Spring is the time for lambs and farm visits with small children. And there were just a few signs of Spring at the weekend so it was off to Kent Life in Maidstone.
There are many things that I could criticise about Kent Life, but the visit was all for a 5¾year old. And she loved it!
The best thing (although the 5¾ year old disagrees) was the closeness of the animals. We bottle fed lambs (well tug of war may have been a more accurate description), hand fed animals (feed purchased at £1 a bag), cuddled rabbits and guinea pigs and stroked numerous animals. The animals (well except the lambs) were all pretty docile and seemed happy or at least resigned to being handled by small children (and a fair number of dads too!). There were plenty of staff around to help with the animals and they were happy to talk to the children about them too. The children were also reminded to wash their hands after handling the animals.
The programme of events lets you know when you can participate in the feeding of different animals (lambs, goats and horses on the day we went).
The play area was a big hit, with a pretty cool giant swing, rocket like climbing frame with slide and climbing wall amongst others. There were also junior quad bikes (additional cost), zorb like balls on a pool (additional cost), fairground swing carriage (additional cost) and carousel (you guessed – additional cost).
Other things to keep small children entertained included alpacas, horses, goats, chickens (from eggs incubating, to little chicks and somewhat larger chicks) and tractor rides.
For poor weather there is also pottery painting (additional cost) and an indoor playbarn with the usual soft play area and coffee bar. There is no additional charge for the playbarn and whilst not the largest, it is a welcome add-on and the equipment kept the 5¾ year old sufficiently entertained. There is a separate part for smaller children.
There are also a number of “heritage” interests including a farmhouse set up as per the 1950s. Fascinating for children to see the size of tv and parents/grandparents to reminisce about only 2 or 3 or 4 channels and childrens’ programmes for no more than 2 hours per day. I think the 5¾ year old thought I was making it up!
We (ok I) liked Dotty’s tea room. Late on a fine Saturday afternoon cakes were in fairly short supply but the flapjack was delicious, staff helpful and friendly, it was fairly clean and the menu looked better than at most of these sorts of places. The prices were not too extortionate either.
As is usual at these sorts of places, the exit is through the gift shop. The usual tat (but plently of not very expensive tat for children to spend their pocket money on) and not enough locally sourced items (Kent preserves excepted) for me.
Cost? Adults are £8.95, children £6.95 (under 3s free) and concessions £7.95. You can also buy an annual pass. The biggest criticism is that there are a number of things which are not included in the entry price, meaning that you should expect to pay more than this (unless you have an iron will/non pestering children with you).