Most people with kids know these days that trips out as a family are expensive. Nowhere seems to offer a fun day out at a decent price and even then, if you do get through the gates relatively unharmed in the wallet area, surprises are usually lurking inside on stalls that are outrageously overpriced for naff returns.
This past weekend Berkshire Agricultural College opened for their lambing weekend. They've been doing it for years, and for years I have planned to take the kids, then forgotten and scolded myself for having to wait another year for a countryside style day out. This year I remembered and Saturday morning I packed four kids and a big picnic in the car and headed off towards Burchetts Green. It was a gloriously sunny day and I was so thankful to God for giving us such beautiful weather. The open day was 100% outdoors and would have been a disaster had it rained. Such was the beauty of the early summer day the children enjoyed running around in T-shirts, eating ice-creams and picnicing by the side of the small fenced off show area where falconry and sheepdog shows were put on for small crowd entertainment.
It was also a thrill to enjoy a day where as a parent I didn't feel ripped off or pressured to spend lots of money. The majority of stalls that offered raffles, tombolas and lucky dips were virtually free, merely asking for a donation in the discreetly placed bucket by the side of the table. Some stalls offered five goes for £1.00 which is a stark contrast to most places where you pay £1.00 per go per person and come away disappointed. The marquee behind the sheepdog area offered free face painting and the children queued up happy to wait their turn at having their faces transformed. A simple table nearby with five paint trays and a white tablecloth where the children could paint their hands and make prints, then write their names by the side. Small tractors for little people to ride alongside the path for a few pence in the bucket.
Animals were on show all around the college grounds, sheep were sheared, lambs bounced alongside their mothers, pot bellied pigs snuffled around snorting contentedly whilst wallowing in the cool mud. Shire horses pulling wagons along the grass and even a ferret racing area where Sam won 20p for backing the winner! Free tractor rides around the perimeter of neighbouring fields overlooking acres of farmland, free of modern day invasion, releasing your mind to the imagery of the pages from Tess and other Hardy novels.
Leaving the grounds we visited the Farmers Market. Delicious smells wafted through the air of homebaked pies, hog roasts, bacon butties and rows upon rows of home made fudge and turkish delight, to tempt us as we headed back towards the car.
Six hours of fun and fresh air, four happy, but very tired kids and one happy Mum. All for the bargain price of a tenner per car to get in. It's definitely in the diary for next year.