We were spending a few days with my best friend earlier this week, and we got to do something a little unusual. A day spent Tracking dinosaurs in Staffordshire no less, and you can imagine how much fun Monkey had. I’ve been wanting to take Monkey to visit the National Forest Adventure Farm in Tatenhill, Burton upon Trent, for ages. It’s not far from where my friend lives, and a summer of dinosaur fun seemed just the thing to keep Monkey entertained.
A farm visit is always a popular choice with Monkey. He loves all the animals, and of course, there’s his passion for tractors and farm machinery to consider too. Through in the prospect of a day spent tracking dinosaurs in Staffordshire, and he was raring to go. We got to the National Forest Adventure Farm as it opened, and parked in the expansive car park. Where to start our adventure?
We were really spoilt for choice; two different mazes, animals, indoor play centre, farm animals, outdoor play areas. Where would Monkey start? For those of you who know Monkey well, it will be no surprise that we started at the JCB Big Dig Zone.
I had hoped my risk averse 6 year old might try the climbing wall whilst it was quiet, but he couldn’t be convinced. I’m sure others would be all over it though, and nice to see the opportunity was there.
Most activities are included in your entrance price, but for £1 Monkey got a go on a mechanical digger, yes, he really was a pig in muck.
Having visited Countryfile Live last weekend, I knew the various farm animals would be a hit with Monkey. In the Animal Barn we found Guinea Pigs, Rabbits, Chipmunks, Pigs and Piglets, Calves and Quail. There are lots of information boards as well as hand washing stations. Through the day it’s also possible to join in with egg collecting, animal handling, and a milking demonstration. My son is very much an observer rather than a child who happily joins in, but he loves looking on at all the animals.
The National Forest Adventure Farm has a large outdoor area of Animal Paddocks to explore. We went for a walk and discovered Ducks, Chicken, Alpaca, Sheep, Horses, Donkeys, Cows and Goats.
Activities in the Paddocks include Pony Grooming and Sheep Racing. We’d planned on watching the Sheep Racing, which is always a fun event, but we got sidetracked with some Frisbees (more on that later).
Now are you wondering how being on a farm could result in a day spent tracking dinosaurs in Staffordshire? The Summer of Dinosaur Fun activities run through til 4th September, and we were all rather intrigued as to what would be involved.
The Dinosaurs Awaken Maize Maze was to be our first challenge. Could we find all 10 T-Rex bones within the 10 acre maize? I have to be honest, I have a bit of a love/hare relationship with mazes, and I wasn’t entirely convinced I was going to enjoy my first maize style maze experience. In reality my fears were allayed and we had a brilliant time. Each group starting this 3 mile maze trail is given a Bone Tracking sheet (find all 10 bones and there’s a prize draw to enter) and a flag pole. What did we need that for? Well, if you get lost or find it all a bit too much, raise your flag pole up high and wave it and we will find you. Ok, how long does the maze normally take to complete then? About and hour and half on average. Wow! This was going to be a challenge and a half. We headed off into the maize, would we ever be seen again?
I think with the maize tracks being a little wider than other styles of maze, it just didn’t feel claustrophobic at all. We found our first couple of dinosaur bones, stamped our sheet and soon discovered that Monkey has a natural talent for picking the right route. There are times when you arrive at a bridge and think you’ll be able to work your way through the maze from that vantage point. You really can’t, you can’t even see the tracks, just acres of maize. At the half way point there is a chance to buy ice creams and drinks and there are picnic tables too. But beware, there are some rather hungry dinosaurs hanging around.
It wasn’t long before our resident dinosaur hunter was on the scent of more bones. We were off, hunting down the remaining parts of our T-Rex, reading facts and finding a rather impressive egg. We’d completed the challenge and in an hour. I think I might have to start hiring Monkey out, he really did lead us all the way through the maize maze brilliantly.
For younger dinosaur hunters there’s a smaller challenge with the Dino Babies Mini Maze which takes around 15 minutes for them to complete. My super explorer was on a high and decided he’d like to go for the double maze whammy. There are 6 dinosaurs to find in this maize, and once discovered, intrepid explorers receive a lollipop and sticker as with the main maize. There might have been some roaring going on in our camp.
If you fancy yourself as a paleontologist then it might be worth spending £2 per child to take part in the Panning for Fossils challenge with the Fossil Creek Mining Company. Pick a sandbag, empty it into a wooden sieve, pan in the water, tip your spoils out and try to identify precious stones and fossils.
You are given a plastic ziplock bag to keep your spoils. I have to be honest, I was expecting our finds to be a little larger, but Monkey seemed more than happy. He had some small stones, fossils including Brachiopods and some Sand Shark Teeth.
I was really looking forward to trying out the Raptor Run, pitting ourselves against a T-Rex and Raptor to collect some eggs whilst running through a maize run. But the idea seemed to freak Monkey out and he refused to try it out. In the end we settled for some Dinosaur Training, the T-Rex did try to eat me and sadly there is no photographic evidence of the event! He was obviously hungry as he went from me to the rubbish bin. Soon his handler was on hand to bring him to heel.
If a day spent tracking dinosaurs in Staffordshire wasn’t enough, the National Forest Adventure Farm has loads more to offer. We didn’t get a chance to do everything, but Monkey’s highlights included the Tractor Trailer Farmyard Safari ride, Frisbee Golf which was a first for all of us and great fun, and the Jurassic Canyon to name a few.
There are various eating options available on the farm, as well as plenty of picnic tables. We had sandwiches and baguettes in Scarecrow Joe’s Restaurant and were impressed with the quality and general pricing. Both my friend and I said, that were we to return we would try the hot meal options, these also looked excellent.
My overall impression was of a well maintained site, everything felt fresh and new. The sandpits were really well stocked with play equipment, the information points for the animals gave lots of information too. A day spent tracking dinosaurs in Staffordshire got a big thumbs up from all three of us, and we’d definitely like to return again in the future.
For more information about current and future events at the National Forest Adventure Farm along with pricing and opening times, pop over to their website.
disclosure: we were given entry to the farm along with the panning for fossils, in exchange for an honest review.