Cattle Country in Gloucestershire is one of the go-to places for parents to entertain their children.
It’s got animals, it’s got a splash pool, it’s got a castle, and it’s got trampolines.
But coronavirus has forced the Berkeley attraction – with a 4.5 out of 5 average rating on Tripadvisor – to make changes with some of old favourites unable to open yet.
So, no boating lake, no indoor play barns, no climbing net, no tractor or trailer rides, and no pig racing.
Gloucestershire Live’s Phil Norris took his six-year-old daughter and 14-year-old nephew down the A38 to see how the attraction fared as it emerges from lockdown.
There are two daily slots bookable in advance only, from 10pm to 1pm and from 2pm to 5pm, with ticket prices reduced considerably to reflect the time restriction and the loss of some attractions.
Cattle County is only about a 30 minute drive from Cheltenham and Gloucester.
Arriving at Cattle Country
No major changes as you pull into the car park, apart from, of course, it seeming a lot less busy than you’ll probably remember it.
Everyone there has pre-booked and numbers are limited, so parking is not a problem.
We arrived just a few minutes after 10am and there was no queue to get in at all.
So much space. There are no tables on the central grassed area and fewer families meant social distancing was easy.
The outdoor play areas were being well used – including the climbing frames, swings, trampolines and playgrounds.
There were obviously limits on the equipment, for example just one family group allowed per trampoline.
The Kids’ Berkeley Castle
No obvious changes here, apart from hand sanitiser at the entrance which was well used by children – even without their parents telling them to.
People were clearly trying to social distance, and there were lots of ‘after-yous’ and ‘no, after yous’ as the narrow walkways and stairs were negotiated.
As quite a tall person, the kids’ castle is not the most comfortable place for me, so I was glad to only bang my head twice on the rafters. Disappointing to bang it both times in exactly the same location, though.
The hardest round of mini-golf I’ve ever played, but it was perfect fun for the six-year-old and 14-year-old I was with.
Most of the holes were virtually impossible to do, and even if they were each par 30 we’d have been well over par.
We intended to keep track of our scores, but when my daughter took about 27 goes to get the ball in the first hole (using the club and eventually her hands and her feet), we swiftly abandoned that.
The toughest involved having to launch the ball from a ramp into a small bucket.
One little boy told us he has done it twice out of 100 attempts – which is impressive as we struggled to even get the ball on the ramp.
There’s a £1 deposit for each ball (santitised) and the clubs are collected from a ‘clean’ tub and then put into a ‘dirty’ tub when the game is over.
Social distancing meant there was a short wait to be allowed into the barns to see the rabbits, guinea pigs, sheep and goats.
Hand washing was mandatory and a one-way system was in place. There were some cute calves to see, which delighted my daughter.
Piglets obviously were popular with the children, and there were some huge porkers on display as well as more sheep and goats in the outside sections.
It was via some gorgeous deer to a walk through the Maize Maze, which my daughter feared may contain a tiger.
Thankfully, we escaped this with our lives and ultimately it was less of a maze then a pleasant walk through the stalks.
People were very respectful of personal space and kept well away when passing.
A necessary queue for these, with just two family groups allowed at any one time.
A staff member limited time on the pillows so the queue went down quickly.
There is a also a smaller jumping pillow for the under-fours.
Do I need cash?
It’s all pre-booking so no cash on entry and food and drinks need to be purchased by cashless means.
However, if you want the play golf you’ll need cash for the ball deposit.
There are also motorised rides for children, which you’ll need pound coins for as well.
Staff seemed happy to change notes.
What did we miss from the fully-open Cattle Country?
We missed the ‘just hanging around’ nature of Cattle Country.
It’s always been a place to spend a sunny day, moving between the different activities, having a picnic, letting the kids play.
It would have been nice to have the soft-play area for the six-year-old, but the 14-year-old wouldn’t have been so keen.
Knowing we ‘only’ had three hours made it seem as if we needed to get round everything, but we only really missed the chance to go in the beach barn.
But, we managed to do all we wanted to do, felt as if suitable precautions were in place, and the staff were attentive, polite and helpful.
Opening hours: 10am to 1pm and then 2pm to 5pm, Wednesday to Sunday
What’s open: New cafe Graze; Little Calves play area; trampolines; castle; ride on toys (requires cash); splash pool; mini golf (requires cash); beach barn; jumping pillows; animal experience barn (no animal activities); farm trail; pig feeding (requires cash)
What’s closed? Indoor play barns; boating lake; climbing net; tractor & trailer rides; pig racing
Ticket prices: Adult ticket: £6.50; Child (4-17): £6.50; Toddler (2-3): £6.50; Under twos: free (It used to be £12 for adults; £13 for children aged 4-17 and £8.50 for toddlers)
It may be roughly half the price for roughly half the attractions and you can be there roughly half the time, but it’s 100 per cent value for money and an excellent way to spend some quality family time after all those months of lockdown.
You may wish you had more time there, but there is time to see everything and not feel too rushed.
We forgot the swimming costumes for the children, so make sure you pack them for some fun in the sun (when we get it).