GIFTED | I love doing activities and having adventures with my sons and I’m always looking for new things to do with them, particularly things that don’t involve any kind of monstrous soft play or church hall situations…! So I was thrilled when, a few weeks ago (before the drama threw me off kilter!), we were invited to a family workshop at The Old Barn at Field Farm.
The Old Barn is a fairly new venture run by the absolutely delightful Helen on her family’s working arable farm in the Nottinghamshire countryside. Helen is a trained accountant but, much like me, having children led to a different mindset and the desire for a career change. As a child, her Grandma had taught her to weave baskets and when a casual workshop for her friends proved popular, it got her thinking about how a childhood hobby and a fresh perspective could be transformed into a business.
She now runs family workshops, from building mud houses to scarecrow making, and adult only events, such as floristry or basket weaving, all from the family farm.
We were invited to take part in the rather exciting-sounding ‘Enchanted Worlds’ workshop. I took my Dad along with me to help wrangle the kids and we arrived, late as usual!, to a smart, newly built barn where we were presented with a hot cup of coffee and the welcoming sight of a friendly group of nattering parents and excited children playing with an array of tractors and trucks in the garden.
Once we’d all settled in, it was time to start work on our enchanted worlds. First, we needed to find some creatures to live inside! So we all picked up a basket and Helen took us on a tour of the farm. Little butterflies, toadstools, ladybirds, unicorns and dinosaurs had been pre-hidden in bushes, on trees and even in the pumpkin patch and the kids absolutely loved discovering them in their ‘natural habitats’. As is fairly standard for me, I got carried away and had to remind myself that fairies don’t actually exist.
Once we’d collected everything we needed from around the farm, it was time to start building our enchanted worlds. We were able to create different landscapes with pieces of egg boxes to fashion mountains or wavy card to make streams and there was an array of different items to decorate our world with, from coloured glass beads and stones, to sand and glitter. We even got a real succulent and fresh moss to plant inside so that we could continue to enjoy our enchanted worlds at home and see them grow and change well after the workshop was over.
I was incredibly impressed at the creativity and the clear generosity in the choice of materials and decorations. And it wasn’t lost on the children. You could see the sheer delight as they let their imaginations run wild and I don’t think any two worlds looked the same. It was lovely to see the pride on their little faces when they admired their finished creations.
After all that hard work, we’d built up an appetite. Helen brought out THE most adorable little crates for the kids, with a sandwich, fairy cake and even little plant pots of fruit and veg. I cannot over emphasise how impressed I was with the attention to detail. As a self-confessed perfectionist, it’s the kind of thing that I notice: it’s in the detail, or lack of it in many cases, where you can really get the gist of a place.
And the adults weren’t left out either. There was a beautiful spread of fresh and completely homemade salads, veggies from the farm and a ham hock that fell to pieces just looking at it. And my Dad was more than a little excited to see fruit pavlova for dessert.
After lunch, Helen took us out to the fields where she showed the kids how to spot and pick ripe ears of corn, and we grabbed some fresh parsley straight from the bush, too. We had a good old play in the mud kitchen and with the toy trucks and tractors again until we were all happily filthy and exhausted. Both my boys clutched their enchanted worlds in the car home and displayed them pride of place in the living room, whilst demanding to know when we would be returning.
And we definitely will be. The website invites you to come and “experience some good old-fashioned hospitality” and I can’t think of a better way to describe it. The Old Barn offers the kind of traditional, wholesome activities – coupled with owners who have a genuine passion, kindness and commitment – that seem to be sorely missing these days. I know!! I know I sound like a Daily Mail reading old woman. But as a stay at home Mum, I have experienced some over-priced, over-hyped shit in my quest to make those all-important memories with my kiddos – I know the bad, I’ve seeeeeeen the bad. So when you find not just the good, but the bloody marvellous, you shout about it.
Find out more about The Old Barn’s upcoming events on their website or follow them on Facebook. They have some great Halloween and Christmas events coming up, but many are already sold out so book now to avoid disappointment!
Our workshop was gifted, but all opinions are my own.