Earlier this year we decided to head off for a day out and quickly found ourselves en route to Lambing Sunday at Bicton College. Bicton is an estate house and gardens just outside of Exeter that’s split into two main areas; the agricultural college and the botanical gardens. We actually intended to head to the gardens (which we did eventually make it to a couple weeks later) but having seen the signs for Lambing Sunday, who could resist? Not us!
Lambing Sunday is one Sunday of the year when Bicton agricultural college open their doors to the public. As the name suggests, the main attraction is the lambs but this isn’t everything. There’s plenty of entertainment, food stands galore and there’s even a dog show. It’s a classic family day out, perfect for those trying to tear children away from screens! Held in the middle of March, it costs £5 per adult, £3 per child or £15 for a family ticket (cash only). As our little one is still classed as a baby, he was free – an unexpected bonus! A quick walk up the beautiful drive toward the house and you’re in.
The day is centred around the main house, outside of which is a bar, food vans and a few local attractions such as the birds of prey. Having never seen such beautiful creatures up close, it’s fair to say we stood in awe of the Eagle that was there… it was bigger than the baby! We decided to walk down to the lambs first before it got too busy which was a great idea. The footpaths aren’t really designed with buggies in mind but ours coped fine, in future I’d be more tempted to take our carrier for ease of getting around, especially as you have to go through a disinfectant dip at various points.
Just before the lambs was a huge tractor for children to take turns sitting in. There’s always something so fun about the big machines for children, the queue for it was huge! Apparently in past years there was the opportunity to ride in it down to the lambing sheds but we couldn’t find that option this year. Undeterred, we made our way down to the sheds and spent plenty of time cooing over the newborn lambs. Bicton take it in turns to open and close stalls so that the lambs and ewes aren’t too stressed by the experience, something which is nice to know. Someone was very taken with the lambs, he kept pointing at them and trying to climb in!
After the lambs we went to a horse show, put on by some of the riders at the college. It’s not the greatest of shows but nice for the children to be able to watch the horses in the arena. They bring the horses out into the yard once they’re done with a performance so you can get an up close look at the animals. Watching the reactions on the children’s faces was priceless, the horses were huge close up!
We took the opportunity after that to have a bit of a wander and some lunch. There were plenty of activities for children, from taking part in wood cutting to low ropes work, there was even a bike display which proved to be a hit judging by the crowds. In need of some time for crawling (the baby) and eating (all of us), we trekked back to the main house and settled down for a picnic by the Great Lake. The space around the lake is huge and very open, making it great for children to explore and burn off energy. Having let the baby wear himself out roaming free, we made our way over to the dog show and then down to the animals.
Prior to going we had no idea that there’d be a small animal enclosure so it was a wonderful surprise! We saw huge tanks full of brightly coloured fish, meerkats, hamsters, rats, degus, all sorts of things that we weren’t expecting to. The fish were the biggest hit for us, he loved the bright colours and the way they moved… a good thing as we’re hoping to head to an aquarium for his birthday. Finally, exhausted and spent out we headed back to the car and home.
Lambing Sunday at Bicton College is well worth a trip if you’re local or in the area. It’s a great way for children to experience a more hands on approach to animals and acts as a wonderful advertisement for the agricultural college. We ended up staying for 3-4 hours which is far longer than we’d anticipated and with the majority of it outside, it’s important to wrap up warm. It’s also almost all cash-based so don’t forget to take plenty of pennies with you, unlike us! Finally, who wouldn’t want to get to see baby lambs? It’s the perfect start to a wonderful Spring.
Don’t forget to check out Lambing Sunday in March or head to the Botanical Gardens the rest of the year for a slightly different experience.