Written by Laura Chambers, On the Doorstep
Last weekend I was kindly invited to visit Kent Life (in Maidstone) and see what it had to offer. I was given a complimentary press pass so I made the most of this opportunity by taking my mum along with my two young children; Holly who is very nearly three and Liam who is one and we had a great day!
Kent Life as we know it today was created as a joint project between Kent County Council and Maidstone Borough Council and was formerly known as ‘The Museum of Kent Life’. The attraction was set up as a working heritage farm on which to tell the story of everything once Kentish.
There’s so much going on in Kent Life and we were so excited because the day we decided to visit, there was a really special guest…Peter Rabbit!
As we knew that many of the young children would be big fans, I was determined to get that part of the day over with so we could then enjoy the rest of the farm. I have been to events in the past with guest appearances and it hasn’t always been the best resulting in disappointment, but I am so happy to say it wasn’t like that at all here.
When we first arrived there were two entrances, those with pre-paid passes and memberships and those who needed to pay on the day. Entrance was smooth so we made our way up the hill to Petts Farmhouse, it was evident Peter would be here by all the large carrots decorating the area!
When we reached the Farmhouse we were advised to come back in 20 minutes as Peter Rabbit would make his first appearance at 10:30, however we joined the already small queue to ensure we would be one of the first.
During our time queuing my mum took the children to see some of the animals nearby. You can’t really expect a 1-year-old and a nearly three-year-old to wait that long and many of the other parents did the same thing.
My mum seems to have a connection with animals as the horse was so comfortable in here presence which was amazing because then Holly and Liam didn’t feel in any way threatened by the large animal.
Then all of a sudden everyone shuffled quickly back to the queue as the farmhouse door opened and out stepped the creation of Beatrix Potter, the stylishly dressed rabbit with his very own CBeebies show…Peter Rabbit!
Holly became very excitable at this point and didn’t quite understand why the people in front were able to meet him first, but with the help of the staff offering instruction she waited until it was her turn. It was so amazing seeing Holly and Liam meet this cute character. Holly really understood who she was meeting and if I am honest I was a little worried Liam might have found it overwhelming, but as you can see from the photo’s they were both in their element.
I spoke to the staff and asked them how the rest of the day would run and they told me that actually, the rabbit would be out for 40 minutes with a five-minute break and would be operating in this way all day. I thought this was amazing because it meant even though the queue was now relatively long, there wouldn’t be families being turned away. Thumbs up from up us!
Next we made our way round some of the top fields to see the farm animals. Liam really enjoyed this seeing the ‘smelly’ pigs and watching the sheep. But Holly in her toddler way had decided that it was now lunchtime, even though it was only coming up to 11 so a mood was imminent if we didn’t find a quick distraction.
Fortunately, right in front of us at this point were the WII Cottages, we explored the old style shops and this worked well to take Holly’s mind off lunch. It’s great how Kent Life provide historical facts as you make your way around the farm so if you’re interested in this you can learn a lot.
Knowing that there were quite a few picnic tables at the bottom of the hill, I decided that perhaps an early lunch would be fine to go with the flow of the day, however just as we were able to make our way there, I saw some activities taking place in the Wagon Store and we hit the jack pot for Holly.
There was an Usborne Books Shop set up, there was an option to buy books but no pressure at all and no obligation if you took part in the activity. Laura who was running the activity was very welcoming and encouraged Holly and I to take a seat at the old fashioned school desks (although I actually remember having these at my school!)
At this point my Mum needed to take Liam off for a little stroll in the buggy so this became a nice activity for Holly and I. Laura had set up a craft activity linked to the book she would be reading at story time. Holly really enjoys any activity with glue at the moment so this was brilliant. She set to work on her wand and plate and we soon discovered that the wand would be needed during the story time which was so much fun.
Behind us they were also offering face painting, but as Holly hadn’t seen it, I decided to note it was there if I needed it for later but head back down the hill. But I must say they were very talented from what I saw of the children who were now running around as animals.
We passed Dotty’s Tea Room which I had wanted to visit but today wasn’t the day, so another time! At the bottom of the Hill we were then drawn towards to Owl Academy as a show had just begun. The benches were all taken up so we took a seat on the floor with a good view for Holly.
