Abbotsbury Children's Farm...
Abbotsbury Children’s Farm and Smugglers’ Barn is a great little family attraction. It offers everything you could want to entertain younger children, relax their parents and a lot more besides.
Set in the atmospheric and beautiful surroundings of the “Tithe Barn” on the edge of Abbotsbury village, the Children’s Farm does exactly what is says on the tin. It’s a farmyard for children - and they love it!
Is it a traditional farmyard? Well, no, not really, except in terms of the traditional buildings used. There are pigs, sheep and goats. There are also ponies you can have a ride on for a small additional fee. And there is a fibreglass cow you can “milk” safe in the knowledge that she won’t kick you if you squeeze too tight or poop on your head just because she feels like it!
But there are also Alpacas, budgies and more guinea pigs than a small child’s mind can comfortably imagine! These fluffy little fellahs, in particular, are a massive draw. No matter what your age, unless you are truly guinea-pig-o-phobic, you are going to love sitting down with one of these guys on your lap whilst they nibble at a piece of carrot. For several hours each morning and afternoon, customers are free to join the guinea pigs in their domain and have one deftly and expertly placed on their laps to stroke and feed and love a little bit. Whilst all around on the floor dozens of their fluffy little buddies are scurrying about doing their own thing waiting for the next lap and the next carrot to come their way.
Fun though the guinea pig house is, you will have to drag yourself and your charges away at some stage. Which is fine because there are plenty of other things to do.
For a start there’s a daily programme of events and activities to get involved with where you can feed, groom and ride some of the other residents of the farm. You can also watch twice-daily goat races! Lots of fun and no harm to the goats as they are just rushing to see who gets to be first for the treats!
In between times there’s a spacious tarmac area for mini pedal tractors and several good play areas with equipment ranging from a castle made of straw bales to one of the best sand pits ever. Ask kids to tidy their rooms and they’ll moan like hell, but they’ll happily spend ages here moving sand from one place to another, hauling it up to the top of the platform with chains and scoops and then sending it back down again from one chute or another.
So, Abbotsbury Children’s farm. Lots of animals and lots of fun and hardly any farmyard manure! But that’s not to say you don’t need to be careful. Wherever there are animals there are bugs to be wary of, whether you’re out on a country walk or here in the well-managed environment of the Children’s Farm. Simple safety rules will keep you and yours safe. The easiest of all is “Wash Your Hands”, which is why there are plenty of sinks and hand sanitizers by every animal pen.
It’s no different here to handling your pets at home, you wouldn’t stroke your dog and then feed your kids without first giving your mits and theirs a good wash.
When you are all animal-farmed out, or perhaps if it starts to rain, there’s a whole new level of exploration to be enjoyed for all the family in the “Smuggler’s Barn”. Given the past tendency for many in this part of Dorset to be involved in the dealing of contraband, this tag is doubtless an appropriate one for this massive, old, stone barn. But many, especially locals, know it better as the Abbotsbury Tithe Barn.
This comes from the name given to the practice by which tenants of an estate gave a proportion (in this case one tenth) of their harvest to their landlord each year. It was know as “tithing” (pronounced like “tie”).
For this old barn the landlords were the monks of Abbotsbury, who judging by the size of their 14th Century cathedral-like garner store, made a pretty good living out of the proceeds from their estate. Even by modern standards the Tithe Barn is a sizeable construction. And it used to be twice as big as it is now! Henry the VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries helped to shrink it to its current size.
Today, the Tithe Barn or Smugglers’ Barn, houses a host of interesting goodies. There’s a good-sized soft play area for the kids and an indoor lounge area for the older members of the family where you can sit, talk, play table tennis, enjoy a snack or read some information boards about the barn and its smuggling links or listen to and watch a video loop about smugglers and smuggling.
Don’t forget to look up whilst your in the Tithe Barn. It has a magnificent roof. The story of its restoration and the funds that went in to its repair is just one of the stories told around the walls of this magnificent and architecturally pleasing old store.
Add to all of this an immaculately kept café and shop and the Children’s Farm and Smugglers Barn becomes an attraction that can be enjoyed at several levels by many different ages. Yes, it is aimed primarily at children and mostly the younger ones. But there is also plenty there for their Mums, Dads and grandparents.
The Children’s Farm is probably the part of the trio of Abbotsbury attractions that the kids will enjoy most, but they will also get lots from the Swannery and Subtropical Gardens too, which may themselves be a bigger draw to older members of the party. But put them all together under the Abbotsbury Passport ticket and you’ve got three excellent days out at a real value for money price for all the family. Glitzy? No. But all the better for it and set in an amazing and beautiful location with a richness of history and architecture to interest and excite the very young and the very old.
As for the Abbotsbury Children’s Farm, the people for whom it is designed will most likely shed a tear or two on leaving and remember being in Guinea Pig heaven long after they leave. It is, first and foremost, a children’s farm and they love it. But for the rest of us, you can’t visit a place as atmospheric as the Tithe Barn and not imagine what it might have been like when it was frequented by landed monks, smugglers and who knows what other rogues…!!!
The Children’s Farm does exactly what is says on the tin. It’s a farmyard for children - and they love it!"