Dear Mummy, we visited Miller’s Ark recently on one of their Autumn open days and had a fantastic time. Miller’s Ark is a working farm based at Manor Farm off Blackstocks Lane, in Hook, Hampshire RG27 9PH. It’s really easy to get to and only a stones throw from the M3 and you can see the farm from the A30, 5 minutes from Basingstoke. We don’t visit often enough and always enjoy meeting the friendly farm animals without any barriers and set handling times.
On the day we visited Miller’s Ark they were celebrating their 25th Anniversary and had a live band, games, face-painting and a couple of local stalls selling marshmallows, yummy food and pretty handmade items. Opening hours were from 11am until 4pm and we went for the whole afternoon. Entry was £7 for adults and for children aged 2 and over. Children under 2 were free. Miller’s Ark do NOT have credit card facilities at the farm, so make sure you take some cash. There’s a shop and a garage in the next village off the A30 in Hook incase you forget.
The last time we visited the farm was back in January for one of their lambing days and we really enjoyed it. Miller’s Ark Animals is what the company at the farm is called and was first established in 1991 by Elizabeth Miller to offer an interactive farm-yard experience. Miller’s Ark Animals is one of the original ‘mobile farms’ and travels to nurseries, schools, residential homes and corporate events, allowing everyone to have a wonderful farm experience and meet the animals without travelling out to the countryside.
Elizabeth Miller also launched Animal Touch a registered charity in 2002, reflecting the growing demand for therapeutic interaction with the farm animals. Animal Touch welcomes visits on the farm by individuals or groups with special needs and can also take animals to private homes or specialist centres. What a great idea! We can definitely vouch for the therapeutic experience and at one point my mummy felt like the ‘goat whisperer’. She came out of the Pygmy goat pen feeling very relaxed and happy.
Millers Ark specialises in breeding Irish Moiled – a rare breed cattle, traditional Belted Galloways, rare breed sheep, Pygmy goats. Kune Kune pigs, standard and miniature donkeys, ducks, geese, turkeys and chicken. All the animals looked well cared for and we loved all the chickens and ducks roaming around at feeding time, where we helped give them bread as they rushed around the farm yard.
On the Miller’s Ark Open Day members of the public could go into nearly every pen and handle all the animals which is amazing! The staff encouraged us to tickle the little piglets tummies and stroke the baby goats. They were conscientious enough to let the animals have a breather when it got too much for them, so on our visit we didn’t manage to stroke any ponies or rabbits as they were tired and a bit grumpy, however indulged in a bit of welly wanging and enjoyed listening to the bird handling talks from Ben, a very charming young man.
There’s plenty of space on the farm to get lost in one of the animal pens quite happily and access all areas is great for the kids (within reason and there are signs and plenty of staff on hand to give you advice where to go) I liked jumping around in the play barn area amongst the hay bales and it was good ol’ fashioned fun. What’s great about Millers Ark is that staff know how to have good fun too. Sometimes messy and thrilling like the pig apple bobbing contest we witnessed. It was great exercise for the animals and entertaining for the visitors.
Everyone knows that visiting a farm is an enjoyable and educational experience for little ones and we found it very therapeutic and calming. I even started chatting to the goats! In all her life my mummy has never been up close with so many animals in such a small period of time. It was better than going to the zoo! She really enjoyed the experience too. We were instructed to wash our hands after petting and handling the animals with informative posters and signs up. The washing facilities were good with warm water and plenty of towels and they had a station outside every handling area. I don’t think I’ve washed my hands so much and so often, in a very long time!
I had fun riding on the blue land train called Looby Loo and it cost £1 a ride per person. It was really informative too and the man on the train told us all about the history of the farm and the animals, it changes every season as the animals change and new ones are introduced. We were told all about the Pygmy goats, and I took particular interest in Olaf and Elsa as every year Miller’s Ark pick a theme in order to name their animals – one year it was Disney! We’d actually recommend starting off with this little tour so you can get your bearings. It’s only a small working farm but its great to spot all the lively characters who live on it!
On the day we visited the farm really had a very British fete feel about it. There were outdoor food stalls selling yummy cake and BBQ food. But the farm is also blessed to have a heated barn with plenty of seating (incase the weather changes) and a great on site kitchen and cafe. The selection of food is reasonably priced and cooked fresh with a lot of it being homemade.
They also sell farm produce on site too so take your pennies. While we munched on our lunch outside in the September sun we watched (and participated) in a fun tug-of-war which was happening in the lower paddock. It was very entertaining watching the staff from Millers Ark battle against visitors to the farm.
Miller’s Ark is well worth a visit if you want your children to see what a REAL working farm is like. Miller’s Ark had really friendly staff of all different ages, it was nice to see some of the young helpers get a lot of responsibility. The location is quite rural so don’t forget your wellies and wet weather gear, as it can get muddy.
Love Bella xx
**The next open day is Saturday 1st October and Sunday 2nd October from 11am- 4pm.**