Review of Lee Valley Park Farms in Waltham Abbey, Essex

Edit May 2021 - Lee Valley Park Farms has been taken over by the Partyman Group and rebranded as Lee Valley Animal Adventure Park. They are in the process of making changes, but already the working farm aspect (with the visit to see the cows being milked) has been removed and they have turned the softplay into a theatre. The alpine slide appears to have gone too.

I haven't visited yet since the changes, but the nostalgic part of me is sad that they have been taken over. Realistically the previous owners felt unable to open with social distancing measures so the park may have never reopened, which would have been a shame. I will write a review when I have had a chance to visit.

[AD- Press Trip] I have been going to Lee Valley Park Farms for years and I was excited to be invited to visit at the start of their 2019 season to celebrate Conservation week. On a cold day we happily spend a couple of hours there, warming up with a run around in the soft play or a bite in the café. On warmer days I struggle to get my girls to leave. As a local attraction I recommend it as a great place to visit for families with children of all ages.

Feeding a black sheep at Lee Valley Park Farms

Lee Valley Park Farms in Waltham Abbey, Essex is part of the Lee Valley National Park. It combines 2 farms: a working dairy farm and a fun activity farm which together create a fun and educational day out. You can even buy fresh milk from the vending machine in the car park! 

There are regular themed weeks and events throughout the year and for Spring Half term 2019 they are celebrating Conservation week. For £10 per person (aged 2 upwards) you get entry to the farms and all activities (save 10% by booking in advance online or alternatively visit on a weekday during term time for £6). 

The season is opening with a focus on what individuals can do to help preserve natural habitats and provide protection for endangered species. Farm Manager James Broomfield says: “Conservation Week at Lee Valley Park Farms is a fantastic opportunity for kids and families to get out into nature, meet different animals and learn through our workshops what they can do to help protect them”. As part of the week visitors can take part in nature trails, craft sessions and bug hotel building as well as the regular activities. 

What can you expect at Lee Valley Park Farms? 

After passing through the entrance (with gift shop and Bumblebee café) you are into the main farm where you will see typical farm animals as well less typical ones (think meerkats, ferrets, a bearded dragon, reindeer and birds of prey). I love to see the animals, but it’s the play areas which are the main pull for my children. Fortunately all play areas have seating for adults and most have areas of shade for sunny days. 

Play Areas At Lee Valley Park Farms 

Farmyard Adventure- includes climbing frames, balance beams, carved animals, slides and play houses. 
Hilltop Adventure- furthest from the entrance, but probably most fun this play area has a giant bouncy pillow, a spider climbing tower and pedal tractors. You can then pop through to the Alpine Adventure to slide down a slope in an inflated ring, my children love this, but they don’t get to stay long unless they are prepared to carry the rings back up the slope on their own (they are quite heavy and this is hard work!).
Dino Dig & Splash- dig for dinosaur bones, play in the water or build sandcastles in this sand pit.
Bundle Barn- A small soft play with separate sections for older and younger children. 
Meerkat enclosure- not strictly a play area, but the combination of sand and a tunnel children can crawl through makes this a good place to hang out. 

Bundle Barn soft play at Lee Valley Park Farms

Children playing on pedal tractors at the farm in Essex

The toboggan slide at Alpine Adventure Lee Valley Park Farms

View into the meerkats across sand at Lee Valley Park Farms

Activities at Lee Valley Park Farms 

Throughout the year there are regular activities during the day and you are given the current timetable with a map when you go in. These include falconry displays, a number of sessions where you can find out more about, touch or feed the animals and pig or lamb racing where you can even place bets on who will win and get a medal! 
At certain times of year there are additional activities and one of my favourites is feeding the lambs in Spring. 

Feeding the lambs in the spring at Lee Valley Park Farms Essex

Animals at Lee Valley Park Farms 

On the dairy farm there are obviously cows to see and normally calves too. You get there by going back out of the entrance and waiting at the tractor stop for Tex the Tractor (in the afternoons) or walking down the signposted road. Once at the farm you can see the cows as well as heading up stairs to a viewing area which looks down into the milking parlour. 
In the farmyard and grass enclosures on the main farm you can see: pigs, sheep, cows, goats, chickens, ducks, rabbits, guinea pigs, turkeys, donkey, ponies, meerkats, ferrets, reindeer, tortoises, llamas and miniature zebu. 
Then there are some smaller animals including: fish, chinchilla, bearded dragon, rats, tarantula and corn snakes in the Critter Corner. 
There are also numerous birds of prey including owls, buzzards and a hawk. 

The working dairy farm lets you watch the cows being milked and you can buy the milk too

A friendly bearded dragon you can stroke

Eating at Lee Valley Farms 

The main café (Bumblebee café) serves hot and cold food and drinks and has both inside and outside seating. At peak times there is also a second outlet next to the Farmyard adventure play area which sells a more limited range of snacks and sandwiches. It is great that they have now removed single use plastics from both. 
If you want to bring your own food you can eat at one of the picnic tables around the play areas. 

What Else Is Useful To Know?

  • Most of the farm is pushchair accessible. 
  • The main toilets are next to the entrance and quite a trek from the Hilltop Adventure play area, there are disabled toilets closer, but they often have queues so it’s worth trying to ensure you have enough time. 
  • You can buy food in the shop to feed some of the farmyard animals.
  • Tractor rides and milking are only at certain times, check on arrival if you want to make sure you don’t miss out. 
  • You need to remove shoes to jump on the pillow and socks are recommended (particularly on sunny days as it gets hot) but the play bark around the pillow does end up making socks turn black so old socks would be a good idea. It’s also for children only, but I might have sneaked on it on quiet days with the excuse that my toddler needed help! 
  • If you live locally annual membership is a good deal. I was a member for around 4 years and would often go for just a couple of hours in the afternoon if we wanted somewhere fun to run around. You get free entry, a couple of guest passes, 20% off food and 10% off in the gift shop as part of your membership. 
  • There are numerous handwashing points around the farm to ensure hands can be cleaned before eating etc. 

***Disclosure: We were invited to visit Lee Valley Farms during Conservation week in exchange for a review. We have been visiting for over 6 years and love to see the developments each year.***

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