Get to know Manor Farm, Bursledon
PUBLISHED: 01:16 07 July 2011 | UPDATED: 19:40 20 February 2013
Natalie French spends a delightful afternoon enjoying a slice of Victorian life at Manor Farm...
Just outside of Southampton, youll find 400 acres of beautiful parkland, a brand new 60,000 play park, barbeque and picnic areas, and at the end of the winding country lane a working Victorian farm.
This charming and picturesque farm is a great place to while away the day in the company of the resident animals. Explore the Victorian school room, the wheelwrights shop, the blacksmiths forge and the pretty 13th century church, whilst mingling with the relaxed and friendly cast of historical characters as they go about their daily life and chores on the farm.
One such character is Aunty B, who youll find dressed in full Victorian attire pottering around the farmhouse. On my visit, she was busy teaching a group of Year 1 children from Springhill Catholic Primary School and their teacher, Mr Scullin, all about life in the 1900s, particularly in the kitchen. Aunty B, otherwise known as Social History Demonstrator, Marlene Norris, has worked on the farm for 17 years after initially joining as a volunteer.
The farm is very much a part of my life, explained Marlene, I always used to bring my son, Richard, along with me when he was a little boy. He had long blonde curly hair and would climb inside the old tin bath or sleep in the Victorian bed and visitors used to think he was a wax doll! Hes 20-years-old now.
I love all the animals too and they often find their way into the farmhouse to say hello. One time, a hen got shut in overnight and when we returned the next day she had laid an egg on the bed! As well running everyday life, the farm also put on some great seasonal events, from spooky nights at Halloween to the Christmas Nativity, I can go from a witch to Angel Gabrielle in just over a month! giggled Marlene.
Another character who is certainly part of the furniture is Mr Earwicker, aka Head Stockman, David Trenchard. David has worked at the farm for the past 13 years, looking after all the animals, with the help of many volunteers. On the day of my visit he had spent most of the morning elbow-deep in sheep having delivered five lambs before lunch time much to the delight of onlookers.
Our ethos here is for visitors to get stuck in and get their hands dirty, David enthused as he milked pregnant Jersey cow, Sarah, in front of a group of curious school children.
I often get the older children mucking out the pigs. The problem these days is that there is no connection with where food comes from its all about the supermarket. I once asked a little-one where they thought milk came from and they replied a milk bottle! We try to help explain that the supermarkets only get the end product and it is places like Manor Farm that actually produce the food.
The farm boasts a number of dairy cows which are milked daily; the chickens produce a continuous supply of free range eggs which are sold in the gift shop and there is even an allotment growing fresh and healthy vegetables.
Peta Crane from Bishopstoke, was visiting with her daughter in-law Donna Crane and her two grandchildren, 3-year-old, Thomas Crane and 1-year-old Jazmin Crane. She says, Ive been before with my other grandchildren Its such a lovely day out and the children love to pet the animals.
Little Jazmin was quite taken with the baby chicks, particularly when Mr Earwicker mischievously placed one on her brother, Thomass head.
Colin and Lesley Joel from Bitterne had also brought along their 19-month-old grandson Dawson, who stood as tall as the resident rooster. Its fabulous the way they recreate the old Victorian ways here, enthused Lesley. My sister has six foster children and often takes them to the farm or to the park for a picnic.
Park Manager, Andrew Davies believes that what really sets Manor Farm apart is its hands-on approach, Children and families love the interaction with the animals and our costumed staff. The best way to learn and have fun is through being involved and our hope is that visitors go away with a lasting impression of what life was like at the farm at the turn of the century.
Its an education
Elaine Grimwood and her daughters 6-year-old Chiara, and 8-year-old Poppy Hoyle from Romsey, were enjoying a lovely day in the sunshine with a group of friends. We home-educate our children, so its great to come during term-time when its so quiet, explained Elaine, It feels very safe here and its like stepping back in time.
We were lucky to watch twin lambs being born earlier this morning. The farmer explained that he didnt know if the lambs would survive so we were quite nervous, but the children loved it and thankfully they were absolutely fine.
They were quite cute, daughter Poppy chipped in whilst befriending the resident turkeys, but there was lots of blood! she said screwing up her nose.
Mum of two, Nala Roberts, explained, As we drove down the long windy road through the Country Park to the farm, the children were asking are we nearly there yet? the place is so vast! Visiting with her children Bethany and Lauren, plus the two children she was childminding, Maya and Maggie, Nala also noted, The farm is very well spaced out, so there are plenty of opportunities to find a quiet spot and the facilities here are great for parents with children thats really important.
A trip down memory lane
Not only is the farm popular with young people, but it also stirs many a childhood memory for older generations. Mr and Mrs Morgan from nearby Burridge usually take a walk around the park armed with a flask of tea and a snack, but today decided to visit the farm.
Its funny, but the farmhouse kitchen really does evoke memories of the olden days, explained Mrs Morgan. I recognise all the old kitchen implements and of course, the mangle.
Mr Morgan agreed, It reminded me of when I was about 9-years-old at my Grandparents house and the scullery would fill with smoke. They had a huge 7ft fireplace and I remember the smell of burning pine and peat on the stove it was an incredible smell. There was no way to set the temperature in those days like you would on an oven, you just cooked everything in a big cauldron and it would be ready when it was ready.
The Anderson Shelter also brought back war time memories for Mrs Morgan, We had a double sized shelter in the garden which we used to share with the neighbours, she recalled, I remember once feeling a piece of burning shrapnel skim past my body and fall to the floor. I kept it as a souvenir.
Manor Farm Country Park, Pylands Lane, Bursledon, Near Southampton SO21 1BH
Farm Admission: Adult 6, 60+ years 5, Child 4, Family 19 (2+2) or 22 (2+3), under 3 years free
Season ticket: Adult 35, Child 22, Concessions 29, Culture-all Passport (up to 2 adults & 2 children) 75