The only problem with taking kids to a farm park is that it can be hard to drag them away at the end of the day. But at Bucklebury Reading Farm, between Reading and Newbury, you don’t have to. When the farm park closes, the fun continues for anyone who has booked to stay in one of the on-site safari tents. The barbecues and board games come out and then it’s time to bed-down in the properly comfy beds of your tent, warmed by its wood-burning stove.
Bucklebury Reading is a Feather Down farm; part of a network of farm stays offering off-grid holidays in roomy safari tents (or ‘tented cottages’ as the Feather Down team likes to call them). Lit only by candles and oil lamps, the rustic but homely accommodation is provided by Feather Down and invariably lovely. Those log burners are one of the highlights along with en suite loos and cute kids’ cupboard bedrooms. And while the well-set up accommodation varies little from place to place, the on-site experience is as unique as the farms you’ll find it on. And Bucklebury Farm is certainly one of a kind.
There are farmyard animals, including goats, donkeys, pigs, ponies and sheep. And, in the wider parkland, which stretches across some 77 acres, herds of red, fallow, sika and axis deer roam. You can see them on a tractor and trailer ride, which, unbelievable as it may seem, comes in a close second to most kids’ favourite activity; the chance to cuddle rabbits and guinea pigs in the Pat-a-Pet barn. There’s a great adventure playground, go karting and woods to explore. It's no surprise that this combination of farmyard fun and camping makes this an ideal place for young families but there are more grown-up activities too.
This well-heeled part of the countryside (once the home to the Duchess of Cambridge) has plenty of good country pubs for long lunches and beautiful places to walk. Highclere Castle, where TV’s Downton Abbey was filmed, is one of the closest attractions to site and the market town of Newbury is just eight miles away. The great news is that however you spend days out here, it’s unlikely there’ll be tears when it’s over as you’ll be heading home to the farm for another night of canvas, candlelight, barbecues and board games.
Bucklebury Farm Park is an attraction in its own right, open to the public as well as farm-stay glampers. You can meet farm animals, join a deer safari and kids can get stuck in at the adventure playground. There are also woodland walks within the farm and park. In fact, beyond the farm, the Pang Valley, is a great area for walking. The Nature Discovery Centre (01635 874381), five miles down the road, offers lakeside walks, wildlife habitats and a place for picnics. The castle and grounds at the Highclere Estate are open to the public and recognisable from the award-winning TV series Downtown Abbey, 14 miles from site. The town of Newbury is just eight miles away.
There's an on-site honesty shop with a few basics for campers and in the farm park you'll find Bucklebury Farm Shop where you can buy home-reared venison, rare-breed Berkshire pork sausages and more local produce. Off site, try award-winning gastro pub The Bladebone Inn (01189 714000) or one of the two pubs The Bull Inn (01189 744582) or The Old Boot Inn (01189 745191) in the neighbouring village of Stanford Dingley, all are around two miles away.