We’re currently on half term and as it’s J’s first one since starting school in September, I plan to make the most of this time off with him. Our first stop this week has been Hollow Tree Farm in Suffolk. We have visited a few times over the last two years and each time we have an amazing time. This visit was a bit different because the farm has become Holloween themed (yes I saw what they did there, haha). The farm is full of decorations, themed activities, inflatables a haunted barn, as well as the usual amazing animals, play areas and things to explore around the place.
Our visit was as a family with my Mum, my niece (11), my eldest who is autistic (4) and my youngest (6 months). We paid £7.50 each (Baby F was free – please note this was half term price due to Halloween event, usually it’s cheaper) except for myself as I went in free as J received DLA. To get the free adult entry you need to show evidence of DLA. This is always handy for me as I never know how long we’ll be able to stay at a venue, or what J will be able to join in with due to social and sensory issues. Many times I’ve paid entry to places, only to leave almost straight away or miss chunks. When the entrance fee is reduced, it doesn’t feel such a kick in the teeth.
I could go on and on about our visit and my phone is bursting with photos. We stayed for about 3-4 hours but could easily have stayed all day (J was a bit overloaded towards the end so we had to leave so he could get home and have sensory downtime – Halloween is always a bit difficult for him)…
- On-site car park with disabled spaces available (it is on stones which was a bit challenging with the buggy and buggy board, but then there’s a path to follow).
- Toilets are dotted around the place with main toilets being where the farm shop is. There is a disabled toilet with baby changing facilities (it is a little small so be aware if you use mobility aids). I didn’t see any Changing Place facilities as as the farm is in a remote village I would make sure you have an action plan if you require these type of toilets facilities.
- On site cafe, farm shop and small gift shop (accepts card).
- Not many ‘paths’ once you are in the farm, lots of grass and mud pathways which can be a bit challenging as we use the buggy and buggy board (to help J when he gets his leg pains or needs sensory break).
- Animals to feed (there is a wall between you and the animals, the animals do poke their heads over to be fed) and hand washing facilities to wash hands afterwards (there was a single small step to get to this – there are paper towels which was handy for us as J doesn’t like hand driers due to the noise).
- Indoor play areas were available with a sand pit, bouncy caste, soft blocks, tunnels etc for getting out of the weather if its too hot or too wet (this will depend on what they have available at the time – this weekend there was more than usual due to it being an event week)
So, I’ll now share what we got up to and what we saw on our adventures:
Feeding the Animals
First thing we did was take our bag of food and go see the animals. J is now tall enough to be able to see over the wall which is great so he had fun watching them all, seeing how many there were etc. J spread the food on the wall for the cows to eat and laughed at how big their tongues were. He hand fed the goats and loved giving them a stroke. We said hello the pigs, guinea pigs and rabbits (J now has a huge list of pets he wants us to buy so we may end up with our own farm!). Then we went to wash our hands at the hand wash station. This has warm water, soap and paper towels available. There’s more animals around the farm that you can say hello too – chickens, turkey, donkey, sheep, birds. It was great to talk about the different animal names!
Exploring the Tots Tent
There was a tent for children under 12 to explore which had a bouncy castle, soft mat with soft blocks, tunnels, bounce toys and a play house. The two older ones had a great time running and bouncing around the place. Baby F even had a little go on the bouncy castle with me and then fell a sleep shortly afterwards. This area was included in the entry price so it was nice being able to say “yes, go for it” to the kids. The area was spacious and the decorations were light and minimal so it wasn’t a sensory overload.
As you walk around you will find different physical play areas with wooden equipment to climb and balance on. There were large tyres to climb under, on and over and climbing frames to explore with slides and tunnels. In one of the play areas there was a low mobility swing for those who are able to get out of the mobility aids (please note this was the only low mobility based equipment that we saw). The two eldest liked the tyre swings too. J loves these as he is a vestibular seeker so he was happily spinning away on it. These are all dotted around the park so it’s not one big busy play area, this is useful for J as he struggles in overly social situations such as play parks.
