SUFFOLK: Easton Farm Park

Barrel Bug ride lrHarriett rides a pony lr
L-R: Heidi and Harriett enjoy The Barrel Bug ride and Harriett rides a pony
By Tim Saunders
One family has stayed in the same holiday cottage on a Suffolk farm nine times. Numerous others have stayed on almost as many occasions.

That’s what the visitor book at Duke Cottage at Easton Farm Park reveals; there are two self catering Victorian cottages on the farm – the other is Duchess Cottage. With so much to do here it really is not necessary to go anywhere else. And that is why so many families return to stay in the cottages. These families benefit from free access to the farm and not just during opening times but when it is shut. It is also possible to help the staff with various duties such as mucking out the horses and feeding the hens. This is all very refreshing news indeed.

The farm at Woodbridge in Suffolk opened as a family attraction in 1974, at a time when such attractions were few and far between, compared to today. Since that time over one million visitors have poured through the gates.

During our stay in The Duke we certainly do relax, which is quite a rarity on such jaunts. Like many before us we do not feel a desire to leave during our stay because there is a full day of events planned. This ranges from hug a bunny at 11am to the Barrel Bug ride at 12noon, pony rides at 2pm and the family train at 4pm. Clearly a great deal of thought has gone into how to entertain a family throughout the day. Each event runs for half an hour, which is just long enough for little ones. There is very little queuing and waiting around, too. A barn full of green blue and red pedal tractors – even a mini John Deere - for the children to ride ensures they never get bored. Harriett insists on riding Tractor Tom to every destination on the farm.

“My favourite thing is cuddling the rabbits,” says Harriett (3). “Can I have a rabbit?” We feel she is still a little too young for such responsibility at the moment but when the time comes it is nice to know that rabbits, guinea pigs, ducks, chicks and goats can all be purchased from the farm at attractive prices.

It is an educational experience too because both children and adults can learn how a traditional farm works as well as how an egg is produced. We enjoy eating numerous Easton Farm free range eggs. Incidentally having not brought our trusty egg poacher we experiment with simply breaking an egg into a pan of boiling water and poaching it for three minutes and to our surprise it works a treat, tasting better than using our egg poacher! The staff are so polite, friendly and knowledgeable, too. “I also love the pony ride,” adds Harriett. She is very at home in the saddle and enjoys four pony rides in total.

Perhaps the most ingenious ride is the Bug Barrel, which consists of a number of converted barrels on wheels each with their own steering wheel and seatbelts, towed by a quad bike. Creatively made it features an innovative use of golf balls for antennae. It is a joy to see both Harriett and Heidi clinging on to their steering wheels, laughing and giggling. Caroline and I finally let them go round unaccompanied the second time round because we’re out of breath from all the running!

When the girls have explored the farm to their hearts’ content we then enjoy the adventure playground complete with zip wire, sandpit and diggers. During our stay there is also a horse show. The walks around the farmland let us savour the views over the Deben valley.

It is certainly a real treat to stay on the farm in The Duke. It adjoins the old Victorian dairy where butter and cheese used to be made when Easton Farm Park was the Model Farm for the mansion in Easton. All the original equipment can still be found inside. Inside this thoughtfully converted large Victorian cottage there are three double bedrooms featuring original beams, a kitchen with a high ceiling and a large window that lets in plenty of light and provides views onto the farm. In fact in the morning while making breakfast I can see the goats stretching their legs and eating their breakfast. You quickly feel at one with nature. There’s a main bathroom and a cloakroom as well as a dining room and large sitting room. I can see why families from as far away as America have revisited Easton Farm Park for up to two weeks. A holiday should be a chance to relax and enjoy yourselves and Easton Farm Park does this extremely well.

The park is open every day throughout the summer from 10.30am to 5.30pm up to and including September 7. Thereafter it is open at the weekends until October 19.

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