It was our very first visit to this Cotswold attraction and from the get-go, Fairytale Farm’s covid rules were very well thought out. One way systems, hand gel and having to order food from a window to avoid people hovering in the ticket office/ cafe.
Now, this place is a little bit Marmite. It is quaint and little kids love it, but there is a definite air of needing a bit of TLC.
Upon leaving this area, you then enter a sort-of courtyard area with a wishing well, the dwarves cottage and various sheds housing dioramas. Children immediately unhook themselves from parents and prams and rush around with glee; whilst the adults stumble about trying to get accustomed to sheds, flies buzzing around Snow White’s hot head and arthritic geese swaying to tinkling music amid hay bales and Easter Bunnies. The larger characters (mermaids, sea creatures, Snow and her alarming possie of small gentlemen etc) are all fibreglass statues, spray painted like the kiddies rides you see at funfairs. You know, Disney-esque with a touch of despair and self loathing. This aside, they are big, bright, great for photos and the main attraction for our intrepid adventurers.
I was rather looking forward to seeing the Mouse Village! Housed in an adjoining shed to the geese, you will find a large acrylic case with miniature houses and shops! It is such a great idea and a voice from the clouds asks you if you can spot fun things, such as a freshly dug grave and village stocks. There are apparently 15 mice living in this gorgeous township, although we went back 3 times and saw not a whisker. I had to tell a disappointed Betsy that they had gone to a secret club behind the church. Luckily she fell for it as she is 5 and still believes that Kinder Eggs grow out of her ears. The mice had evidently been in their village as evidence was all around. Like a Midsomer Murders episode, I scoured the place for clues… an overturned penny farthing bicycle…a broken lamp post with chewed wire…gnawed public bench…droppings throughout the bakery…it was like the apocalypse. So determined were we to see a rodent that we crouched down and waited in the darkness, in case the mice had migraine (micegrains?) from all the lights and music. Nowt.
I settled down on a picnic bench to enjoy a cream tea, whilst Betsy spent time in the sand pit. It is small, but she actually enjoyed this above everything else! Unfortunately the view in this area is great as directly behind is a security fence, housing an abandoned shed, bracken and rubbish. This could very easily have been hidden with large, colourful vinyl banners to improve the area, but maybe this was in fact a scene from an obscure fairy tale? Rubblestiltskin perhaps?
After this we headed on over to Fairytale Farm’s latest attraction. Yes kids, you too can milk Jack’s cow, just like in the book! With a backdrop of a large fibreglass beanstalk, kids can actually sit on a milking stool and pull on the red raw rubber udders of Daisy the cow. Fear not lactose weary parents! This bovine only produces water into the pale, which can them be poured into a milk/ water urn before letting someone else be the milk maid.
After tearing yourself away from Holstein teat yanking, you then have a corridor of more sheds. This time, you get to gaze through each window like the village weirdo. Press a button to light up each static scene abs hear an excerpt from the fairy tale! From Red Riding Hood’s wolf with glowing red eyes to the pert derrière of Hansel and Gretel’s witch, as she peers into her oven. My personal favourite was sleeping beauty. A beautifully hand painted room sets the scene as you gaze in wonder at Princess Aurora surrounded by her royal mosquito net. The set up was simple. A shop mannequin under a pink bedsheet, but the ‘closed eyelids’ made me giggle uncontrollably. It made me reminisce over my sister’s Bedtime Bernie. Anyone remember those? You would wet her eyes and they would suddenly go a very pale pink to simulate her sleeping. Although no one had licked Sleeping Beauty’s eyes, they had been cunningly painted a flesh tone to mimic eyelids. This may have worked, had they added false eyelashes at the bottom or clever shading, but the overall effect had me wondering whether she would suddenly sit up and start craving the taste of brains. This may have been part of the reason I loved it so much.
After this avenue of awesomeness came a winding pathway through beautiful plants attracting bees and more fibreglass fun. Looming either side of the path were giant seahorses, dolphins and octopus (octopuses? Octopi?). By pushing a large button underneath the seahorse, you could hear the therapeutic lapping of waves! Want to know what dolphins sound like? Why, just give that big button a push to hear it’s clicks and squeaks! And what about an octopus? What fascinating sounds are we going to be able to hear that Blue Planet failed to record??? “Hello! I’m Ollie the Octopus!”
Onwards dear friends! A sensory wonderland of music, water and characters and through to a fantastic playground, with plenty of benches for resting relatives as the kids go nuts on slides, climbing frames and more. Betsy didn’t want to leave this bit and it felt safe and secure.
Our real treat was the Walk a Llama experience, which you can prebook with your entrance ticket at an additional cost. Boy, I was looking forward to this! In my head I envisaged a wild meadow, with happy llamas being lead gayley through buttercups and daisies. I wasn’t really expecting a tiny enclosure next to the carpark, but I do daydream big. We ended up waiting an hour as we were last in our group’s queue. By this time Horace, the largest llama, had started to get pee’d off with the exercise and was pretty skittish and grumpy as hell. Even the handler was having a few issues. The other two seemed fine. The mid sized one looked vaguely like Tina Turner and was rocking an Afro mullet, whilst the smallest was ADORABLE-BUBBLE with white fluff and protruding bottom teeth. Another reason why I wanted to take him home? His name was Hagrid. Finally it was our turn and Betsy took the rains of the cutie pie aforementioned. We had a friend with us, who was given Tina Turner. Guess who ended up with Llama Drama aka Horace aka Satan’s Poodle.
We all set off around the field, guided by the prison officer-esque lady in charge; barking orders like a scout leader going through a messy divorce as we desperately tried to control our increasingly frustrated llamas. Something (a butterfly, non-existent breeze, car horn on Isle of Wight) started Horace, who then leapt in front of me and literally DARED me to look him in the eyes. I wasn’t falling for it. I knew his twisted game. I was shaken, but determined to control the situation. Scout Leader Llama Lady was suuuuuper helpful shouting “LEAD ON! LEAD ON!”, whilst I cranked my head to the side and desperately stared at bushes, whilst nudging the devil sheep and praying it wouldn’t spit or stomp on me. Although probably stealing part of my soul, it eventually faced the correct way and we continued to the exit.
So all in all? This was one of the most bizarre places I have ever visited, but young kids will really enjoy it. Good weather is a must to make the most of everything on offer, as it is all outdoors. The paths are great for pushchairs and wheel chairs, but having to accept your boiling hot coffee through the top window of the cafe is a bit like taking your life in your own hands! Great little gift shop and hopefully the derelict shed area will eventually become a soft play area.