explore. We had lots of fun at the playground and being a termtime weekday it was lovely and quiet.
There are two good-sized bouncy castles that Annabelle and I enjoyed (for free) and then we went inside for lunch. After wrapping up our crusts for the horses we headed up to the start point for the tractor-trailer rides. Again, the staff gave a good commentary and made it fun for the children. The ride was pretty short, but we stopped in the top field with lovely views out onto the hills around Bolton, and we were all given slices of bread. Two horses came dashing over and the children were able to feed them the bread from inside the trailer. Annabelle was fascinated by this and she talked about it for weeks after!
Next stop for us was a large cow shed where the pregnant cows and mums with calfs are kept. Out in the fields there were a few more animals to see including a very cheeky ostrich who gave Annabelle a nip on the finger! She had a handful of bird feed but didn’t manage to put it down on the ground quick enough before the ostrich poked his head through the fence and bit her 🙁 after a good deal of kisses and cuddles all was fine again.
Our last adventure was a donkey ride (and then another one after a kind lady donated us her granddaughter’s ticket because she was too frightened). Annabelle was really good at sitting still on the donkey’s back and holding tight to the handle on the saddle. I was impressed with her balance, and she just took it all in her stride. She spent most of her time on the donkey pointing at the man leading us along and shouting ‘man!’. This is one of Annabelle’s favourite pastimes when we are out although as you can imagine it can lead to some embarasing situations when she shouts ‘man’ or ‘lady’ and gets it wrong!
We were just on our way out when we saw a pig being walked down from a field into a pen. The staff told us that she had just had a litter of piglets up in the field and asked if we wanted to see. We spent at least 20 minutes watching these tiny little piglets (only 30 minutes old). Annabelle loved them and kept asking what they would eat. We explained that they would have milk from the Mummy pig and she was desperate to see this but unfortunately we didn’t get chance. This is another memory that stuck with her, and everytime we play with pigs or see pigs, she talks about the baby pigs having ‘Mummy pig’s milkies!’
So, after our adventure at the farm we can happily conclude that we had a lovely day out. I am glad that we went in a quiet time as I am sure that around school holidays it would get very busy. We might go again, but I would like to try other nearby farms first to compare.