Last week we were invited to Barleylands Farm in Essex for Half Term to visit their new nocturnal and exotic animals exhibit, which has recently opened at the farm within their Discovery Centre. Although we often remain in the local area during half terms (unless we’re going away properly!), it’s always a treat to travel further afield, especially when it’s to visit somewhere new!
On this occasion, we also decided to treat T’s cousin to a day out as well, so after picking them up the day before for a cheeky sleepover we headed out the following day.
Barleylands Farm & Park
Barleylands Farm is only two hours away from Brighton via the M25 (and the Dartford Tunnel) in the area of Billericay, Essex. As well as the main farm, there’s also a decent sized shopping area on site called ‘The Village‘ which houses a variety of independent shops selling everything from crafts and gifts to clothing and things for the home & garden. We didn’t have time to take a proper look around The Village during our visit, but it’s certainly given us something to come back for.
Arriving just after the farm opened, we decided to buy some food for the animals (a quid for a huge bag!) and head straight to the petting and feeding barn where most of the animals were located for the day. The weather wasn’t on our side during our visit so any time spent outside was carefully planned around showers.
On our way to the barn, we passed a number of outdoor enclosures, a large pond with lots of friendly geese, and a selection of play areas – including a small tractor track. The farm is a decent size for small legs, however dotted around the park are several ride-on tractors that mix up ways you can explore the farm. These were excellent tools towards the end of the day, however it caused a few minor arguments when there was only one available or when someone wasn’t ready to give up their tractor yet. Nevertheless, it was a fun little addition that I haven’t seen at a farm previously.
Inside the petting barn were LOTS of animals ready to be stroked (and fed!) and despite being fed by several other visitors they were always very accommodating to new visitors. We fed some animals on our way to the barn, however I’m so glad we reserved our stock as there are lots of animals to feed here, from sheep and goats to cows and a llama.
T’s favourite were the goats, as they were incredibly cheeky – one even stole his whole bag towards the end of the day.
Once the first shower of the day had passed, we decided to take advantage of this and make our way outside and explore the rest of the farm. Next to the petting barn is a small ‘Nature Walk’ where visitors are invited to look at a variety of habitats belonging to the farm’s smaller creatures. This gave us a nice opportunity to sit down and have a snack.
Once the children had finished exploring, we then made our way (with the help of some tractors!) to the other end of the farm and visit their bouncing pillows and larger play areas.
Just as it started to rain, we saw a queue for the tractor rides so we made a quick dash for the line to take shelter whilst enjoying a (rather bumpy) tractor ride. Although there wasn’t much to see on this particular ride, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like a tractor ride. By the time we finished, it was then time for some lunch so we took a stroll to grab a bite to eat. After all the running around, the children were definitely hungry.
The on site cafe is located within the soft play area and was probably the only disappointing part of the day as it’s quite a small area (and incredibly busy on a rainy day!) with only light bites (sausage rolls, pre-made sandwiches, tray bakes, crisps and snacks, etc.) and hot & cold drinks available. It probably would have been nice if there was perhaps a larger “canteen” style area available to grab things like chips or a jacket potato. From chatting to other parents though, I believe there’s a tea room or similar in The Village, however I don’t think the children would have wanted to walk back out the farm.
Nevertheless, I was able to buy a children’s lunchbox (ham or cheese sandwich, pom bears, yogurt tube, a piece of fruit, and a carton of juice) and a toastie and coffee for me, all of which was reasonably priced. Next time we visit, we will probably make the most out of the picnic areas or make time for the cafe within The Village.
After some lunch, we then took ourselves off to the Discovery Centre to visit the new Nocturnal and Exotics area. This is set upon two (accessible) floors, with the ground floor housing the nocturnal area and the upper floor housing the exotic animals. Within the discovery centre is also a small museum about farming and the history of Barleylands Farm.
The new exhibits are perfect for primary school children, and the nocturnal area especially explores all their senses (including their sense of smell!). It took some time for your eyes to adjust and T took a while to make his way in as there is limited lighting (obviously) but once his cousin ran in they were happy to explore all the different animals; from skunks and hedgehogs to fruit bats!
Upstairs was a lot brighter and the children were able to freely explore the “rainforest” and look at a variety of lizards and snakes, as well as insects and frogs.
After thoroughly exploring the Discovery Centre, we decided to start making our way back to the front of the farm park in an effort to think about making our way home. But, not before having a play in the soft play area and taking a few more rides around the farm on a tractor.
By now, the rain had stopped for a few minutes, so we also had another play on the climbing area which, by now, was empty so we had it all to ourselves. We also explored the Birds of Prey area which was a really nice moment of calm.
Although relatively small and certainly a more ‘locals’ farm, Barleylands Farm is definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area (it’s in between Basildon and Brentwood). There’s lots of things to see and do and the farm has several things that sets them above other farms we’ve visited in the past. For example, the ride of tractors as mentioned previously was a huge hit, and outside near reception are these really handy wagon for carrying bags when you’re part of a larger group.
I also appreciated the number of washing stations around the farm as well as toilets being in short walking distance! The farm (including indoor areas) is clean and tidy, and the staff are welcoming and super friendly. Although we didn’t get a chance to take part, there were also lots of activities and feeding talks happening throughout the day.
Despite the weather, we had such a nice time, and it was lovely to see T and his cousin have some quality time together. The farm was the perfect size for them on a day when the weather wasn’t great and we left suitably knackered!
We were given complimentary tickets in exchange for an honest review, however all thoughts, opinions, and images are our own.