Review: Kent Life Heritage Farm Park
What I loved about it:
Full of history and rustic charm, Kent Life Heritage Farm Park offers a great family day out. As a working farm, it boasts an array of animals for little ones to get up close and personal with, as well as plenty of additional activities such as a play barn, paint-a-pot studio and vintage village all in one easily accessible space.
Value for money (out of 10):
The jingle of fairground rides and sound of laughter filled the air as we walked through the historic Oast House and into Kent Life Heritage Farm Park. It was Bank Holiday Saturday and the sun was shining – the perfect combination for a fun, family day out.
Located just outside of Maidstone, the site of Kent Life dates back to the 16th century when it was known as Sandling Farm, and part of the Allington Castle estate. Since then, it has evolved and been renovated to become the family-friendly museum, farm and park that it is today. However, with the dramatic Oast at the entrance and so many original buildings still in place, it continues to feel steeped in history.
Entering Kent Life immediately made me nostalgic for Bank Holiday outings with family as a child, and we were excited to share the experience with our 2-year-old daughter. Teacup rides, paddle boats, a bouncy castle and an ice cream van adorned the main lawn as we made our way in and, though it was still fairly early in the day, the place felt a-buzz with activity. Armed with a site map and a bag of animal feed purchased for £1 at the entrance, we started to explore.
Everything in the Park is clearly sign-posted and within walking distance from one another, so it was very easy to find our way around. Our first stop was a visit to the farm animals who were happily grazing in their respective fields. With friendly goats, sheep, horses, pigs and alpacas roaming about in their natural habitats, there was plenty to see and tempt with our tasty bag of treats. Our daughter loved the opportunity to feed the goats, and – as a big fan of Shaun the Sheep! – particularly enjoyed seeing the lambs and sheep too.
The daily itinerary of events and activities changes seasonally, but we were lucky to visit on a day when the owl flying demonstrations were running. Seeing these majestic birds spread their wings was a real highlight. Currently home to 12 owls, The Kent Owl Academy has taken up residence in the traditional Hopper’s Huts at Kent Life, offering wonderful live shows and demonstrations with their Barn, Tawny and Eagle owls.
After taking a stroll around the pretty Kentish Gardens, which were full of herbaceous borders and blossoming apple orchards, we headed to Cuddle Corner. Though actual cuddles are still off the cards, the walk-through barn gives children the opportunity to stroke and get close to the animals. We had the chance to touch some very soft rabbits, as well as see tortoises and ferrets up close, which was a lovely experience. We look forward to heading back in the future to get to hold them, as this is such a great way to familiarise little ones with small animals (whilst I inevitably chant ‘gentle!’ at every opportunity!)
From here, we visited the Vintage Village, which was an interesting demonstration of how Sandling Farmhouse would have looked in the 1950s. Kitted out with period decor, furniture and personal touches, the exhibition offers an insight into Kent’s rural past and has a real feel of stepping back in time. It’s a brilliant nod to the site’s history, without feeling like you are walking through a museum. Our daughter was a little too young to appreciate it, but from visiting similar places as an older child myself, I recall how effective these reenactments can be in bringing a slice of history to life in a tangible way.
As we returned to the main hub of the Park, we passed the Tractor Stop just as it was embarking on its next tour. Tractor rides around the farm run most weekends, offering an exciting way to explore and see the different areas of the Park. Though we didn’t have a go this time, we very much enjoyed waving to the passengers as the tractor chortled past!
For lunch, we sat outside in the sunshine at Dotty’s Tea Room. Serving homemade cakes and light lunches, most of which is locally sourced, this 1950s inspired tea room and its picnic style garden was a charming little pitstop. There is also a Pizza Garden on site, and a coffee shop in the play barn for drinks and snacks on the go.
We rounded off the day with our daughter enjoying a run-around of the large outdoor play area and an energetic session on the toddler-sized bouncy castle. Our little girl was in her element and her grin was evidence enough that it had been a good day. There is also a large indoor play barn (for colder, wetter days) spanning 3 floors, as well as peddle tractors and a craft barn which we didn’t have time to explore fully this time, but will return to visit.
Kent Life Heritage Farm Park is open 10am-5pm throughout the Summer, with tickets costing £12 for adults and children over 2. Family tickets can also be purchased for £44, or annual membership starts from £31.50 and includes a range of great benefits. Tickets must be pre-booked online and parking is included.