We decided to visit Mead Open Farm this week because there’s currently a children go free offer. It’s also been shortlisted as one of the Best Animal Related Family Day Out! I last went about three and a half years ago. All good reasons to go back. I’ve struggled a little bit with how to frame this review of Mead Open Farm because I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the place. Now, before I get TONS of message about how amazing it is here, I know that it is extremely popular. I see all the time that people have got season tickets and it’s often recommended as one of the top annual memberships. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s bad. I just struggle with where it finds into the picture with the other local farms.
Let’s start with the basics. Mead Open Farm is based just outside of Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire. I believe it’s actually still a working farm as well as a tourist attraction. In terms of animals they have all the usual suspects. There’s ponies, sheep, cows, goats, pygmy goats, rabbits, alpaca, chickens and pigs (I think that’s everything). There’s also a LOT of other, non-animal related things to do, both indoors and out.
A lot of the animals were not in the same place I seem to remember them being before. When we visited they were just dismantling their Christmas displays so two of the barns (Jo’s and the Big Barn) were out of action. This might have affected where some of the animals are currently living.
The animals at Mead Open Farm are in four main areas. There’s the stables/farmyard favourites, demo barn, piggy palace and then some paddocks outside. The farmyard has two ponies, a couple of alpaca, half a dozen orphaned sheep, half a dozen goats, ducks, some chickens and lots and lots of rabbits. Beautiful rabbits with lovely fluffy coats that made me want to convince hubby to let me buy one ourselves!! The rabbits and chickens are under cover (result) and the other animals are fairly sheltered so it’s good even if the weather is a bit rubbish (which it was when we visited).
They do regularly bunny petting sessions and chicken chats in here as well. Slight rant, if you’re taking your kids to a petting session PLEASE keep an eye on your kid!! There weren’t many of us there but most of the kids were practically mauling the poor bunnies whilst the parents did nothing. There were three or four rabbits out, and only two staff, so they couldn’t keep a particularly close eye on the kids either.
For a minute I thought this was all the animals they had on site! If that was the case then the review of Mead Open Farm would have been very short. “Where are all the animals???!!”
The demo barn
This is where you’ll see the majority of the animals. This barn is home to several ponies, loads of very cheeky pygmy goats, some bigger goats, lots of young sheep, several cows and some highland cattle. They’re all undercover, which again makes it good for bad weather. There are a lot of animals all under one roof, an estate agent would possibly describe it a “compact”. Again, this isn’t a bad review of Mead Open Farm, and I’m certain the meet all the welfare standards, it’s just my observations. I think I prefer the animals to have a bit more space. I think the goats are normally outside in a walk-through, and it was cold, so there’s every possibility they were actually all inside for a good reason.
As the name “demo barn” suggests, this is where a lot of the demonstrations take place. For instance, you can groom a pony or bottle feed a lamb. All of the times are on the leaflet you’re given on arrival.
This was a new addition since my last visit. The pigs now have their own dedicated palace which has a raised walkway over the pens so you can have a proper look at the pigs. When we visited they had 2 day old piglets which were ridiculously cute. I’m adding piglet to the list of pets I want to get!!!
There’s a funky little machine at the end. Put some food into the hopper of the tractor, wind the handle and it gets rolled out into the pig’s pen. Hours of fun!
The weather had started to turn so we didn’t explore the paddocks this time. There are tractor rides that you can take (on certain days) around the paddocks to see more of the animals. There weren’t many animals out there during our visit, but as I’ve said I think they may have just been indoors.
Indoors there is Shaggy’s play world. This is a really big soft play area with some huge slides, an under 5’s frame, an under 3’s section and an epic vegetable themed play area/climbing frame. Smallest Child made a beeline for this because there’s a pumpkin playhouse which she adored.
I couldn’t see any signs re ages for the climbing frame but it was HARD. Personally, I’d say it’s definitely not suitable for under 5’s, just from a logistics point of view. I has hoped maybe Smallest Child would be able to get around with some help. We got to the middle layer, she got scared and then I couldn’t get her down (due to her being too scared to go down the easiest exit). I had to try and climb down a rope ladder with just one hand whilst holding her back before she launched herself off a 6 foot drop. That was fun and we didn’t try it again! The boys would have LOVED this though so it’s just an age thing.
The under 5’s area was really good. There’s lots of little obstacles to get round, a slide and an air blower. Accessibility is really good so you can follow them around if you need to. It’s not a big section but she liked it.
