With the good weather continuing, Mud and I decided to make the most of it and take the girls somewhere more local for a trip out. We settled on another favourite haunt, The Pink Pig which is a local farm shop and which we knew from previous visits, had a farm trail and outdoors play area, the latter two items being accessible on payment of a small charge of £2.50 per person. In addition, there was a nice little cafe attached to the shop in which we would be able to get a coffee and something to eat. We set off after rush hour on Thursday morning and by the time we pulled into the car park, the place was already busy. It had probably been at least a year since we had last visited and in that time there had obviously been some development of the site and now a play barn had been built. We were relieved to discover that the farm trail and outdoor play areas were still available, as the barn looked a bit small and, as we discovered a little later when we went in to buy the tickets for the trail, was a bit young for our girls …. not to mention pink! Very,very pink!
First port of call was the cafe/restaurant where we had breakfast which was very nice and reasonably priced but not as good, oddly enough, as the one we had enjoyed at the Brewers Fayre earlier in the week. With breakfast finished, we headed off in search of tickets for the farm trail and were told we needed to purchase these from the play barn, so we made our way across the car park, to the very new looking building. It was very busy and there was a number of mums with toddler age children waiting to gain entry and so we took our place in the queue. The first thing that hit me as I opened the door was the overwhelming smell of chip fat! I hadn’t been expecting that and thought it really detracted from the overall impression of the barn itself. Finally, after about 5 minutes, it was our turn to pay and I asked for admission for 2 adults and 2 children. “How old are the children?” I was asked. “10 and 8,” I answered a little confused, not entirely sure why they were asking the question as we’d never been asked on previous visits. “That’ll be £22.98 please,” the assistant said.
Pardon? How much? Last time we had come it had cost £10 for the four of us to do the farm trail and out door play areas and we said as much. To add another £13 on to cover the cost of the play barn which our children didn’t want to go on anyway, was absolutely ludicrous and not at all good value for money. There are other play barn type places in our area who have their strategy right, in my opinion. The one in the town nearest to us, is huge. Much, much bigger than the Pink Pig and they charge £5.45 for a child the age of the Mudlets and one adult per child gets free entry because they know that the parents are going to grab a coffee, drinks for the children, snacks etc, whilst the children let off steam on the equipment and that’s where they make their money.
The Pink Pig, on the other hand, was charging £6.99 per child and £4.99 per adult for the play barn and outdoor park area (at peak times) and then expected you to pay for coffees etc on top of that! We were horrified, especially at the cost to the parents ….. wasn’t as if we were planning on whizzing along on the zip wire, or clambering over the climbing frames etc! This was clearly a case of a small establishment trying to charge large farm park prices, with, in my opinion, the sole aim of paying off the cost of developing the site, as quickly as possible. Incidentally there was a smaller charge if your child just wanted to access the play barn but there was not a price option for just the farm trail/outdoor play area. Oh and you could, if you so chose, buy an annual family pass which, for a family of four was £140!!!!! My American friend, Christine, would have been proud of me, as I said in a loud, clear voice, that this was a ridiculous amount to charge, that we weren’t paying and that we would go somewhere else where we would get better value for money!
The girls were brilliant by the way, understanding immediately that this was an unacceptable hike in prices and so we got back in the car and headed off. Mud and I commented to each other about the number of loyal, old customers they must have lost, speculating that many would have paid that first time rather than cause a scene (unlike me) and simply never have come back. Of course this left us with the problem of finding somewhere to visit. “What about Normanby Hall?” Mud suggested, “We haven’t been there in years.” The girls were in full agreement with this plan and so off we went.
Normanby Hall is a country park and house owned and run my our local council. It has extensive grounds, with a deer park, woods, a walled garden, old stables, sunken garden, grass areas ideal for picnics, play areas for the children and a farming museum, all of which are included in the admission charge. There is an additional charge of £1 per person, should you wish to have a seat on the gentle, slow paced land train, as well as nature trail sheets etc to buy if you want to, for not much money. The park also runs, or hosts various events throughout the year, some of which are free and others incur an additional charge but these are clearly documented in the events program. On arrival at the Hall, we stopped at the admissions kiosk which is at the entrance to the car park. The young man in the kiosk explained to Mud that it would be £17.50 for the four of us to enter but we could buy the family season ticket for £22 which would give us unlimited free access throughout the year. Having been to the park before, we knew that this was good value and so Mud happily agreed to the family season ticket. This would now give me somewhere to take the girls, to have a picnic and a change of scenery during school holidays. We spent an enjoyable three hours at the park, paying a pound each to have a ride on the gently slow paced land train. The girls fed the ducks with bags of seed purchased at the gift shop, as we wondered around the paths taking pictures of the flowers, mooched around the walled garden and the greenhouse, stopped for refreshments at the cafe, visited the farm museum to see the latest exhibits and the girls also spent a mad half hour in the play area, letting off steam. We finally set back off for home with the girls clutching a small gift each from the gift shop (soap stone egg and holder for Little Mudlet and yet more slithers/lumps of semi-precious stones for Middle Mudlet). We were all thoroughly exhausted but felt that though the day had started out badly with the abortive visit to the Pink Pig, it had finished on a high and the girls were excitedly planning the next trip to the Park, with picnic, in the half-term holidays, weather permitting.