Essex is home to some excellent farm parks. On a Friday morning in May, we decided to take Baby out for a family friendly activity in our local area. Barleylands Farm and Craft Village is located in Billericay, just off the A127 between London and Southend. I’d visited the farm a couple of times before, once nearly a decade ago, and once for an owl experience day, so had an idea of what to expect.
Barleylands is split into two sections, the free craft village, and the pay to enter farm. We decided to explore the farm first, since we were there for the baby after all, so we showed our online booking code, and entered with animal feed in hand.
The first thing we came across was the feed friendly area. Outdoors, there were enclosures for goats and sheep, with a small section designated to some rather large chickens. The animals know the score – a few of the goats were rearing up in an attempt to hustle more food out of us. Dan held on to the baby while I fed a few, but at five months old, she wasn’t particularly interested.
It was only after we entered the barn and found the goats in there that she started to pay more attention. We were able to get much closer to them than the animals in the outdoor enclosures, and one greedy goat nibbled on my sleeve while I held her. There are toilets located in the barn too, so no queuing in the rain, and all the smells get caught up in the animal smells too!
Beside the barn is a fun looking speedway, where kids can tear around a track in go kart style vehicles. Our baby was a little too small for that, so we skipped over to the indoor paddocks next door. There we spotted sheep, their lambs, pigs, turkeys, ducklings, and a huge collection of garden birds nesting in the rafters. There was also an empty spot for the two miniature donkeys Eeyore and Jenny. The farm is also home to two dairy cows, and calf who arrived in May 2021, which I didn’t realise until after we had left!
From the paddocks, we crossed the children’s play area to find the highland cows. The play area, including a bouncy pillow, seemed very popular. Unfortunately, our baby was a little too small to enjoy it, but hopefully she’ll be big enough next time we visit. We did find the highland cows, lounging around in the centre of their paddock. They were a little dull, so we looped back to find the nocturnal animals, past the two miniature donkeys, and ponies, spotting an alpaca on the way.
My favourite part of the farm visit though, was going back to see the birds of prey. I was looking specifically for the birds I handled on my last visit, and managed to spot Bhuna and Edgar. The area is managed by the Imperial Bird of Prey Academy, and there is such a variety of birds there, you’re sure to see something you haven’t seen before. There is a particularly varied collection of owls, including five barn owls that can be hired for weddings. I couldn’t leave without seeing them.
Barleylands Craft Village
With a sleeping baby in tow, we decided to mooch around the craft village, and have a spot of lunch. We grabbed a table on the small square of lawn outside the entrance, and I popped into the Tiptree Tearoom and Cafe to order food. It’s set out to look like a cafeteria, and a vaguely remember it being an actual cafeteria, selling jacket potatoes and pizza, when I last visited. Now, it serves hand made sandwiches, toasties, and scones, with a small pot of Tiptree preserve on the side.
I opted for a brie and bacon toastie, which arrived with a pot of hot gooseberry chutney instead of mayonnaise, and I must say, it was delicious. I wasn’t sure about trying the chutney, but it wasn’t particularly hot, it just added a tang to the sandwich. Dan had a ham sandwich and Tiptree English wholegrain mustard, and voiced his enjoyment of it a number of times!
Stuffed, we wandered through the village, nosing in shops that include a groomers, bridal wear, and sweets, but we stopped in To the Moon and Back. It’s a shop dedicated to sensory toys for children, and perfect for us with a five month old. The keeper was so friendly and helpful, we ended up coming away with a few bits for Baby, and feeling like our day was made.
I’m sure we’ll visit the other farms in Essex in due course, but I’m glad that Barleylands Farm and Craft Village was our first! We will definitely be back in the future with a noisy, little toddler.