Number 5 in the Tots2Travel Down on the Farm series takes us to Doonies Farm in Aberdeen which opened its doors for the summer season on 2 April 2017.
Doonies Rare Breeds Farm covers 134 acres. As a member of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust it’s one of only two farms in Scotland to be awarded “ Approved Conservation Farm Park Status’ which means they aim to help preserve rare and endangered native farm animals, work closely with the RBST to increase the population of these endangered animal and educate visitors about farming, with a big slice of fun thrown in.
We arrived on a bright sunny day and our tots were promptly welcomed by Farmer Alice and collected their buckets of veg to feed the animals. Such a responsible role is the delight of children, and we saw many children with puffed up chests walking around the farm proudly carrying their prized carrots and cabbage with swagger – it was very endearing to watch.
The first stop was a pen of pregnant sheep. A sign advised us all to keep our voices relatively low as the children got to grips with ‘flat hand, no, I said a flat hand!” instructions of how to feed animals with teeth. As lambs played in the fields beyond it was somehow quite touching to think these sheep were days away from giving birth to their own.
From Welsh ‘Dainty Girl’ to a huge red Tamworth, we got very close to huge pigs. More carrots and cabbage were aimed at the general direction of their mouths. I reached out to pat ‘Dainty’ and the hair on her back is really hard, bristly and tough. I was learning things too. I thought she would be softer, so stroking pigs will not become a past-time.
In the field with the Greyface Dartmoor Sheep were four little lambs, one girl, Pippy, and three boys, Jack, Borris and Victor. They were quite shy and couldn’t be tempted by the sticky paws of toddlers clutching cabbage. Oxford Down Sheep, with their curious black markings, were in a nearby field. Apparently there are under 3000 of these sheep in Britain so it was lovely to see them in the grass with their new lambs.
My son’s favourite animal to feed were the ponies. He happily gave up most of his treasured bucket for them. We then trotted off in the direction of Niall, Doonies’ two year old Eriskay pony who is too young and frisky to be allowed near the public so Mr Child had to gaze adoringly from a distance. We learnt that Eriskay ponies are rarer than pandas, which is pretty startling.
We then spent time at the playground, beautifully situated on the hilltop with the sea glistening in the background. The site is a little exposed so do wrap up warm, our boys were happy in their fleeces but we were lucky with the weather.
Our last stop was the Farm Shop. Basically it’s a locked freezer room and you have to request access, but many people don’t even know it’s there. All the Longhorn beef sold here is born and reared on the farm. It hangs for 21 days. As the animals are grass fed the meat is said to be low in fat overall, and has higher levels of ‘friendly fats’ such as Omeg 3. It’s also rich in Vitamin E. We headed home with one fillet steak, a rump steak and a pack of sausages. Whilst seeing cute animals may put some people off buying meat I liked the fact that I could buy it having seen how the animals live, talk to the farmer in person and begin to show my kids where their food comes from.
Lastly, when my son asked if we could meet the farmer, and I told he already had, he was confused as ALL his picture books portray farmers as male. My husband and I are responsible for the books in our house but we’re pretty hard pushed to find one about gender neutral farming so I’m delighted that Doonies taught Mr Boy a wee lesson in a nice way, so let’s hear it for role model Farmer Alice!
Opening Hours – April 2nd – September 30th 10.00am – 4.00pm (Last entry 3.00pm) *Closed Mondays and Tuesdays expect for School holidays* October 1st – October 26th 10.00am – 3.00pm. Officially closed for winter October 27th.
Admission Charges – Family Ticket (2 adults and a maximum of 3 children) £ 10.00, Adults- £4.00, Children- £ 2.50, Under 2’s free entry, Buckets of feed- £1.00.
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