There has only been one attraction on the lips of northerners this summer. Literally. The Ice Cream Farm in Cheshire re-launched at the beginning of the holidays having experience a rebirth that can only be described as the love-child of Willy Wonka and Ben&Jerry. A triple-hit of sensorial, interative, ice-creamy amazingness that has brought in the crowds in their thousands. Yes it's had a bit of a bashing. They can't have anticipated just how popular it would be and by the sounds of it, those first weeks were a baptism of overflowing bins, wasps and good solid queues. But we weren't fazed by the negative chatter. There was absolutely no question of us missing out on this place before our boys started school so with toddlers, babies and an unsuspecting nana in tow we journeyed across to see what all the fuss was about.
No strangers to navigating a massively popular place of fun, we made extra effort to arrive early (before the gates officially opened) and parked easily by the entrance. Admission is free. Yes FREE! But you buy play passes according to your requirements. A very nice lady on the desk advised us that a £20 pass would suffice for our group for the day. It equated to 10 plays and was transferable between our 3 boys. Any unused plays can be used during subsequent visits. You can't complain at that. In fact it is quite incredible value and a very democratic approach to charging.
We'd heard that the ride-on diggers drew in a healthy queue so we made those our first port of call and didn't wait for more than 10 minutes. They didn't disappoint, even though our digging capabilities were limited. For our boys, just being let loose on the controls was enough to send them into mechanical overdrive.
Next we entered the sand and water play barn, thought to be the biggest in Europe. It's a wonderland of pulley's, pushy's, water channels, dams, drills, splashy bits and climbing challenges. Really innovative and a proper imagination grabber.
Even the babies got stuck in!
Next we made a pit-stop for lunch. Our Kid doesn't leave home without emergency sandwiches and with so much to distract, it was not a leisurely affair! The farm does request that you purchase refreshments on-site to help them maintain a free admission policy. Personally we would rather pay our way and be able to picnic freely. That said, the benches weren't policed (apart from a few over zealous wasps) and we all bought coffee and late afternoon burgers so felt like we'd contributed. No visit to an ice-cream farm would be complete without ice-cream and we tucked into ours at about 1pm. At this stage of the day, queuing wasn't an issue but be warned, big crowds had descended on both kiosks by mid-afternoon so you will have a bit of a wait if you don't fill yer cones early.
To summarise the second half of our day: climbing, jumping, standing beneath an ice-cream tree while it snowed foam, a potter round the farm, more climbing, sweating in soft play, mild hysteria, one grazed knee and lollipops for the journey home.
The Ice Cream Farm is amazing! Don't be deterred by the threat of crowds and queues. Go early, do the best bits first and keep your expectations of the day firmly managed. It will be much quieter here once the holidays are over but we have to say, our experience was atmospheric and probably the best day out we've had together all summer.