Opening up the countryside in London Colney
PUBLISHED: 18:01 15 February 2010 | UPDATED: 14:48 20 February 2013
As Willows Farm Village marks its 5th birthday, Jo Arthur talks to the couple who have made sure the London Colney countryside attraction has plenty to celebrate
FOR many urban children, milk and eggs simply come from a supermarket and they may never have seen the actual animals that produce their delicious breakfast.
They may have no personal experience of the countryside and may never have seen farm animals anywhere other than in books. But Willows Farm exists for just that very reason - to help children understand more about rural Britain.
For the past five years, Anna and Andrew Wolfe have been steadily building up their successful venture which is now listed as one of the top attractions in the county.
The new name for Willows Farm and Willows Lakes came from the natural inspiration of the trees that frame their land. In 2001, the ideas for the development of the existing open farm were kick-started with the outbreak of foot and mouth disease. While many farming businesses were broken by the epidemic, the Wolfes seized the 12-week forced closure of their farms as an opportunity to step back and assess the best way forward.
The farm village was closed for a year while they undertook the task of creating an attraction that would deliver the experience of 'a day in the countryside for the whole family'. And they have been so successful in doing just that that in 2006 they were crowned winners in the East of England Tourist Board's annual awards for excellence.
While Andrew and Anna are confident their attraction can stand up to national competition, they are clear that they want to keep their local appeal. 'This is a local attraction for local people, we're very focussed on that,' Andrew says. 'The majority of our visitors live between 15 to 20 minutes from us and we have over 25,000 local schoolchildren through our gates every year.'
A farmer's daughter, Anna's first love is the animals on the farm. By keeping rare and minority cows, sheep, pigs and goats she feels she is doing her bit to sustain these breeds for the future. Managing the attraction also gives her the opportunity to share her passion for the countryside with people who may not be familiar with it.
'It's really rewarding to introduce young children to the countryside and to be able to dispel misconceptions or ideas about farming that people may have,' she explains.
Anna is constantly thinking of creative ways to give children an interesting and educational close-up of the farming way of life. 'We're very passionate about what we do and we try to ignite that passion in our staff,' Anna says.
Article taken from August issue of Hertfordshire Life