The main softplay area
The main play frame is u shaped, with lots of decent features to it. It’s so easy for adults to get around as it’s full height. Result. I did have to rescue one child though. She was at the top of the Fireman’s pole but it was too far for her to reach and too far to jump down. Her brother had just come down it, so naturally she wanted to as well. In the end I had to get one mum at the top to lower her down whilst I reached up to get her. Thankfully Smallest Child was having none of that!
I really like the slides at Mead, not as much as my kids do, but I do really like them. There’s two drop slides, both of which look terrifying to a whimp like me. Middle Child (aka Daredevil) thought these were amazing, even when he was quite small. There’s a multi-lane, bumpy slide you go down on mats which is good fun. Both of these are up quite a lot of steps. Soft play really is a good workout. There’s also a much easier tunnel slide that we went on a lot.
They have lockers. Yay. They cost £1. Ok. IT’S NON REFUNDABLE. So if your kid decides, just as you turn the key, that they absolutely NEED to have something you’ve just put away that’s going to cost you £1. TBH, that’s a bit of a joke! These really should be refundable.
The other facilities at Mead Open Farm
It’s undeniable, there are so many other things to do at Mead Open Farm. There is no doubt you’ll spend the entire day here, no matter what the weather is like.
They’ve got a huge, and really good, adventure playground with loads of tunnels and bridges and stuff. Both of the boys used to love this. There’s a more gentle version for younger children. They also have go-karts, a climbing wall, crazy golf and jumping pillows. All of these are included in the price. There’s limitations re heights and times so make sure you check the leaflet.
Nearby you’ll find digger land which is a massive sandpit themed around JCB’s (big hit, even in winter, with Smallest Child). There’s four wooden JCBs for the kids to climb on and fill with sand. None of them move, but that doesn’t matter.
One part we really liked on previous visits was the sand and water play area. In the summer Middle Child has spent hours in here. Sadly this photo looks pretty grim, but that’s just because of the weather. I’ll have to go back and get some more photos in the summer. Both sand pit areas provided lots of buckets and spades (handy if you haven’t brought your own) but a fair few were broken. I’m going to assume those will be replaced when the season gets up and running. It’s definitely worth bringing a change of clothes if you want to let the kids loose on this.
There’s a cafe in Shaggy’s play barn with what can only be described as an abundance of seating. You cannot have your own food or drink in here though. Looking at the prices, it’s not cheap though. £7 for a hotdog and chips, £5.50 for a kids box, £4.50 for a baguette. The drinks prices seemed very reasonable though. Mega gripe though, it wasn’t very clean. When we arrived a family was just leaving that had left food EVERYWHERE on the floor. Honestly, the pig pens were cleaner. There was another table nearby which had stuff left on it and bits of napkin torn up on the floor. We were in there for an hour and it wasn’t cleaned up. There seemed to be only one member of staff behind the counter and no-one cleaning tables. Not great.
My review of Mead Open Farm
So why do I have a love/hate relationship with this place? I think it’s how it balances against the other local farms you can visit. If I hadn’t been to any other open farms I’d probably really love it. Green Dragon Eco Farm is closest to us, is quite a fair bit cheaper but has less stuff. Bucks Goat Centre is really cheap but it also has the lowest review score I’ve ever given. Willows Activity Farm has the best playground areas I know of in an open farm, as well as lots of shows. There’s more than a day’s worth of stuff. But it’s VERY expensive. I’ve not been to Odds Farm Park yet but it’s also very expensive. I’m not sure if it’s worth those prices until I’ve been there.
I like the facilities they offer. My children have never had a bad day there. The staff that I spoke to were all very nice. Is it just a bit too much money though?? Do they have enough animals?? Are the ones they have a bit squidged together?? Dirty cafe and non-refundable lockers?? I’m not going to Mead Open Farm a review score just yet. I might have to go back in the summer and decide.
These vary according to time of year. It’s always cheapest to book in advance via their website. Online prices are currently showing as £6.45 – £13.45 per child and £7.45 – £14.45 per adult. They usually offer free children’s tickets in January so check out the website.
Parking / How to get there
Address – Stanbridge Road, Billington, Bedfordshire, LU7 9JH. It’s well sign posted from all major routes nearby.
Parking – Free, on-site. Not huge amounts though so I assume they have an overflow somewhere.
There are some old ones in the shop. The main ones are sparkly new, unisex, ones in the cafe/soft play area. Because the cubicles are really big you’ll easily fit you and the kids in there (because peeing with an audience is fairly inevitable). There’s baby change as well.
There is lots of picnic seating dotted around the main play areas of the farm. You’re welcome to eat your own food here. There’s also a very handy indoor picnic area which is heated too. Always appreciated. Food is available in the cafe (see note above).
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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