Tuesday 29 March 2011

Today's Review: Barleylands

We like to take the kids somewhere special at least once every month. It spares them from experiencing monotony and eventually a hatred of their parents. Today we went to Barleylands, just on the outskirts of Billericay, Essex. Upon entering you are greeted by a quaint selection of craft shops, selling tacky but cute stuff for not too extortionate prices. But we weren't here to shop. We were here for the heart and soul of Barleylands, the farm park.

I've been to a few farm parks in my time. They've all got the same animals, and Barleylands today had significantly less animals than usual. We fed some sheep, which was all well and good, but every distinguishing member of the farm park visiting community knows that what sets each one apart from the other is the quality and quantity of the play areas dotted around. Barleylands is by far the favourite i've been to. If you think that the best thing about having kids is being able to support and encourage a budding life to grow in front of your eyes, you're right, but it's tied with being able to play on all the cool shit you used to love when you were a kid, and all the new stuff that's been invented since.

Here's a hint: always go to these places mid-week. There are very few people around, including staff, a lot of the stuff is unsupervised, so even if you're not supposed to climb around the soft play areas you can go ahead and do it anyway. Also, Barleylands has a small collection of toy tractors that your kids can ride and pedal on to get around. I'm assuming that on the weekends a bloodbath ensues every time a kid tries to get hold of one, but Amelia was happily pedalling her blue tractor while Alex got a free ride on one of the smaller ones.

Talk about a life of luxury
So what of the play areas? Well, nestled in a barn at the back of the park is this beast:

Oh yeah, ball cannon fortress, baby. Hundreds of foam balls, four lines of air powered cannons, this shit is awesome. Easy to pick up, difficult to master, you'll find yourself calculating specific trajectories just so you can hit your loved ones in the face. Unfortunately, Alex didn't like the sound of pressurised air launching things, so off we went to find greener pastures.

Ah, slide heaven. The one on the left there, it's super fast, and you land right in a massive pool of balls. The one on the right says you need a mat to go down it, but screw that, I tried it and I went way too slow. But the mother lode is the one in the middle. I haven't seen a death drop slide like that in over 10 years, and I figured the health and safety nuts around nowadays would've gotten rid of them all. 

But hell no, here it is in all its two-story glory. Going down one of these things is like going through a wormhole right back to my childhood. Those tables way in the background there, they had quite a few parents just sitting down and talking. Bullshit I say, they don't know what they're missing. I probably went down these slides more than some of the kids there. But we couldn't stay here all day. Believe it or not, there was something better to do.

Two words. Jumping. Pillow. It's like a bouncy castle but without being a pussy. It's like a trampoline but without the blunt force trauma if you fall off. It's the perfect combination. You can jump high on this thing, and it's just pure fun. If I had a garden, i'd get one of these. Good for exercise, comfy to lie on, and if you go in the middle of the week, you can regularly get it all to yourself. But if any kids try and get on, you can just keep bouncing right next to them and they'll probably fly off eventually. 

I will be going again. My addiction to bouncing requires it.

My rating: 5/5

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