We’ve lived in Lewes nearly four years now. Like most of you will have, we’ve been to several play farms – many, several times.
But it was only a year ago that I first heard of Washbrooks Family Farm. So the minute I started this blog, I made a beeline for it. I asked Washbrooks if they’d shout us our tickets so I could review it – warts and all. They agreed.
I took my four-year-old, his best friend (a girl), and my one-year-old. So a good range to test drive in terms of interests and ages.
Drive: 20 minutes
Address: Brighton Road, Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex, BN6 9EF
Tel no.: 01273 832 201
Hours: Open 7 days, 9.30am-5pm, apart from one week at Christmas
Price: Adult £6.50; Senior/Concs £5.50; Child £5.50; Children three and under, free; Family (two adults, two children) £20
- Washbrooks is a family-owned and -run farm
- It is a perfect place for hosting a birthday party. They have three party rooms and different packages
- Petting for schools and parties can be pre-booked.
LITTLE LEWES LOVES
Washbrooks Farm only charges for over threes, despite the below (see Sandy Fun for Toddlers). So yay for them immediately.
I have a deep loathing of charging for under threes. So (sorry) here’s a rant.
Two play farms nearby do this – one charges full price for children over the age of ONE. I love this latter one, I really do, but I think that’s crackers.
Because in my view toddlers and BABIES cannot utilise play farms fully. Note I say ‘fully’. Yes they can pet animals and look at them from their buggies. But a lot of the play equipment is out of bounds – rainbow sack slides, go-karts, trampolines, big climbing frames, jumping pillows, and even ride-ons.
In fact, a day at a play farm can represent a headache for a parent. All that hand-washing! Stopping them putting their fingers in their mouths! Or in animals’ mouths! Or pulling their ears! Or shouting at them! Urgh.
Anyway, back to the present… Washbrooks had my heart at the admissions desk.
RIDE-ON TRACTORS WITHOUT RIDE-THROUGH MUD
At every play farm we’ve ever been to, the things my son wants to play on – the ride-on tractors and go-karts – are inevitably:
- outside and
- in areas of mud and sand that become icky during the long (long…!) wet winters we’re now having as standard. (Sorry to remind when we’ve so recently had a 28-degree day).
Look, I don’t mind my kids getting pigging filthy from head to toe. I’m a mother of boys, yeah? But when they can’t actually ride on the ride-ons because of getting stuck in the mud or up to their knees in deep puddles. Well, it involves pacification (= quite dull).
So yay again for Washbrooks. When you emerge from the café (where the admissions desk is), there’s a concrete-floored, covered yard. Thrillingly (I’m a mother of boys, yeah?), this is FULL of Winther bikes, scooters and floor bikes. There are also pedalled John Deere tractors.
My bigger son could have stopped here and been happy the whole day. My toddler could have whiled away hours pushing wheeled stuff about.
Even my son’s best friend was OK with spending some time here. She agreed to standing on the back of a bike pedalled by my son sort of Boudicca-style.
But yes, in time, both she and I tired of the wheels. We wanted to see what else there was.
NON-CRAZY SOFT PLAY
Most play farms we’ve been to have a (dreaded) soft play area. They’re a godsend in wet weather.
But they’re also torture in the cold. They’re usually outside – well, not quite ‘outside’ (what would be the point?). I mean in unheated, drafty barns, or open-sided purpose-built buildings.
I once stood in one of these in the bitter temperature of -1. My children were crying within 10 minutes because their feet were painful from the cold. (Do not get me started on this particular farm not allowing us to eat our packed lunch inside by the fire, despite us being the ONLY people there apart from two elderly couples. Just do not).
The soft play at Washbrooks is not fancy. But it’s good. It’s housed inside and what I clocked were:
- A sandpit for toddlers
- An under-fives area dressed up as a castle, with ball pit, slides, and wobbly sort of cushioned bridge
- Concoctions of slides, army netting, balls and stairs for older kids to move about in and down
- A ball room for older kids with air-pressure guns for shooting the balls at each other
- Sofas for parents! Several of them placed at different vantage points. They were shabby. But squishy
SANDY FUN FOR TODDLERS
In my experience, play farms tend to be really great for kids aged around three and up, but not fantastic for babies and toddlers.
Washbrooks has done a lot that’s right in this regard. They have a dedicated sandpit covered in that kind of army netting just for them. There are little buckets and pots and spades, and three wee playhouses. There is also another playhouse up on a little hill nearby.
Almost the entire play area can be seen from this spot, so you can be with your toddler with an eye on the bigs.
My son was insatiably excited about the chance to clamber on REAL farm machinery and vehicles dotted about.
They were almost better than a tractor ride because he could steer and pull levers himself. He was busy for ages ‘doing jobs’ while his best friend and I lay on one of those big round mesh swings and the baby slept in his buggy nearby.
I hear Lewes parents complain A LOT about our parks. When they say they’re crap, I think they really mean the playground climbing frames are crap.
And they are. But only because they’re pretty much all the same frame, just at different heights.
So Lewes children particularly will be thrilled by a day at Washbrooks.
Some of the different frames I noticed:
- resembling vehicles;
- combined to become a low-level wooden adventure playground-style area;
- very simple closed wooden structures with slides and tunnels off and in them. The older two loved playing house in one of these;
- and yes, even a Lewes-style one with a rope-crossing, wobbly bridge, slide, and ‘shop’.
There were others but I was with three kids, so forgive if every detail isn’t here!
A BEAUTIFUL BARN
Washbrooks has recently upgraded to a fancy barn setup. It is an open-sided circular structure so you walk around in the middle and the enclosures fan out from this centre point.
We saw incredibly well cared for rabbits, guinea pigs, donkeys, Shetland ponies, ducks and chickens.
A PROPER FAMILY-FRIENDLY TEAROOM
I felt no pressure to buy food at Washbrooks. (The same cannot be said for all play farms). But it looked decent.
What I liked was that the picnic tables were right by the café. So you could buy a drink or lolly and mix and match it with your packed picnic.
And I didn’t have to deal with huffiness over them having to heat up from-home baby food. There is a microwave in the café area so you can do it yourself.
I liked that there were stacks of high chairs. Literally.
Also prices looked very reasonable – £2.25 for a kids scrambled eggs on toast; £2.75 for an adult sandwich.
TO BE AWARE OF
- The day we were at Washbrooks there was a smell-fug around the toddler sandpit area. It was right by the loos, so I guess there were some plumbing issues.
- There are a lot of party rooms. So if you happen to go on a Saturday when a few are booked, your kid might end up staying off things because of swarms of kids who know each other dominating the play areas. But that really is just a guess.
- The picnic tables out front are right near – or in, really – the car park, so a potential hazard. But there is also a small walled lawn area right by it that the littles can kick about in while you finish your egg mayonnaise.
ALL IN ALL
I was really super mega impressed with Washbrooks. My son’s going to take five friends there for his birthday next month.
I think that’s all I need to say.
Disclosure: Washbrooks Family Farm gave my family tickets for a single-entry visit. This was so we could experience the farm and for me to review it on the understanding that it would be an honest review. I asked them for the tickets because I felt reviewing Washbrooks would be of benefit to Little Lewes readers. No other financial compensation was offered or accepted.