Now we’re moving further into Autumn, I’m expecting our outdoor exploration to take a back step over more indoor activities, or outdoor activities exploring nearer home and on the farm. We did have a lovely Sunday out at Cogges Manor Farm in Witney recently, which yet another place I went to as a child, but hadn’t been back since. I spotted the other day that it was used for filming Downton Abbey, featuring Yew Tree Farm, so worth looking out for it on tv on other occasions too.
N and I parked in the specified car park, and then walked through the woods at the edge of the meadows to reach the museum. It was lovely as there’d obviously been a wedding at Cogges the day before, as there were still signs pointing the way for the wedding guests.
Cogges itself is a bit of a mystery. It’s a bit like a museum, but it’s very much a working farm albeit with only a few animals that we saw, some historical information and an old manor house. It’s very relaxed as once you’ve paid, it’s a case of mooching from one area to the other to see what you can find.
We had a map, but in terms of education, without paying for an explorer pack, it’s a case of talk to your children about what you see as you’re walking round. We did have a bit of a nosy at the wedding setting by the grain barn before they tidied the decorations away, and it did look like a lovely place to have an outdoor wedding. It’s obviously quite a popular place for them, as while we were there, we saw 2 couples wandering around looking at it and talking about wedding requirements for each area.
For us, the day was mostly about play. N loves the animals on the farm, but going elsewhere, his attention isn’t always that excited by seeing animals in other locations. He did quite like the pigs
But wasn’t interested at all at having a look at the rabbits, guinea pigs or the like which were brought out for an animal handling session later on in the day. In the same area, I also noticed some willow weaving lessons going on, and I noticed on the website that Cogges have lots of talks and crafty/nature workshops that you can go to.
We’d bought some feed for the goats, so headed there first. N loved the fact the goats had a climbing frame in their pen, but I’m not sure he was that keen on having 2 or 3 of them snuffling round his 1 little hand to grab the food. I was instructed to feed them the rest!
The manor house is beautiful – a gorgeous view from outside with white roses, and then croquet set out to play on the grass. We had a quick go which was fun. I’m not sure N was too convinced – I think he’s the type who, if he doesn’t take to something and achieve it straight away, then he’ll give up and look for something else to try. Doesn’t bode well for school next year!
We wandered into the house where it’s set out historically in the different rooms. I was all for dressing up in the old clothes set out in one room but N had spotted the puzzles and colouring toys set out so wanted to have a go at that instead. It’s great that they’re set up so well for children, as it means you can leave the children in peace while the adults have a quick look round the house. N didn’t bat an eyelid at the various deer heads hung on the walls, ‘reindeer, mummy’. Not quite, but same family.
The kitchen garden by the manor house is wonderful. So many beautiful flowers, and vegetables to talk to N about.
N had a bit of a smack, falling along the path as he came running towards me. It didn’t impact him too much thankfully. Quick cuddle and he was fine again.
I took so many photos in the garden, it was just the perfect place to grab some great photos.
After having a look into the stables, N was excited to find the soft play area in another barn. It was all done out as a farm, so quite appropriate, although we only stayed in there a short while.
N wanted to go to the adventure playground. We followed the map through the orchard and past the chickens to find a brilliant wooden climbing frame – house structure, complete with slide, zip wire off (N didn’t go anywhere near this after falling off the one in our local park), plus a separate rope climbing frame.
It was a lovely area for children to play in and lots of ‘moats’, trees and vegetation to explore in if they so wanted. N was just concerned that he was the only child there, asking me ‘where are the other children?’. I had to explain that we were the first people in there that morning and that others would soon arrive. Of which they did.
The swing was great fun too, although not so much for me having to push him.
A drink sitting on the bench and watching everyone else play, then we went back to the main area as N was moaning he was ready for lunch (at 11.30!). We spotted the chickens heading into the soft play area so followed them in and found a little girl of similar age with her mum and Gran, playing. She was extremely outgoing and friendly, so N was straight in to play, It’s funny, as quite often he’ll be happy enough playing on his own, and not really sure of new people. But he wasn’t worried here. Straight in, telling her his name when she asked, and then setting her right on different games and role play to do.
They rode a tractor to the village, built haystacks and houses out of blocks, and spent a lot of time showing each other how they could fall into the ball pit. Simple things, but it was lovely to see 2 total strangers playing and laughing together, and really enjoying themselves.
Once lunch was calling again, we went to the café and chose some food. The menu is fairly limited, but was good wholesome homemade food. N had a children’s lunchbox where you could choose what you had in it (my favourite type), while I had a yummy sausage sandwich. The staff were happy to oblige when I asked for it without mustard and with ketchup, so not like some places where they’re totally inflexible if you ask for something a bit off piste.
N loved the wooden tractor play area by the cafe. It’s near enough that parents can sit and have a coffee or look in the small farm shop (I was expecting more fresh produce and a big farm shop, rather than the few shelves with locally produced food products it actually was). He spent ages playing on it – while other children were just driving it, or riding in the trailer, N was putting them right and leaping out to reattach the ‘pipes’ between the tractor and trailer. It’s great that being out with his dad on the farm has seen him absorb so much information about the mechanical side of tractors as well as just the ‘being out with dad’.
We spent a good few hours there. For a lovely warm summer Sunday, it was getting busy, but by no means packed. If you’re in the area, I’d recommend it for a bit of history with animals and play thrown in.
Have you found any hidden gems like this, which combine a couple of different ideas like farms and people history?