There is a great woodland area which we had fun exploring which has a fantastic nature feel to it with rope swings, hills to climb and a slide to explore. It’s a great spot for hide and seek. Nearby there was another climbing frame and some hay stacks which the children had loads of fun exploring. There’s two of these – one for younger children, one for older. This is great as it means children to explore safely (with the older ones having a taller one so they can do more ‘risky climbing’). J made me laugh as he was climbing using his elbows and arms as he didn’t like the texture of the hay – very inventive!
Cresta Run Sledges
These are so much fun. The children pull the sledge to the top where they are assisted by a member of staff (who were all really friendly) who helps them get into the sledges safety. They then hold tight and whizz down the hill, coming to a gentle stop at the bottom. My niece and J had fun racing each other down to the bottom. J said it was just like a rollercoaster!
There was a tractor, with trailors on the back (set out in two’s). There were three of us, and as I wasn’t sure how J would take to the noise of the tractor ride the driver let him sit on my knee. We chose the trailor furthest back and settled in for our ride. It’s a short trip so it’s not overwhelming for little ones and you have to spot the creatures hiding around the trees as you drive around. This was a highlight for the pair of them…ok, and me! Please note that the trailors are quite small so be aware if your child has mobility needs (you can always give them a call for more info).
In the summer we had in the sunflower maze. This season it’s a maize maze. J loved look for the corn growing around us and seeing how tall they all were. There were times it overwhelmed J a little as he has this ‘need’ to complete things and as he didn’t find all 8 hidden characters he was a bit stressed – however we couldn’t stay in it too long as he was struggling with hearing voices but not seeing the people. However, he did enjoy our time in their overall and the two of them took turns choosing which direction to turn.
Assault Course and Halloween Games
There was an inflatable obstacle course that the older two had a turn on (again, included in the price) and a selection of games where you had to throw beanbags into holes and see who could get the highest score. J won – but that was with a fair amount of cheating, haha. It’s the little things like this that just extended the day. There’s little games and activities around the farm to play as a family such as welly throwing, and some noisy little chimes. It adds to the fun.
Ride on Tractors
This is something J has explored every visit and it’s been great capturing photos and videos each year. It shows how he has developed from being held on the tractors to pushing them around to now being able to peddle them a short distance. You can drive the little ride ons around a circuit which has a tree house in the middle, and a fence areas where you can say hello to the donkey if you’re lucky enough to meet them. We had fun climbing up into the tree house…yes, it even took my weight!
Big Top Barn
There was a ‘haunted barn’ that was set up in the theme of a big top circus (think ‘The Greatest Showman’ meets Halloween). It does look very freaky from the second you step in. I knew it would be too much for J so he stayed outside with Baby F and Grandma. My niece and I went to explore. I wont lie – my heart was beating out my chest at first as it was quite dark and no indication of what to expect. We were waiting for someone to jump out…by they didn’t. Once you are inside it’s actually a lot more family friendly with the sort of decorations and moving characters you see sold in the supermarkets. It’s cleverly set up with so much to see and talk about. We had to laugh at the flowers in the toilet and my first thought was ‘that would look good on Instagram’ haha. We made the right decision not bringing J in as it would have been a massive sensory overload of light and sounds for him. We enjoyed it though – and frankly I’m a wuss so it’s the only scary house I’m going in!
We went to explore the farm shop on our way out. My niece chose a pumpkin, J wanted shortbread and I brought flapjacks and some fruit and veg. The shop has a whole range of food and drinks, locally sourced. There’s also a small selection of farm based toys and books too.
Next to the farm shop is the café where you can have hot or cold meals and snacks. We had lunch in there and they were very accommodating to J’s food needs (bacon sandwich but the bacon must not touched the bread in case the grease makes the bread wet and no butter. It came with crisps and salad bits. They even brought the bread on a separate plate so there was no risk). I had a bacon and sausage sandwich and shared chips. It was lovely and was served really quickly. You can take a picnic into the farm but personally we love to treat ourselves to the café whenever we visit. The kids menu is extensive so there’s so much choice.
So, thats day one of half term over. It was a perfect way to kick off our time together. Everyone had an amazing time and we chatted together as we looked through the photos and videos when we got home (after J had chill out time to regulate himself).
Have you visited Hollow Tree Farm? What did you think? Are there any hints and tips about farm visits you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments or come find us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter x
Disclaimer: This is not a gifted/collaborative review. We paid entrance fee and did not make the farm aware of our visit before we came. All views are my own.