Because it’s that little bit further away from Aylesbury I’d never heard of it until I stumbled across it recently. In some ways it doesn’t seem like an “open” farm because it’s got more than just the animals, but not all of the bells and whistles of some of the more well known open farms. It’s a lovely, outdoors day out and a really relaxed, homely feel. Dogs on leads are allowed into the farm.
Just like with my review of Stockwood Discovery Centre, the weather was a bit pants when we were kindly invited to visit Cogges, so the photos don’t really do it justice. The difference between here and other places, I think, is that it genuinely was a farm (since before the Tudor times I believe) and so all of the buildings are real and there is a manor house too.
Any Downton fans??? Well you might recognise the kitchen and gardens as it was used as Yew Tree Farm to hide Lady Edith’s daughter Marigold. It’s also been used in the new Keira Knightley farm “Colette” and Arthur & George was also filmed here. The kitchen is dressed very differently to how it appeared in Downton, but there’s a little video in the Manor House that tells you all about the filming. There’s a couple of other rooms that are open, including one that has lots of costumes and hats to try on. There is also a dairy to explore. I believe that on certain days volunteers do tours of the rest of the house and there are craft activities that happen as well.
Make sure you have a look around the manor house gardens, even in early spring they were pretty. I can imagine that in full summer they are stunning.
As you come into the farm you get to meet the first set of residents; the running ducks and goats. They also have pigs, sheep, rabbits, guinea pigs, quail, various types of chicken, turkeys, other types of ducks and horses. Several of the animals were undercover, which was very helpful given the rubbish weather!!! There aren’t actually a huge amount of animals and most of them are centred around the farmyard area. There are similar amounts of animals to a fair few of the farms that I’ve been to though.
Whilst you cannot buy bags of food to give to the animals, they have a much more sensible way of letting you feed them. At certain times of the day pots of food are left in strategic locations around the farmyard. You just go and help yourself and then feed it to the animals. The advantage of this is that they all get proper food but not too much of it. Genius.
The farm site itself is fairly compact but, because of how it’s laid out, it really doesn’t feel like that. There are lots of walls with hidden paths or doors which make it all feel more spread out. Plus there are plenty of things to do throughout the site. Being on the smaller side also helps in terms of getting to the toilets and not tiring small legs out too much.
There is a soft play area in one of the courtyard buildings. It really is quite small and only for under 5’s but, again, it was welcome relief from the drizzle. The boys were quite happy shooting hoops in the ring next to the play area whilst smallest child had a clamber around for a while. Don’t expect a massive play frame, it is a small ball pit and various foam things to clamber on.
Because it’s Easter they’ve got a couple of trails going on (£3 each, which you redeem in the shop). There’s an indoors one in the barn for under 5’s where you have to try and find 6 eggs hidden within the straw to fill your egg carton. Smallest child LOVED doing this and it was a challenge getting her to leave the eggs behind for everyone else. They also have some bird masks (a little bit freaky if you ask me but the boys thought they were hilarious) and some wings so you could dress up like a bird.
There is also an outdoors trail where you have to find all of the giant nests that have been built around the farm and collect the letters to make a word. I missed a couple at first because I didn’t realise that they were nests, I thought they were pens or seating areas! Oops. The good thing about that trail is that you have to cover the whole site to find all the nests.
Within the farmyard area there is a picnic area, some of which is undercover. Again this was very handy with the weather. I’d decided to leave the lunch in the car and come back later to collect it. I’m not sure if that was the best idea – it’s a couple of minutes walk from the farm to the car park so it was added sogginess with a couple of hungry kids. Not my most sensible decision. Did I mention it drizzled all day? Had it been dry then my plan would have worked marvellously.
This picnic area also has an undercover sand pit. It’s a really quite deep sandpit and there’s loads of spades and buckets etc. Apparently you don’t have to take your shoes off, or at least no-one else did whilst we were there, so I did wonder how hygienic it is. Muddy/farmy boots + sand? That said, the sand was all very clean and totally dry so the boys had a decent play in there.
