Family Day Out Review: Mead Open Farm, Billington
Mead Open Farm, Billington
Value For Money9.0/10
Variety Of Activities10.0/10
Things We Like
- All activities included in the very reasonable admission price
- Loads to do for all ages, including animal-related, indoor play and outdoor play
- Continually developing the site, most recently with the Magical Veggie Wood indoor play area
Things We Dislike
- Height restrictions mean that not everything is available for smaller kids
- Adverse weather does restrict what children can do as a fair bit is outside
What’s It All About?
Mead Open Farm is an activity-filled day out for the entire family in Bedfordshire. With the chance to get hands-on with the farmyard animals, play in the large, indoor (and newly added to) Shaggy’s Playworld, or explore the sand pits, jumping pillows, go-karts, high ropes and more outside, you and the children won’t be short of things to do!
What Do We Think?
We first visited Mead Open Farm when our daughter was a couple of months old for their Christmas Kingdom. Due to a combination of the weather and her age, we didn’t explore much of the farm and left feeling a little underwhelmed – despite meeting Santa! Since then, we’ve put off revisiting as we had it in our heads that there wasn’t much to do – oh, how wrong we were!
We recently gave Mead Open Farm a second chance – and we’re so pleased we did. What we found was a great combination of indoor and outdoor activities, alongside the traditional farmyard animal experiences. It was a brilliant day out and I have no qualms in admitting that those impressions that stuck with us over the last three years were completely wrong.
So what can you get up to at Mead Open Farm? Well, as you’d expect, there’s plenty of opportunities to observe, feed and get hands-on with the animals. This includes goats, pigs, sheep, horses, ponies, cows and rabbits who live in the animal barns and surrounding fields.
You can wander around, check them out, and for an additional 80p, pick up a bag of animal food and feed them. The goats in the Demo Barn are a particular highlight due to their daredevil feat of standing on the walls!
In addition to this, there’s also a few daily animal activities that happen in the Big Barn and at Farmyard Favourites. These roughly take place every hour and give the kids chance to stroke / hold rabbits and guinea pigs, bottle feed lambs, groom ponies and watch sheep racing. It’s a great way for kids to get up close and personal with the animals and learn a bit more about them.
Mead Open Farm is so much more than animals though as it features both indoor and outdoor play options. Indoors, you have the newly expanded Shaggy’s PlayWorld which consists of a couple of different indoor areas. The main bit is aimed at older kids and features a number of slides (astra, drop, tube etc) and a huge two-story, rectangle play frame with cargo nets, rope swings, obstacles and much more.
There’s also a separate under 3’s soft play area which is set over two levels and includes a slide, obstacles, foam shapes, a ball pit and ball blower, as well as Mini Moo’s Imagination Village which is a small role-play street with ride-on vehicles – unfortunately the latter was closed on our recent visit due to water damage.
But that’s not all. The area has recently (May 2018) been expanded to include The Magical Veggie Wood. Again, this is an indoor play area, but it’s themed around a Mad Vegetable Scientist who has invented a machine to wash his giant vegetables! Featuring areas like a pumpkin house, cucumber tunnel, tomato slide, singing broccoli, toadstools and the Mighty Veggie Wash, it’s all a bit weird but a great addition to the space.
The place just gets better outdoors with a huge array of things for kids to do. On arrival, the first thing you’ll find is Topsy Turvy Towers. This is a large, wooden adventure playground consisting of a number of different structures for kids to clamber up, explore and slide down. The pinnacle is the multi-level tree house which has cargo nets to go from tower to tower, as well as tube slides to get back down to the floor. For younger kids, there’s also a separate under 5’s part with scaled back play equipment.
Over the other side of the farm, you’ll find the rest of the outdoor activities nicely situated next to each other. For instance, there’s two gigantic jumping pillows, which are always great fun for both kids and adults. One of these is for under 5’s and the other is for older kids, so you know that smaller children won’t be knocked out of the way by over zealous 10-year olds.
