New attractions don't come along all that often on the Isle of Wight, so we were intrigued to see Tapnell Farm which has recently opened near Freshwater in the sleepy West Wight. The site has been used for accommodation for some time (the eco lodges are in our 20 quirky places to stay whilst Tapnell Manor is in our guide to accommodation for groups) but the site is being developed with a cafe, play barn and jumping pillow and more new stuff to come.
Considering it was opened in a bit of a hurry for the summer season, the whole thing seems remarkably well organised. There are clear signposts so you don't end up driving down a dirt track or into a milking shed and the branding and café look utterly (udderly?) professional and slick.
Out the front there are some funky lifesize cows which have been decorated by local businesses (Isle of Wight Garlic, Isle of Wight Festival, Bestival etc). Alas, you can’t clamber all over them as we used to at Blackgang Chine, but you can be fairly sure that they have already been photographed and uploaded to Twitfacegram a zillion times in the last few weeks.
If you can manage the stairs, head for the mezzanine at the cafe for stonking views covering about 270 degrees, including the site of the 1970 Pop Festival (the one where Hendrix played which gets bigger and louder with every retelling). We didn’t eat, but my latte was top notch.
By the time we visited towards the end of the season, the majority of the farm’s cows had been ‘sent to Northamptonshire’.
I was reassured to hear that this isn’t a euphemism to avoid difficult conversations with children, but was an actual relocation of the herd. As a result, there weren’t all that many animals to see, but I would guess that might change in future as my experience is that younger children are easily impressed by animals. It doesn’t need to be a herd of wildebeest or a family of giraffes. A dog licking itself or a goat eating some grass in a field seems to be enough entertainment for my daughter to consider it a good day out.
We also killed a fair amount of time in the playbarn and the jumping pillow, both of which are good for younger children. There are also plans afoot for outdoorsy things at the site, such as zorbing which involves rolling down a hill in a giant hamster wheel and trying not to be sick.
All in all, it’s a pretty slick operation that is well worth popping into if you are in the West Wight, although it is clearly still at the growing stage. There is no entry fee as such, you just pay for the play barn and bouncing pillow (£3 - £5 when we visited) and then they hope you’ll buying a jar of posh chutney for grandma in the shop or a burger in the café.
The hedges in the car park are only twigs at the moment, but I’ll be intrigued to see what else they’ve put on the site next year once the hedges are up to my knees.
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