Nestled in the Devon market town of Buckfastleigh, Pennywell is an exciting, brilliant day out for
all. No matter your age or ability, at this farm park, your inner child is immediately encouraged to
come out to play.
By Julie Andrews
Welcoming us with open-armed exuberance, the staff at Pennywell settled us in for the first activity of the day: milking the goats.
Listening intently to the milking instructions, I felt ridiculously clumsy as I initiated the first tentative squeeze. Picking up the technique fairly quickly, for the next few happy minutes, there I stayed, upside downish, cheek to goat, gently extracting the warm sweet milk from the little lady. Every now and then her bottom would wiggle and I would come up to check all was well. With a knowing look of acceptance in her eyes, my goat appeared to nod her approval and I was encouraged to carry on.
Soon, it was time to meet Pennywell’s delightful miniature pigs. With the aid of the piggy nursery’s attentive staff, everyone getsthe opportunity to have a cuddle. Spending time in the company of these pink bundles of loveliness was a joyful experience and as my chosen little piglet settled down in my arms, I’m not sure who was the more content, her or me.
Pigs in blankets
Baby pigs, really don’t like the cold and when I accidentally let her blanket slip, the little thing opened her mouth in stunned horror and proceeded to squeal the place down. Assuming I had hurt her, I was
absolutely horrified but all was fine. My cheeky little piggy friend was simply making it very clear that she must be kept firmly wrapped up for the duration of our time together.
The next piggy friend handed to me immediately burst into wild agitated squealing. She was a surprisingly strong little thing and it took all my efforts to control her frantic squirming and stop her from flying out of my arms. Offering her my sweetest cooing and determinedly holding on tight, I eventually managed to calm her down. However, this happened several times and I was mortified when I looked over to my fellow piggy huggers for reassurance and realised that their little darlings were laying quietly and contentedly asleep.
Then it dawned on me that perhaps my coat was disturbing my pig. Every time she settled down, her head would rest on my slippery coat and off she would squeal again. Carefully tucking a blanket under her head, my babe in arms, let out a squeaky burp of relief, sighed, trumped on my hand, and finally went to sleep, phew.
I spent a long time in the warm nursery before eventually, my husband had to drag me away. Quite frankly, he was fortunate that I didn’t start squealing at the unfairness of my extraction from this perfect piggy paradise.
Next, we stopped in at Pennywell’s theatre. Twice a day at weekends and throughout the Devon school holidays, the theatre hosts professional performances. Today, we were being entertained by Matt Pang, with his energetic juggling extravaganza. I was particularly impressed with the way Matt worked with his little assistant. Choosing a boy from the audience, Matt hadn’t realised at first that the boy was paralysed in his right arm. The show commenced, Matt threw a ball to him and it immediately dropped to the floor. In less than the blink of an eye, Matt sussed the situation and made the drop a hilarious part of his act. Then, he cleverly, danced his assistant into a different position. The little boy caught the next ball and beamed the brightest, widest smile, as the audience enthusiastically applauded.
There is so much to see and do here. Apart from children learning about animals in a completely wonderful hands-on way, there are rides, play areas and acres of space for kids to just be themselves. The same goes for adults too. In fact, Pennywell proudly advocates, that whether you are as young as their piglets or as old as their tortoise, this is a place of fun for everyone.
Heading now to pets corner for cuddle club, I chatted with a mum whose daughter has spent most of her life terrified of animals. Thanks to the dedication of the staff here, after only a few visits, this little girl can now sit contentedly holding a rabbit in her arms. There was pure joy on her little face and happy tears in her mother’s eyes.
Pennywell, is so much more than a farm park. It is a place where the individual matters, where staff encourage and always have time to nurture, play and heal. It is also a place of wild and wonderful happenings. The bell rang to announce the start of the pig racing. I have never seen so much enthusiasm in equal measure from both children and adults, as together they dashed off to get a good spot at the mini arena.
At the starting post, bright-eyed mini pigs bounced around, desperate to get going. Pigs love to run and once the race commenced, it was wonderful to watch these excited little piggy racers dashing at full pelt and leaping over tiny hurdles to get to their foody prize. The joy on the spectators’ faces was priceless too and at the final stretch when Swill-I-Ham, Harry Trotter and Fireman Ham came into view, the atmosphere was electric, with everybody cheering these beauties ‘All the way home’.
Pennywell, really is the friendliest, liveliest, loveliest day out in Devon. Whether you’re picnicking, feasting on the homemade delights in Henny Penny’s café, playing, or hugging pigs, everyone is guaranteed to leave here smiling from the inside.
Open daily 10am to 5pm until 28 October 2018
10% discount for disabled visitors and their carers