HOW you gonna keep 'em AWAY from the farm – especially when there's so much to see and do and so much going on!
Thornton Hall Farm Country Park has to be a grandparents' dream on any holiday or half-term day out, with activities and interests for all ages of boys and girls, from toddlers to teens, especially if you've also steadfastly refused to grow up yourself.
Set in glorious rolling countryside on the Lancashire/Yorkshire border, between Pendle and the Dales near the market town of Skipton – known as Skipdale to Emmerdale fans – the farm is still very much a bustling, working operation.
Naturally enough, some parts are off-limits and there are times when it's closed as some heavy, dangerous work has to be carried out and it's just not on to have curious kids and daft grown-ups putting themselves and the staff at risk.
But youngsters and grown-ups alike can get hands-on experience of life on this award-winning farm whatever the weather, from fairly gentle jobs like collecting their own free-range eggs from the hen houses out in the field, to bottle-feeding clamouring calves back in the barns. There are lots of other animal encounters, too, ranging in size from guinea pigs to real pigs, and from lambs to llamas, with rabbits, pups, poultry and ponies along the way, leading up to rare breed cattle and even a herd of deer.
The bigger animals can be seen up close and personal during a guided 4×4 safari tour around the visitor section and a good way beyond, crossing meadows, rolling pastures and streams to reach memorable vantage points.
You can also cross field and stream, with some woodland thrown in, on an exciting quad bike trek, which is where grandad gets his Star Wars helmet on and has the excuse of keeping an eye on adventurous, seven-year-old grandson.
After a brief tutorial from expert guide Chris (needed more by grandad, as grandson had previously tried mini-quads on a safe, closed circuit) we set off in a group of five to explore the parts other safaris couldn't reach, threading our way through a small quarry before heading out into the country, inching through trees and then blasting around a tailor-made circuit with steep ups and downs and corners to drift round – sheer magic!
Slightly slower fun on wheels inside the farm's huge play barn, where the younger children can tear round on pedal-powered tractors, which have provided hours of fun in the past, as well as a hay-bale maze and giant slides, plus a new rope-swing adventure barn where fearless kids can play Tarzan among high-piled bales.
Even more hay in the open air with a giant bale mountain, adding to the fun of an outside play area with swings, slides and rope walkways. And to round off the day, let the kids ride the exciting Wizzick Caterpillar, wriggling round a meadow in articulated trailers tower by a PROPER farm quad bike.
Exhausting stuff, so it's good to have a rather nice cafe on hand to minister to us tired-out supervisors with tea and coffee and a selection of good, honest food like sandwiches, seasonal soups and baked potatoes … and home-made cake.
The Farm is open throughout most of the year, catering for the public as well as schools and groups, hosting parties and organising various special events, but please check dates and times, and if in doubt, give them a call on 01282 841148.
Rain or shine, it's a winner – but don't expect to take it easy!