Over half term I took a few days off work while N was off school. I’d planned in a day out at National Trust’s Stowe, but typically N decided there was no way he was going there. Plan aborted, I diverted to another place I’d had on the ‘to visit’ list for a while now, Green Dragon Eco Farm just outside Bicester.
It turned out to be some way outside Bicester, but still didn’t take long to get to, and was easy to find. Green Dragon eco farm is open all year round except Christmas, so is perfect for when other places are closed over the winter.
Having visited a lot of farms in our time, I think I was expecting quite a lot. N’s never that excited about visiting farm parks – I suppose because he has them at home, but the play areas looked great so I thought he’d still enjoy it. For a cold but sunny and dry morning, the place was quite busy. We parked easily but had to queue for a while going in because there’s only 1 till so it takes a while for everyone to get their families and buggies through the pay area and entrance doors.
Now N’s 5, he’s starting to cost me a bit of money. I think the website said advance tickets cost a bit less, but for the 2 of us it was around £13, and then 50p for a bag of feed – you can choose chicken/duck or sheep/goat feed. We chose the latter.
The farm is immaculate because it’s only a couple of years old, although there are still some fence off storage areas full of building bits and pieces.
There’re several barns of animals – we headed to the goats, sheep and pigs first, so we could feed the goats. As usual, after saying he wanted a bag of feed, N refused so I had to feed them. No bad thing, I love their velvety nibbly noses eating the pellets. Oops, to me turning to persuade N to feed a gentle little goat but not moving the last of the feed and bag away from one of the goats. Bag duly nibbled up as he wouldn’t let go. A little girl visitor then warned me (a bit late) to keep bags away from that one. He obviously had a taste for them.
A couple of the pigs had piglets although they were all sleeping, and some of the lambs had been born. It’s lovely to see the babies – it’s such a sign of spring. At home, ours don’t start lambing for a couple of weeks yet.
There was a pen where children could go in and have a go at grooming some shetland ponies – we didn’t see many clammering to have a go, so if you go early, there’s a good chance you’ll have the chance to spend some time doing the additional animal activities they run. There’s various ones advertised at times throughout the day.
We then headed to briefly look at the petting animals – some guinea pigs and rabbits were out for children to stroke, while there were plenty more to look at in their cages.
Then we got the legs in action and walked down to see the rest of the pigs in their extremely muddy pens (not that they looked bothered snuffling around in them), the highland cattle, more sheep and the chickens and turkeys. It’s open fields so although the sun was shining we needed thick coats on.
By this time N was moaning he was hungry. It was too early for lunch so my power of suggestion meant he agreed to have a play first in the outdoor play area.
The play areas at Green Dragon farm are the best bit about the place in my opinion. The outdoor areas ranged from a go kart tyre track and area for age 4 upwards, with a smaller ride on area for toddlers next door. Then a bouncing pillow – because every outdoor place needs one of these. And a great climbing frame, sandpits including diggers, plus other various items for children to enjoy and explore.
N was in his element, although his socks were in a state by the time he came off the bouncy pillow.
N loves ride on vehicles too so he spent a lot of time in the large go kart area (twice!).
There’s also a messy play barn although we didn’t go in there.
Our experience of the cafes were the only downside to Green Dragon eco farm. There are 2 eating places, one is a small café which seemed to be quite focused on hot drinks rather than food, but we went in there as we were heading out to grab some lunch.
We don’t ask for much for lunch. N had been asking for a kids lunch box (his special treat when we go out – he loves places that serve them!), and I just wanted a sandwich or panini as we were eating our main meal in the evening. This is where things fell down. We started queuing for lunch around 11.40, and I presumed that maybe we’d have to wait til 12 for lunch time but no, I was told they were serving lunch at that time. But in the small café there were no cold children’s meals, only hot meals. In fact, only hot meals served there (3 of which were sold out). I was a bit surprised at this, given I thought many people would want a cold option. I was told that cold and hot food was served at the food place in the play barn. So off we rushed to the play barn in the hope of avoiding huge queues.
Of course, even though it was well before noon, there was a queue which was moving very slowly. I noticed they had kids lunch boxes – result. And there were toasties on the menu. Double result. Until we reached the til and were told that it was now time for the lunch menu (served 12-2.30) and that toasties are only sold at tea, or breakfast (bizarrely). Given this was pretty much midday at that point, I was a little peeved especially as I’d only missed the breakfast slot because of the speed of the queue. Then I discovered at this café there were also no sandwiches or cold options. So N had his lunch box (sandwiches were premade in the fridge – so I’ve no idea what they’d do if they ran out at lunch time? Tell people no sandwiches for kids?), and I had a water while he ate. The staff member suggested I have cake if I wanted cold food. Er no thanks, that’s not lunch.
N was quite happy to go off and play on the soft play equipment after he’d eaten his sandwich, crisps, apple and yoghurt, but I was not happy about the food situation. It didn’t help that after we’d been served I kept seeing the staff bringing out toasties (which supposedly were on the lunch menu but were being served during breakfast times) well past midday. I’m presuming they were part of the back log of orders, but while it was busy, it wasn’t so busy the place was heaving. I suppose in the summer a lot of people bring picnics, but I was surprised when they said it was because it was busy and there’s only so many staff to cook. The communication in saying one served cold when it obviously didn’t is maddening. Unless we’re going somewhere with a big group of people, we prefer to treat ourselves and eat out, so I’d definitely make sure we timed any future visits outside of meal times and then go elsewhere for lunch.
Aside from the lunch issue, we had an enjoyable time at Green Dragon Eco Farm, and it’s certainly a good place to go with tots to primary school age children for a good price. I can see us meeting up with friends there in future.
Have you had any eating out issues when out as a family? Am I being totally unreasonable in expecting a cold lunch?
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