27 Aug 2013

Last of the Summer Sunshine - at Red House Farm

The 'end of summer' bank holiday Monday turned out to be a bright sunny day with temperatures in the mid-20s. It presented the perfect opportunity to soak up the last of the summer sunshine before we relapse into the cold of autumn and  winter.

To make the most of this most elusive British sun we decided to head out to Dunham Massey. It is a rather delightful National Trust site,  and J was very excited at the prospect of seeing some deer.  We were about 2 minutes from Dunham Massey, when we, rather I, had a change of heart.  So I turned the car right instead of left (at this point M would argue that I just did what he thinks women drivers do - confuse their lefts and rights), and we ended up at Red House Farm instead. 

I am not sure if Red House Farm is a working farm, but I suppose it is as we saw a farmer on a big red tractor ploughing the fields the last time we were here. They are also not a petting farm, and have little in the way of animals (their words, not mine). But there is plenty to keep little ones interested for a fantastic day out in the sun. The big bonus for parents is that there is ample free parking even on a busy day. So you can turn up at any time through the day and still be assured of a reasonable place to park your car.

The Farm is absolutely free to visit and enjoy if you do not opt to go in for any of the seasonal activities. And if you can resist the £1-a-ride temptation of the kiddie tractors and diggers. This may be a tad difficult when you have a child who has seen too many tractors and too many diggers in his years, and now wants to experience them first hand.

The main courtyard of Red House Farm houses a children's play area with swings, slides, see-saws, ride-on cars, playhouses - a blend of what a park and a toddler playgroup usually has on offer, but in a more rustic setting. It abuts the sandpit and the aforementioned mechanical machinery, and leads to the more open bit of farmland with all the seasonal activities (read bouncy castles, arts and crafts, barrel trains, a maize maze). 

The sandpit is by far the best thing about Red House Farm. Well, at least in my opinion it is. It is large

enough to accommodate a sizeable number of children and has a variety of beach toys thrown in for good measure. Parents have the option to join their little ones in the sand, or perch on the ledge and relax with a cup of coffee. We chose to perch on a bench with some strawberries while J got busy in the sand. I have never seen the child so taken with anything before. He was extremely content to bury all the toys, dig them up again, fill them with sand and generally make a sandy mess. So much so, that he did not even want to come out of the sand to get some lunch. He would have happily stayed put in the sand for the rest of the day if we had let him. It was the only time that I can think of when I have managed to sit down and relax without my tot making any sort of demands on my time or attention. Three cheers for the sandpit as far as I am concerned!

The tea rooms at Red House Farm are particularly good. The menu is not overly extensive, but there is enough variety for everyone. M and I settled for the RHF burger with melted cheese, while J went for sausages and beans. Everything was served with chunky chips - the chunkiest ones I have ever seen.

The locally made ice-cream is to die for. It is by far the best, creamiest, most flavoursome ice-cream I have ever eaten. Enough to give Thorntons, Haagen Dazs and Ben and Jerry's a run for their money. We ended up buying two large tubs from the farm shop to take back home.

Halfway through the day M asked me a question,  "Why do you think people come here instead of going to a park?" I can think of at least ten reasons,  if not more.  The rural setting, the fresh country air, the sandpit, the tractors and the digger, the tea rooms, the divinely delicious ice cream, the playground, the special seasonal activities, the chicken coop, a place where the kids can have fun. While you relax and watch time stand still.

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