Two years ago we descended on Smithhills Farm with a wide-eyed, cooing one-year-old.

Twenty four months on, we returned with a highly chatty three-year-old and a grinning baby.

A recipe for success?


Sophie has always liked animals but from a distance.

She loves pointing them out and relished making all the different animal noises. After visits to farms and zoos in the past, she’s talked excitedly about all the creatures she’s seen.

However, getting up close and personal with them is a different story. Confident and chirpy with adults; timid and terrified with animals.

So, Pets Corner at Smith hills had just the right level of challenge for her.

It didn’t start well – twenty excitable lambs racing in and heading for the bottles of milk which people were holding. We got hold of one towards the end and this exuberant lamb nearly wrenched Sophie’s arm off in its desperation to get the milk. She didn’t like that.

A bit of calm was required and it arrived in the form of the tiniest baby goats and rabbits which Sophie loved stroking and whispering to.

She was less keen on Caramel, the giant ‘baby’ alpaca who trotted round next but then, despite their fluffiness, I’m not that keen on alpacas either.

The most freaked out she got was when her mummy leapt up to help hold a boa constrictor. Sophie descended into tears: “Mummy! Mummy!” Don’t know if in her three-year-old head, my wife holding a venomous snake was akin to her being eaten by it but fortunately those fears didn’t come to pass.

She loved watching the cows get milked and hearing how and why that had to happen. The old-fashioned process was great to see although seeing the cows up close and personal was quite intense. Rather big!

As for Harry, he was perfectly chilled out in his buggy for most of the trip and quite happy to be carried around at other points. He genuinely had no idea who or what the animals were but then he’s fairly chilled out and just enjoyed the sights, sounds and smells of the farm.

No doubt we’ll be back in two years time when he’s thirty months old and Sophie is halfway through Reception. Frightening to think!