Set deep in the heart of the Cheshire countryside, you’ll find a children’s paradise, not just because of the ice cream on offer, but because the Cheshire Ice Cream Farm is actually one massive play zone, no scrap that, it’s practically a theme park!
As a bid to explore more of the county in which I live, I’ve been picking a scrabble tile every month and then visiting a previously unexplored place beginning with that letter. Last month I picked ‘i’ leading me to visit the only place I could think of in Cheshire beginning with that letter – the ice cream farm.
Now, I’ve visited my fair share of ice cream farms around the country and they mostly consist of a dairy farm setting up a farm building or part there of as a cafe and/or shop selling the ice cream made on site. But none of the farms I’ve experienced have managed to do anything like what the Cheshire Ice Cream Farm has done to market their product – they are truly a master of diversification.
The Ice Cream farm’s main fun-loving resident ‘Crazy Daisy’ welcomes you on entry to her magical garden and as you enter through to the courtyard, it’s like stepping into a parallel world; a bright, bold and noisy world where the artist’s palette has gone mad with splashes of colour everywhere and the sound of raucous laughter, shrieks and screams from children running round hither and thither.
A series of upside down trees lead you through to the eye-catching centrepiece, an exploding ice cream tree that sprays out foaming bubbles every half an hour. Watch the countdown clock and see everyone gather in time under the scoops of melting ice cream ready to get covered in foam. Cue…more screams!
Surrounding the tree is a myriad of exciting structures to explore, featuring slides, swings, tunnels, bridges and climbing frames; my favourites being the giant bright red toadstool and the bright green wonky house.
There is also a series of mini trampolines set into the ground which I accidentally stepped back onto and bounced off while trying to take a photo… honestly – you can’t take me anywhere!
Beyond Daisy’s Garden, as this area is known is a whole host of other attractions, some of them chargeable. There’s ‘Strawberry Falls’, an adventure golf course; ‘Scoop’, a series of JCB diggers which children can climb on board and operate; ‘Gemstone Cove’ where you can pan for precious gems; ‘Jelly Drop’, a gigantic inflatable slide; and ‘Silvercone’, Daisy’s very own race track for battery powered quad bikes.
Then there’s Fudge Farm, which isn’t as sweet as it sounds… Mr TJG was hoping that it was exactly what it sounds like: a place where you can buy fudge (bless him), however it’s actually the Ice Cream Farm’s animal kingdom which houses rabbits, goats, ponies, sheep, pigs, donkeys, alpacas and deer. On the fencing outside Fudge Farm are signs with the names of all the animals on. My favourites were Twiggy and Teddy, the two alpacas which were out in the field at the time and you can take a walk amongst the field enclosures. There are also 2 tractors ‘Huffy’ and ‘Duffy’ which you can climb aboard for photo opportunities.
After walking around all these areas with a 6 month old in tow (so he was a bit young to get in on the action), we eagerly fell in to the ice cream parlour, hungry eyes scanning the menu of flavours. Blimey, I couldn’t believe how many different flavours there were and more to the point, all flavours were available. There were the old favourites: Chocolate, Honeycomb, Mint Choc Chip, Rum ‘n’ Raisin, Vanilla Pod, Raspberry Ripple and Banoffi; then those converted from desserts such as Rhubarb & Custard, Peaches & Cream, Raspberry Pavlova, Sticky Toffee Pudding, Lemon Meringue, Cherry Crumble and Strawberries & Cream; then some more unusual flavours such as Coconut, Marshmallow, Cotton Candy, Bubblegum, Cherry Cola, Peanut, Turkish Delight, Liquorice & Blackcurrant and Pistachio The phrase ‘spoilt for choice’ certainly applied here.
However, here is where my disappointment set in. After reading about what was considered to be the World’s largest purpose built ice cream parlour, I had been looking forward to an epic ice cream sundae and assumed such a parlour to have a menu full of sundaes! But sadly this was not the case – no whipped cream or lashings of hundreds and thousands, no jellies, toffee sauces or chocolate adornments and no long spoons or fancy glasses… just straight up ice cream, granted with a number of different cone options to liven them up.
Also on the disappointing side was the available seating. For the number of people visiting especially on a weekend, (I was there on a Saturday) the number of tables provided is abysmal. I think they assume that you get your ice cream and go straight back outside, probably to keep an eye on children playing, but this is not the case for many visitors who want to sit and chat while enjoying their ice creams or require their kids to sit to eat also. I think the available seating area of the ‘parlour’ could be far better structured as the space that is there isn’t best used with lots of empty space.
I wondered what was in all the other buildings surrounding the outdoor play areas, and on further exploration found several indoor play areas: “Honeycomb Canyon” – billed as Europe’s largest indoor sand and water play area, the “Fun Factory” – a soft play area with separate zone for toddlers and “The Loft” – a games area aimed at teenagers. In addition there is also a full restaurant, but sadly no ‘proper’ ice cream parlour which I think would really benefit the site, especially as the company markets itself on being the World’s biggest purpose built ice cream parlour.
I cannot however fault the ice cream itself. I chose four different flavours: Butterscotch, Honeycomb, Toffee Fudge and Mocha Coffee Bean, and they really were delicious.
Having so many flavours is epic, reminiscent of gelato shops and stalls in Italy. I also loved the fact you could buy the ice cream in tubs in the shop to take home. I must remember to bring my freezer bag next time so I can take some home.
It was certainly an experience visiting Cheshire’s ice cream farm and I would definitely bring my nieces and nephews back here as they would love it! Just please please please improve the seating area!
Visit the website for information on the different play areas and costs involved. If visiting on a weekend or during holiday times, I recommend pre-booking sessions in the indoor play zones, especially “Honeycomb Canyon” as it gets incredibly busy and I wouldn’t want you to be disappointed.
Oh and let me know what your favourite flavours of ice cream were. I want to know what to try next time.
I confess I’d never done an official walking tour, having shunned them in favour…