Animals make people happy, it’s a proven fact of life.
People who have dogs are proven to be healthier, happier people. In America, a care home introduced cats, dogs and 100 birds for the elderly residents to look after and it possibly saved some of their lives. A man who had given up on life was drawn back into the world by a pair of parakeets. Animals are also a cornerstone of the food system, helping to provide eggs, milk, yoghurt, cheese, meat, leather and lots more besides, something the little people of the world need to learn if they’re going to understand where their food comes from in the future.
A few months ago I saw an advert on Twitter for Open Farm Sunday, an annual event run by LEAF, when farms around the country open their doors to the public, to meet the furry, fluffy and fecund friends that inhabit their barns and fields. I found this quite exciting, yet as a single guy, I felt a minor pang of solitude, wondering who I could take. I felt self conscious, imagining the rejection if I invited a friend from town…
What I needed was a child, a little person who could act as a cover story for my own excitement at visiting a load of fluffy farm animals. Luckily, I have a brother who is married and has a young daughter who would love to spend the day on a farm. Perfect.
Down on the…
The farm we decided to visit was JC Farm in Little Kingshill, Buckinghamshire and they put on an amazing day. Finding the farm was easy due to the signs and well marshalled parking area, which was a lush, sloping grassy field. Inside the farm there were abundant activities to take part in, plus we were blessed with a beautifully sunny June day, warm and balmy enough to simply sit around on the grass and enjoy being, without the sun shining so hot that we needed to seek shade or shelter (although judicious use of some SPF30 was employed).
Lured to the coffee vendor who was advertising marshmallow topped hot chocolate, I opted for a piece of salted caramel brownie chased down with a black americano. It’s always a pleasure when events have decent coffee and cakes, and the bar next door was also gearing up to furnish those who desired with beer, wine, spirits and cider.
The headline act. There was a barn area set up as a petting zoo, with loads of supervised enclosures that you could climb into and cuddle the animals. There were two-day old chicks, two-week old chicks plus lots of mature hens, about ten rare breeds. The pigs were also rare breeds, there were several enclosures with different breeds lolling around in the hay, lazing the day away. The cows were very friendly, desperate to stick their long, grey tongues out to lick the lens of my camera, or my hand, whichever was closest.
There was an enclosure filled with rabbits and guinea pigs, where we could sit and have a cuddle with a fluffy bunny. The sheep and goat enclosure had lots of young animals in it, milling around enjoying being fed and stroked by their guests for the day. One goat in particular seemed to have an affinity for me, he walked over and refused to leave my side the whole time I was there. He didn’t even want food, it seemed he just liked me. Very odd behaviour.
The furry friends continued in the main area, with a small group of alpacas looking as alert as ever. A collection of owls and birds of prey also sat waiting to demonstrate their aerobatic prowess in the main arena. Lastly, there was a group of working dogs, who put on an amazing display of their training, these dogs are hyper-alert and respond to their trainer’s every move. My pooch should take note.
If that’s not enough, there was ferret racing, welly throwing, a straw maze and lots of stalls selling everything from cakes and olives through to framed pictures and plant pots, alongside charities such as the RSPB.
Last, but not least, there was a dog show; anyone could enter, so I put Bernard in for a couple of categories. To my total joy and amazement, he was crowned best male dog! We sauntered off with a goodie bag of treats and a prized rosette, now taking pride of place on my noticeboard, it was a real ‘proud dad’ moment, although I don’t think he entirely grasped the significance of his achievement.
The combination of great weather, fluffy, furry animals, good food, coffee, cakes and entertainment made the day fly past. Without realising, six hours had passed since we arrived, which signalled time to head home and rest. It was a really lovely day, a date that’s going into my diary for next year and I highly recommend you add it to yours as well, whether you have kids or not. You can always borrow some.
Find out more details at the Open Farm Sunday website.
And finally, here’s a few more images of the furry friends I met on Sunday…