There’s also two sand areas either side – JCB Digger Village and Shaggy’s Cove. The former is a large sand pit where kids can pretend to drive the diggers and bulldozers or play in the sand with buckets and spades. The latter is a pirate-themed sand and water play area where children can use the water pump, bamboo shoots and buckets on pulleys to dig, build and play. Our daughter loves sand so happily played in both of these areas for ages.
You also can’t fail to miss the 24 foot high Giant’s Rock climbing wall and the 20 foot high Sky Trail rope course. Both of these are only open at set times as they require staff assistance, so remember to check this as soon as you arrive. In addition, they also have height restrictions – our daughter was unfortunately unable to go on them both as the minimum unaccompanied height was 1.2 metres (or 1 metre accompanied on Sky Trail).
However, they’ve cleverly built a smaller rope course (Sky Tykes) at the bottom of Sky Trail to allow younger kids up to a maximum of 1.2 metres to try it out. Like Sky Trail, this involves your child being strapped into a harness, which is then connected to an overhead rail. This allows your kid to test their nerve as they walk along beams and wobbly bridges whilst safely attached. Although a little uncertain to start with, our daughter loved this and I imagine she’ll want to tackle the much higher Sky Trail when we next visit.
Finally, in this area, you’ll find a 9-hole crazy golf course for the entire family, the John Deere Pedal Go-Karts (minimum height 1.2 metres) and the Tractor and Trailer Ride. As the name suggests, the latter involves you getting on a trailer and being driven for approx. 15 minutes around the outer edges of the farm. Again, this happens at set times, so remember to check out the times if you fancy a ride.
There’s also seasonal events on at Mead Open Farm. In addition to Christmas Kingdom which I mentioned earlier, they have things like Easter Wonderland, Freaky FunFest, Reptile Week and A-Maizing Maze. We’ll definitely be looking to time our next visit with one of these, for instance, the large maize maze which opens in August.
Something I particularly liked is that they’re continually improving. For instance, The Topsy Turvy Towers was added in 2014, the jumping pillows came in 2016 and then there’s the recent inclusion of the Magical Veggie Wood. In fact, when we visited, they were adding another not yet announced area on to the front of Shaggy’s Cafe.
In terms of facilities, it’s very family-friendly. Everywhere can be accessed with pushchairs, the car park is just outside, there’s a couple of separate toilets around the site and there’s baby change facilities too. The main place to get food is Shaggy’s Cafe, which is in the soft play area. There’s plenty of places to sit and a reasonable choice of drinks and cold / warm food, including a kid’s box meal. The actual food serving bit does get a bit crammed though, so I imagine the building work at present is to expand this area.
You’d obviously want to visit Mead Open Farm when the weather is nice – that way, you can make the most of all of the indoor and outdoor activities and spend the best part of the day there. However, even if the weather isn’t too great, there’s enough to do inside (animals and Shaggy’s Playworld). All in all, we loved our recent visit and will definitely be going back again soon as there’s so much to do for the entry price.
What Does It Look Like?
What Do I Need To Know?
Address: Stanbridge Road, Billington, Bedfordshire, LU7 9JH
Opening Times: Seven days per week (except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day), 10am-6.00pm. Last entry is one hour before closing time.
Price: Adults from £9.95 to £12.95, child from £8.95 to £11.95 and under 2’s free. Cheaper ticket prices when bought online in advance.
Toilets: Yes, three separate toilet blocks around the farm, including Shaggy’s Playworld, with Male, Female and Disabled toilets all with baby changing facilities.
Cafe / Restaurant: Yes. Multiple places to eat, including Shaggy’s Cafe and the Paddock Kiosk. Also indoor and outdoor picnic areas.
Parking: Yes. One large, free car park.
Public Transport: Nearest large train station is approx. 5 miles away at Leighton Buzzad.
Duration: 2 to 8 hours.
Age Range: Babies and Toddlers (0-3), Young Children (4-8), Older Children (9-12).
Check out our interactive Days Out Map for other reviews of our family visits to UK attractions.