develop the farm part of the attractions following a few years of heavy investment in the zoo. This is in addition to continual upgrades to our facilities too. We opened a new fast food sit-down restaurant in 2014 and upgraded our coffee shop in 2016. Last week we opened our new visitor entrance and gift shop which was an investment of £1m.” Over at the The Big Sheep in Devon there has also been consistent investment in rides, which now vie equally with the farm attractions as a draw for visitors. The farm’s ‘head of happiness’, Anne Tattersall, says: “For

Farm figures

400 farm and rural attractions are estimated to exist in the UK

200 of these are NFAN members,

accounting for 12m visits annually

20m visitors a year is the overall UK

number of visits to farms and rural attractions

6000 people are employed by NFAN


1996 was the year in which NFAN came

into existence

£3 billion is the amount of Common

Agricultural Policy subsidies UK farmers are about to lose because of leaving the EU

the first 15 years, we used our creativity to come up with a ‘Fun on the Farm’ package, with entertaining shows, using the animal magic of being able to meet them, feed and interact with them and also to watch them giving birth with lambs being born for much of the year as well as baby goats, ponies, puppies, chicks etc. We used the country pursuits in our shows and the skills of the shepherds with dog trails, shearing, spinning etc. We still do all these but the key was to have broad appeal attractions. We introduced a fabulous indoor play area which was extensively themed and have increasingly been investing in rides which are not only very popular but have increased the numbers. We are now probably 50/50 with bought in rides and play and the farm and animal attractions. “Taylor Made were the playground manufacturers, and

the rides are from a number of domestic and foreign companies, from a 1930 hand-turned pony carousel, to a modern products track ride around the lake, swan pedalos from the USA, an SBF Family flying chair ride, and more recently the excellent Zierer Tivoli Family coaster which had really taken us up to the next level, providing us with the largest coaster within the South West of England. “The play revolutionised the business as children would

want to come every weekend, but we then introduced a computerised mini self drive tractor track similar to the Autopia attraction at Disneyland California and following its success we have been introducing more on a pretty well annual basis. We are now more a mixture between a farm park and a theme park, becoming the most popular family attraction in our area and have plans to continue introducing more rides. “The roller coaster was the major expense and having installed it, I now know why no other attraction in the region can afford to put in such a big ride. The landscaping and installation was hugely expensive, with 1200 cubic metres of concrete poured for the foundations, including pads going into the lake so that the ride goes over here, we put in a massive noise bund to protect our local village and had two 34 tonne excavators working for months. The project overrun

Wet suits

Innovative Leisure has been having success in the farm attractions sector with its Water Wars product which has been sold into 900 locations worldwide. Five new UK farm parks have recently added the attraction, taking the number that operate it to twelve. Bocketts Farm,

Walby Farm Park, White Post Farm, Rand Farm Park and The Farmers Cart have become the latest to add it to their offering. Bocketts, just outside Leatherhead, has added a stationary park model with the optional Depth Charge upgrade, while

Walby in Carlisle, White Post Farm in Mansfield, Rand in Lincolnshire and The Farmers Cart in York have added Double Inflatable units. Both models consist of four battle stations for participants to exchange fire using water balloon catapults. Becky Gowing of Bocketts Farm said of the new attraction: “Water Wars has been a great addition to Bocketts this Summer and visitors have enjoyed the thrill of a water attraction enormously. It has been very straightforward to operate and we would recommend it to any other attractions considering something a bit different.”

costs were substantial but now the ride is running, it makes me smile every time I hear it running around and the customers absolutely love it. It has huge capacity with 28 people per ride and so there is minimal queuing giving great customer experience and multiple rides even on the busiest days.” The rural nature of such parks enables some of them to maintain good footfall in the off-season as well, much more so than with typical seaside attractions for instance. “As with all seasonable businesses winter can be a challenge,” admits Tattersall. “We retain a core number of staff all year round. The park is open weekends and school holidays only. Attractions and shows are scaled down from peak season but we do a number of Christmas parties, run an incredible winter wonderland with light shows, skating and of course a big walk-through grotto. We have a flock of sheep lambing live for the February half term and run special events including a major wedding show and special toddler takeover days for pre-school children in our EWE2 arena. We have recently introduced a new biomass heating system which will not only keep the site warmer in the winter but ticks the boxes for us as a green and eco focused attraction.”


APRIL 2017

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