They were explaining about the different species and a new Owl they were training and we watched a couple of tricks but it wasn’t really holding Holly’s attention like it was for the older children, so we bowed out and went to finally make our way to the picnic.
But yet again, we found another distraction which was amazing. It just felt like ever turn you took there was something really fun to participate in, but this next activity wasn’t exactly what you might expect. Holly and Liam met animals of a different kind…electronic animals and Holly was in Love.
Demelza Hospice Care for Children, who are Kent Life’s chosen charity, were exhibiting and raising awareness about their new lottery on offer to help them develop the hospice. If you have time, please do take a look at what this Hospice does for local terminally ill children and help where you can.
After the horse had been fully groomed we walked across the park area and Hollys eyes widened, she spotted the bouncy castle and off she went. This activity is free (like everything we had done so far) and was great fun and an excellent way to allow the children to burn off some steam.
At this point, I realised that Liam must need a nappy change so, my mum stayed with Holly and headed off to find the closest changing facility. We came to the porta cabin toilets. There were ladies, men’s and a joint disabled and changing toilet. I have to say I do think out of the whole day this is the only thing that I would say would need a little improvement. I don’t think you can complain about the toilets being porta cabins as, let’s face it, we’re on a farm! But I do think that there should be more consideration for more baby changing facilities, because unless I missed them, I think this was the only one and it did result in queue’s and some people opting to change their children on the grass nearby.
We finally decided it really was time for lunch and headed into the Big Top to watch the show. On the weekend we were invited to find out all about some of Kent Life’s animals with a show and tell of some of the creepy crawly’s and some of the smaller animals like Guinea pigs. Holly picked her seat and with her jam sandwich she was ready to be entertained.
After the show we headed to the Pantry and we found the Holy Grail…soft play! Holly and Liam were off in their separate areas. There was a ‘toddler’ area and a bigger section for the older children. It’s great to have yet another chance for the children to be able to let loose and it was really nice for Liam to get out of the buggy and be able to cruise-walk around.
After I had eaten my lovely egg baguette bought from the café we were ready to go again. Holly had decided that she would like to meet Peter Rabbit again and timing seemed to be on our side as we pretty much walked straight up to him after a little bit of dancing with the toys Kent Life had left out for the children.
It was now time to plant a carrot, although I have to say activity was harder to find than you would have thought. We soon became aware we weren’t the only one’s trying to participate we more lost looking people, it turned out we were all very punctual, but something had just held them up so we were in the right place by the Village Hall.
This was Hollys chance to get her hands dirty and she really enjoyed this. We have taken the plant home ready to plant, however I am going to confess now that it did tip over in the car, so we might not be seeing the benefits of Holly’s hard work!
I could see at this point, nearing two o clock that our time was now on a countdown, Liam was needing a nap, Holly was getting tired so we had to pick the next couple of activities carefully. First of all, we went for a tractor ride. I was really impressed that they understood there would likely be queues and they built a canopy to protect those queuing from the sun.
If you don’t like dust this one probably isn’t for you, but it was so must fun. A bumping tractor ride up to the top of the hill on the other side of the farm and back again. Holly had protested a little but once we were off she had loved it!
The Farmyard was then opposite us so we made this most of this and met the goats, Guinea pigs and rabbits. Holly even fed some of the animals at this point which was so lovely to watch. To see the joy on their faces just makes the day so nice and creates amazing memories.
After we had washed our hands we then made our way to our final activity, the playground. Holly had seen the swings so we made our way over there, but before enjoying that she made her way into the sandpit which was even supplied with buckets and spades.
What a great end to a lovely day! Even though our day was absolutely jam packed we did actually miss a couple of activities if you can believe it! We hadn’t been able to enjoy the cuddle corner, we didn’t build a scarecrow and we weren’t able to build our bow and arrows.
We were always going to be a little limited due to the age of my two, but I would say it’s absolutely perfect for their age. There wasn’t one minute they were bored with so much to do, look at and enjoy.
We are definitely going to return and make the most of an annual membership which was purchased by Liam’s Great Nan as a birthday present.
There is so much more going on this summer, see what else you could enjoy here!!