Given that I’ve done a review of most of the local open farms in Bucks it may be a bit weird I haven’t done one for Thrift Farm near Whaddon, Bucks. Well, there’s a good reason for that. The farm had been under the threat of closure for a long time, then it was taken over by a joint venture between Mead Open Farm and Kids Play Ltd. They had their usual winter shutdown and were due to reopen after their re-fit but Covid-19 struck. They have now reopened so it was time to get down to (newly renamed) Thrift Activity Farm to do a review of their new facilities.
Why Thrift Activity Farm is different
The first thing you should know about Thrift Farm is that it isn’t “just” an open farm. It’s actually an important community project. They run a supported employment scheme that helps their clients with learning difficulties to develop skills that will hopefully gain them future employment.
There’s a decent range of animals at Thrift Farm. In the Animal Barn you’ll find lots of pygmy goats, guernsey goats, cows (and a couple of calves) and sheep (plus their lambs). I’m guessing that this mix possibly changes throughout the year. Near the entrance there’s pigs, chickens, rabbits, guinea pigs and these weird pigeon/chicken combos that were quite possibly the strangest thing I’ve seen. There’s only a few of each of these, except for the guinea pigs. There were loads of those.
Outside there are lots more animals to see in the paddocks. There’s more sheep, goats, donkeys, alpaca, Shetland ponies and some ducks. The paddocks aren’t particularly big and the site is actually fairly small so you can get around quickly even with the smallest of legs.
When we did this review of Thrift Farm there were no petting sessions available with the rabbits or guinea pigs, but this may change post-covid.
The adventure playground
One of the biggest promises that were made when Mead Open Farm took control was that there would be significant investment in Thrift Farm. The most obvious example of this is the adventure playground. It isn’t quite a replica of Mead’s adventure playground, but it has some similarities.
There are two main play-frames. One is suitable for older children and has scramble nets, rope bridges, a slide, climbing walls and a fireman’s pole.
There’s also a very cool fitness trail and a MASSIVE rope swing and a nest swing. The nest swing is strangely high off the ground and even Biggest Child struggled to climb on it.
Then there’s younger children’s play frame which Smallest Child LOVED. There’s a slide, bridge and ramps. This is on a massive sandpit and it has some buckets, pulleys and chute to play with the sand. When we did this Thrift Farm review there were no sand toys. This may well be because of covid, I’m not sure, but it would be a good idea to take your own sand toys with you.
The final bit of kit is an actual tractor that people can can sit on and drive. This was very popular with all the kids.
If you visited Thrift Farm before the change in ownership then you might know they had a small indoor play area, but it was pretty rubbish. That’s gone now, and it isn’t much of a loss. This does mean that, currently, there are no indoor facilities other than the animal barn.
They do have a large hand washing station near the toilets. Just a little warning, these taps are VERY overzealous. Smallest and Middle children both ended up soaked when using these.
Is it good value for money? Our Thrift Activity Farm Review
As part of the ownership change the prices have gone up. This used to be the cheapest open farm locally but now it isn’t. In general the new Thrift Activity Farm has a lot less facilities than places such as Green Dragon Eco Farm or Mead Open Farm, but that is reflected in the price. It is slightly more expensive than Bucks Goat Centre, but the facilities there are minimal and it’s smaller. There’s no indoors activities so it’s a dry-day only activity. I’m not sure if they’ll continue to be closed over the winter, but it would make sense to be.
The site is quite small. It only took us 90 minutes to look around, including a short play at the adventure playground. We only managed to pad the day out a bit by taking lunch and going back to the playground area. If it hadn’t been for the new playground we really wouldn’t have been there for very long at all. You could make a full day of it by visiting somewhere like the nearby Willen Lake.
Overall I think they’ve got the price right. It’s not a cheap day out, but it’s only just over the threshold so I’ve still included it in my cheap days out category.
I know that the company plan to continue investing in the site, so it will be interesting to see what the future brings. Covid will naturally have had an impact, so I wonder if there will be some delays to their plans? There were a fair few places around Thrift Farm where it is still really shabby. Given that its just been relaunched I might have expected those bits to have been sorted. There’s massive holes in things and broken fences etc. It would be nice to see those fixed in the future.
Adults (16+) – £7.50. Children (18 months+) £6.50. There’s no family ticket option. Prices correct at time of writing. Check their website for the latest prices and opening times.
Parking / How to get there
Address – Thrift Farm, Buckingham Road, Whaddon, Milton Keynes, MK17 0EQ
Free parking on-site plus an overflow car park
Cafe on-site. Typical prices for an attraction like this.
Picnics are allowed near the adventure playground. There’s no indoor picnic area.
On-site, including baby change. Plenty of hand washing facilities all over the site.
Hi, I’m Vicky. My husband and I live in Aylesbury with out three children; a 10 year old son, an 8 year old son and a 3 year old daughter. I (mostly) love spending time together as a family. We visit all kinds of places and we’re quite happy to drive a fair distance for a decent day out. A few years ago I decided to set up Free Time with the Kids as a way to share our experiences of these family days out. You know, the essential information you need to know before your visit that can be surprisingly hard to find out. Where do I park? How much will it cost me to get in? Are there any discounts available? Are there loos? Can I take a picnic or get food? My aim is to be your go-to guide for all your free and cheap family days out across Bucks, Beds, Oxon, Herts & slightly beyond. 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