Today was a bit out of the ordinary for me as I am normally at work all day on a Thursday whilst the hubster tends to the boys at home but this week he was off up to Cheshire to take part in an organised running race, not due to return for 36 hours. I think I might have mentioned before my reluctance to spend more than a couple of hours indoors on my own with the boys – everything inevitably descends into chaos, tantrums and shouting! This is probably my fault for not being more of a hands on mum – maybe if I was prepared to design a creative challenge for them and be there helping with cutting, gluing and glittering every step of the way I wouldn’t have this problem. But then again toddlers and pre-schoolers are wont to be demanding at the best of times and is it ever a relaxing and chilled experience no matter how well planned and organised? Don’t answer that!
So having said that, I put plan A into action – a proper day out (with my Mum as parental wing-man if you will!) – and since I had been thinking and talking about children’s farms earlier in the week I was reminded of Hobbledown – a place described as “A Mysterical Farm Park Adventure” and this clues you into what to expect! It is very much a themed park – the theme being a cross between the medieval fiction of “A Knight’s Tale” and The Shire from Lord of the Rings. Personally I loved all the little touches, the stylised play areas, the rustic signs, the fantastical element – all of which turn what would otherwise be just another children’s farm into a place generously touched by imaginative and literary spirit.
For their part, the kids were in their element – no sooner had we arrived than EJ was happily wiping his cheese sandwich across a sandy surface (for added flavour, you know?) and then there were several small meltdowns whilst we tried to convince him that even though this particular bit was pretty fun, there was something even better awaiting around the next corner!
As we chased him along the pathways (he can really shift it when he’s let off the reigns!) our retinas were briefly imprinted with the images of peacocks, wallabies, meerkats and llamas (along with the lesser spotted goat, sheep and shetland pony).
Finally we reached our first true destination – an outdoor playzone which could double for a film set! JJ enjoyed the big boys zone – up the vertical wooden labyrinth only to be spat out of a huge metallic shute, up and under the giant woven acorn basket swing.
And then we headed off for our second true destination – the indoor playzone – a soft play to end all soft plays, inclusive of on-theme ‘Hobbling’ fairy doors for our own personal munchkins, an adorable wooden village zone where you can wander (if you’re under 5’4″ – otherwise, hunch) from a schoolroom to a bakery, a blacksmith’s to a doctor’s surgery. And all the little touches (a baker’s oven; a wooden till; a nice little wooden anvil with rubber hammer and pliers attached) made this place an imaginative child’s dream destination.
We spent about 3 hours at Hobbledown and were thoroughly impressed. Fortunately it was only about a 20-25 minute drive from my Mum and Dad’s – based in the Ewell/Chessington region of Surrey – and for once, I got the timing right for our departure and return home, leaving the kids the opportunity to nap on the Motorway mid afternoon and still have plenty of time for quiet play, tea and a bit of TV before the bedtime routine. As a result they were remarkably cheerful and good natured during the usual witching hour – and for that I’m truly grateful!