There’s actually quite a few places that you can have a picnic including in the orchard which would be a really lovely place to eat if you can. It just so happens to be next to what has to be a highlight of Cogges – the adventure fort. It’s AWESOME. I want to build one in my garden, but I’d need a much bigger garden. It’s designed for over 5’s and actually smaller kids really do struggle to get around. I helped smallest child up to one section and then couldn’t really take her anywhere. I also couldn’t walk her back the way I came because it was too slippy to risk carrying her (again, the rain) so she had to go down a very wet slide instead. She thought flinging off the end of the slide at high speed was hilarious and promptly demanded to do it again.
The play fort is actually quite simple but, because of its size and layout, it really is a fantastic playground area. In addition to the fort itself there’s a nest swing, very fast zip line and climbing frame. Given half a chance I think the boys would have played in here for hours and hours. My only difficultly would have been keeping smallest child entertained whilst the bigger ones had fun.
Cogges often have various events going on and they regularly have a forest school in the little woodland next to the adventure fort. The very lovely Mandy of The Hedgehog Club had a mud kitchen, clay nests and den building set up. We also toasted marshmallows over a fire and had them between a couple of biscuits. That was very popular with middle and smallest child (by this stage we’d totally lost biggest child to the zip wire). We didn’t stay that long sadly, mainly because of the cold rather than the mud and because we had to get home, but I think it would have been great fun to get involved in some of the other activities she was doing. We’d just left it a bit late in the day for us.
There are a couple of fields with ponies and sheep in and there’s a large meadow to explore as well. To get to the fort and woodland you can cross a little chain bridge or walk over some fallen trees. Luckily there is also pushchair access around the sides. Speaking of pushchairs, the whole place is pushchair friendly (as long as you don’t mind the mud). We didn’t take ours into the manor but some people did and there was a covered area outside that you could leave the pushchair underneath.
Once we’d had enough of the rain and smallest child decided she wanted to go home we stopped to have a bit of cake before getting into the car. We had a cookie, banana cake, ice cream (obviously), a can of coke and two hot chocolates which came to £9 something. The cakes all looked really yummy and it was one of the nicest banana loaves I’ve eaten. As I mentioned, smallest child isn’t quite big enough for the main play area but there’s a smaller play area just outside of the cafe that she could have a go in.
PS – as if all this wasn’t enough there’s also a really good adventure playground across the road!
Overall, we had a really good day despite the weather (have I mentioned that it rained a bit whilst we were there?) All joking aside, at many other places we simply would have had to go home but they have a lot of indoors and undercover things going on so we were still able to make a pretty much full day of it. We were there for about 4 hours. On a dry day we very easily could have been there for a lot longer taking advantage of the gardens, woodland, forest school and that fort.
£19.50 for a family ticket. They also do a season ticket for just £64 which can be transferred between parents and grandparents. If you’re fairly local that seems like a bargain! It took us about an hour to get there, it’s only just off the A40.
Parking / how to get there
Parking – free, a couple of minutes walk away.
Address – Church Lane, Witney OX28 3LA
On-site including baby change
Lots of places to have picnics, including some under cover. Cafe on-site
Rating – 4.5/5. We had a really good time. I imagine in the height of summer that this is an amazing place to visit. Even on a day like today we had plenty to do and were there for a long time. Maybe it might have been nice to see a few more animals but I’m not sure where they’d put them.
We were very kindly invited down to Cogges Manor Farm but they did not see this review before publication and all views are my own.
I’m Vicky and I am a mum of three living in Aylesbury. I set up Free Time with the Kids to review free and cheap family days out in Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire, mainly because I kept forgetting all the fabulous places that were recommended to me!! I love getting out and about with the kids (and hubby of course) and we have adventures all over the place. My reviews tell you all the things you need to know about the family days out and activites we’ve done such as how much it costs, if there’s parking, toilets and if there’s a cafe or if picnics are allowed. I really hope you find the reviews helpful. If there’s anywhere that you’d recommend please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch via Facebook