A recent survey by Moneysupermarket.com found that 22% of families weren’t planning a holiday this year with the majority of these citing cost as the major obstacle. Out of more than 2,000 UK adults with children aged between 5 and 16, who were planning a holiday, more than a third, 39%, were opting for a staycation. Furthermore, 45% said it was too expensive to holiday abroad and 20% stating that aeroplane travel with children was too difficult.
For anyone opting to staycation in Kent this year, with the Garden of England’s rural charms and coastal cool, you’re pretty spoilt for choice when it comes to great value days out to keep the family entertained.
At Hoot and Holler PR, we’re lucky enough to work with some great clients and one of our most recent additions to the fold is Kent Life Heritage Farm Park, Lock Lane, Sandling, Maidstone. So, I was delighted to be given the opportunity to go along and experience it first-hand with my two girls and see if their brand proposition “Where history and family life sit side by side” really stacks up.
Primarily, Kent Life is a working livestock farm and the animals certainly take centre-stage and, as you’d expect, are a real draw for children. From learning about farm animals to getting up close and personal in the cuddle corner to feeding them with specially prepared feed from the Kent Life shop, you definitely get a hands-on experience when it comes to sheep, goats, pigs, alpacas, rabbits, guinea pigs and chickens! We also met ferrets, a baby skunk, owls, meerkats, enjoyed hearing from the knowledgeable, friendly livestock keepers and saw the farm animals put on their own agility display.
A colourful land train takes you on a (bumpy!) tour of the grounds so you can sit back, wave at everyone and take it all in. An outdoor play area and indoor soft play barn will keep young children entertained for hours. There’s also a packed schedule of events throughout the summer holidays in the Big Top – we saw the animal show – and were lucky enough to escape a heavy shower doing so.
As well as experiencing a working livestock farm, Kent Life is also custodian of Kent’s farming heritage and village life. It is home to orchards, herb, vegetable and hop gardens, as well as the farm’s original, magnificent Oast House, which is still used every year to dry hops at the Hops n Harvest Beer Festival in September.
There’s also a Vintage Village showcasing a range of traditional, original rural Kent buildings. My nine-year old has a great imagination and she was fascinated by the World War II cottages which were re-built brick by brick when they were rescued and moved from their original site near Lenham. They now house a cobbler’s shop, a grocery store and a cottage all furnished with original objects from the mid-20th Century - a veritable treasure trove for the digital native generation! The blacksmiths and the school room also captured her imagination and she delighted in acting as tour guide and showing us around the farmhouses. She couldn’t believe that a whole family from London would stay in one of the tin hoppers’ huts to help with the hop harvest and have a holiday in Kent!
We were lucky enough to see a wedding party milling around after attending a wedding, held in the pretty pink chapel and the village hall, while the bride and bridegroom had their photos taken in the hop gardens.
What with the summer holiday ice cream hunt, which has you hunting high and low for 10 of 15 wooden ice creams all bearing a name of a Kentish seaside town, we ended up spending about five hours at Kent Life, which flew by.
All of this for the bargain price of £8.95 for an adult and £7.40 for a child or £29.65 for a family ticket (2+2) if you book ahead online and bag the 10% discount.
There really is something for everyone – children, parents and grandparents. My girls, 12 and 9, both loved it and it’s a must-do attraction for primary school-aged children and tots.
Our verdict: A great value, fun, educational day out exploring so many aspects of farming and rural life in Kent, not to be missed!
Education is a wonderful thing. Knowledge is power. So maybe this explains why a TV programme finally motivated me to break the supermarket spell that had befallen me.
For some time now, we, as a family, have been feeling rather spoilt. We can walk to Waitrose or even Sainsbury's and Marks and Spencer's Food Hall, if we're feeling extra energetic. Even the lovely Lidl is within touching distance, not to mention Tesco and Asda, the supermarket sirens luring us into their convenient trolley trap on the twice daily school run.
At first, when we moved back to Kent, I'm ashamed to admit, I was a little bit smug. My friends from our eight-year sojourn in France would enquire pityingly how we were getting on and bizarrely, I now realise, I found myself braying about our proximity to the aforesaid supermarkets. You see, despite the wonderful food markets in France, several of my ex-pat mummy friends and I couldn't help but miss Waitrose and M&S and all those homely comfort treats they proffer - like proper British bangers and yum-yums!!! But as with all of life's journeys, I'm waking up to the fact that perhaps our all-consuming supermarket obsession is just a little too convenient, a little myopic - or, dare I say it, lazy even? Perhaps, we are simply not making enough effort or 'doing our bit' when it comes to reducing our carbon footprint.
So last night, as I watched BBC 2's Horizon: The Honest Supermarket: What's Really in our Food? , I found myself compelled, under the influence of the scientific and expert truths that were revealed to me, to reach for a notebook and pen to capture all of those extraordinary facts. Did you know that we spend a staggering £190 billion a year on food shopping? Do we really think about the food miles involved in flying our favourite fruits halfway around the globe? (You'll be horrified when you realise you've been imbibing micro-plastics when you reach for the 'healthy, natural' mineral water!) So thoroughly was I moved, that this morning I decided to act. I breached the half-mile supermarket circle of convenience and FINALLY made a run for it to the local Farm Shop - an Aladdin's Cave for foodies - at Perry Court Farm, which is just three miles from my front door and yet I had never managed it until today!
So, despite adding a couple of miles to my physical journey to the shop, I've surely lopped off a sizeable chunk off my carbon footprint by purchasing Perry Court's finest fruit and veg, locally baked bread and an array of delicious condiments like sweetcorn relish to top off the BBQ meat and Harrington's finest Benenden Sauce - which the lady who served me assures me is fabulous on scrambled egg.
Of course, it's not just the TV programme or the fact that it's plastic-free July or even that, of late, I've been meeting lots of passionate local producers through Hoot & Holler's fabulous Produced in Kent membership, that's making me change my route to market. Perhaps, I might venture that the French celebration of local seasonal produce at the local market or their obsession with food to the point where any communal gathering must include an offering that is 'fait-maison', has certainly rubbed off on me. Or perhaps, I'm simply finding my way home.
Clare Pope, always has her head in a book - current read After the End by Clare Mackintosh