It was a cold day at the end of December when we visited Smithills Open Farm. Frankly I didn’t expect it to be much fun.
A pretty full car park was the first sign I was mistaken; quite unexpected on the first Sunday after Christmas. We made our way to the ticket office and paid for our tickets. The friendly girl on the till advised us that a tractor ride would shortly be departing. We paid the extra fee for the ride, bought some animal feed, and headed up to the departure point.
We were the first to arrive but my daughter was kept entertained by a cheeky little goat until the farmer and the rest of the customers appeared. After everybody had got the trailer, the farmer started up the tractor and drove up a track to a field at the northern end of the farm.
There were donkeys here and they knew it was feeding time. They gathered around the trailer while the children took delight in hand-feeding them. From the elevated viewpoint we had an excellent view of Bolton.
On returning to the farm we wandered around the fields and barns. It’s pretty large and there are a lot of animals. There’s the usual farmyard animals (cows, chickens, goats, sheep, horses, ponies, etc.) plus others such as reindeer, chipmunks, degus, llamas, snakes and spiders. Most can be fed with animal feed purchased from the farm.
Activities are held throughout the day. We’d arrived too late for the cow milking and calf feeding but managed to catch the last Pets Corner event. Children and their parents gathered in one of the barns. Different animals were brought out one by one (lambs, goats, rabbits, chicks, and even a snake). The farmer gave some basic information and then the children were allowed to hold and touch them. Staff took the time to ensure no child missed out. It was the highlight of the day and shouldn’t be missed.
After Pets Corner my daughter had a donkey ride. It was getting dark so it was time to head home. On reflection we should have come a lot earlier. You could easily spend three or four hours here and there were a lot of things we didn’t have time to experience (café, playground, souvenir shop, milking etc.).
Entry at the time of our visit (December 2013) cost £7 for adults and £6 for children. Donkey rides and tractor rides cost an extra £1. It’s pretty good value given the range of things to do, the enthusiastic staff, and the time you could spend here.
Smithills Open Farm is situated on Smithills Dean Road in Bolton (postcode BL1 7NS). To reach it by car turn onto Smithills Dean Road from Moss Bank Way (A58). After driving for ½ mile turn right at the sign for Smithills Hall. At the junction in the access road take the left-hand road (right is for Smithills Hall) and follow the road for another ½ mile.
The farm is open every day of the year (except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day). Opening hours are 10 am to 5 pm (last admission at 4 pm).