As part of our summer holiday adventures in North Devon, we spent a day out at The Big Sheep in Abbotsham, just outside Bideford. We’d thought about going on a couple of previous trips but the children were a bit small and we weren’t sure that we’d get our money’s worth so held off until this year.
Tickets for the Big Sheep
The Big Sheep offer a variety of discounts for pre-booked tickets, and have the sense not to insist that you print them out before going. So, you can book online, on your phone whilst you’re away (if you can get a signal!) and show them the details on your phone or write them down. I wish other days out would learn from this!
We used some of our Tesco reward vouchers for our tickets but as we were driving round, we saw plenty of leaflets, vouchers and deals available from all sorts of places so with a little bit of preparation you shouldn’t have to pay full price!
As you go in you’re given a sticker to wear for the day and you can go in and out to your car as you please, as long as you have that sticker on. Easy.
Getting to the Big Sheep
It’s easiest to get to the Big Sheep by car and it is well signed from the main road. Their website gives details of how to find them if you’re travelling by any other means!
Your Day Out at the Big Sheep
We concluded that the Big Sheep is best aimed at those aged 8 and under – but there is some really cool stuff for older children – especially boys in the battleground area. We are spoilt where we live with access to Whipsnade Zoo and several farms so our expectations were high and we weren’t disappointed – there is loads to do.
Having never come across them before, the Jumping Pillows were an instant hit with both the Cheetah Keeper and his Sister:
They also enjoyed the off road Go-Karts although needed plenty of parental help getting around the course. Some of the Karts were in need of the tyres pumping up but the adjustable seats were a really good idea.
We got to The Big Sheep as it opened and with the weather forecast not great (how wrong it was, we had a glorious day!) we kept heading round the outdoor activities. The Cheetah Keeper loved the football game and his sister was overjoyed at having a trampoline to herself – as was I being able to take photos of her so clearly enjoying herself (and the sky really was that blue).
With a little(?!) persuasion we moved on to the pony rides where both children were able to ride an appropriately sized mount. The rides aren’t included in your entrance price – however for £1 per loop and 50p for a rosette I didn’t feel I was being robbed! There was a brilliant selection of hats available – the Cheetah Keeper has a very large head and needs a small adult helmet and this didn’t bother them in the slightest. All the staff at the Big Sheep were helpful and personable which always makes for a nicer day.
Onwards – there were plenty of shows and demonstrations we could have attended throughout the day – they were all well announced and you knew what to expect. We thoroughly enjoyed watching the sheepdog round up the Indian Runner ducks and the children were all too happy to get into the arena and take part.
We also went and investigated the main barn to see the animals. They rotate the animals on display so when we were there we saw some VERY cute puppies, sheep, lambs, pigs and the pygmy goats. The pygmy goats seem to be breeding incredibly well this year – the ones in the barn were a couple of weeks old, we saw 4 day old ones when out on the tractor ride. The tractor ride was so much better than the one at our local ‘farm experience’ which churns out the same recorded tripe time and time again. The guy driving our tractor gave us the run down on the animals in the fields as well as the rest of the schedule for the day – as well as warning us when it was going to get bumpy!
The pygmy goat kids are an intelligent lot – this one had worked out how to get through the railings and had the most amazing ear span!
We chose to take our own picnic – it was easy to leave it in the car then get it when we needed to. Prices at the food outlets seemed reasonable – certainly cheaper than the farms and soft play places around here (Hertfordshire) and definitely cheaper than eating out in London. A single scoop of the very yummy Lovingtons Ice Cream was £2 which seemed to be the going rate wherever we went.
The biggest queues of the day were for the swan pedalos (note that they do list a little when the adult is on one side a small child is on the other!) and we had a lovely time on them – assisted by excellent staff who coped admirably with my family who have the overwhelming inability to balance! Our children were a little young to go for the Battlefield experience but a little too old for the Piggy Ride and the carousel and the Cheetah Keeper, as I’ve written so many times before, is wary of new experiences and refused point blank to try the Twister Ride. His sister however, couldn’t get enough
I really liked that they publicised that they’d slow the Twister ride down for slightly more cautious riders. The Twister ride is up quite a steep slope – no steps but still quite steep. There are steps to get over the bridge but there is an accessible route for pushchairs and wheelchair users. The Cheetah Keeper managed these without too much hassle.
We only went to one show – where the different breeds of sheep that they have on the farm were introduced to us – ahead of the sheep racing later in the afternoon. It was cheesy but informative and the children enjoyed it. They also enjoyed the soft play area – Ewetopia. No photos in there (obviously) and on a sunny day it gets mighty hot but both the Cheetah Keeper and Sealion Keeper both found things that they found challenging/fun – remember to take socks!
In the end we didn’t stay for the Sheep racing at the end of the day – the children were hot, tired and worn out so we headed back to where we were staying around 3.30. Obviously you have to leave via the shop which was well stocked with all sorts of desirable goodies, including beer from the on-site brewery!
Would we go again?
I suspect the Sealion Keeper, at 8, has probably reached the point where another visit may come under the heading ‘boring’ – her brother, I suspect would be happy to go again. His sister may be attracted by the Ultimate Adventure Centre over the road but her brother wouldn’t – I think we went at the perfect time and thank all the team at the Big Sheep for a great day out.