“ Pannington Hall Farm / Wherstead / Suffolk / IP9 2AR „
Jimmys farm customer service is appalling, they obviously have no customer care skills, and are more interested in making money, than the experience of there customer! Absolutely shocked! I will not be going back! Stay away!
We were looking for somewhere to take our baby son for a few hours in the summer and were surprised to find how little there was that was suitable for very little children in the local area. After some research on the internet, we decided to go to Jimmy's Farm which is located just outside Ipswich in Suffolk.
SO, WHO IS JIMMY?
Jimmy Doherty, the owner of the farm, is a television presenter for the BBC and a Farmer. Jimmy's Farm was a television show about his Essex Pig Company. He is also known for being a friend of Jamie Oliver's.
VISITING THE FARM
The farm is located in Wherestead, about 5-10 minutes from Ipswich. The farm is well signposted and can be located using the postcode IP9 2AR. The farm is open 7 days a week from 9.30am until 5pm. The farm has a farm shop, butchery and restaurant which you can visit without paying any entry fee for the farm. Entry to the nature trail area - which contains the majority of the animals is charged at £4.50 for adults, £3.50 for children up to age 16 and under 2's are free. Alternatively, a family ticket can be purchased for £15.
There is a large car park provided with lots of spaces - this is essentially a field though so I am unsure what this would be like if you visited in the winter months.
There are various animals located on the farm that you can see in close proximity. Bags of food are also available at the entry kiosk (for a small fee) and some of the animals can be petted and fed. There are various species of pig on the farm - Essex Pig, Saddleback Pig and Gloucestershire Old Spot Pig. There are also Pygmy Goats and Jacob Sheep.
There are also four different breeds of cattle - Red Poll, Highland Cross, Galloway and British White. There are also ducks, chickens, rabbits and a butterfly house (though this is seasonal). There are also peacocks roaming around the farm.
THE NATURE TRAIL
The nature trail covers the majority of the farm and the animals. There is a woodland trail ( the ground here can be quite boggy!) and a pond. Various animals are homed here and each have quite large enclosures with homes in - some of which look very fun! You can view the guinea pig village and rabbit mountain, as well as the rare breeds mentioned above.
There is also an adventure playground here to keep the children occupied for a few minutes and let off some energy. When open, the butterfly house is also located here and this homes various species of butterfly as well as some tropical fish. You can also view chickens and ferrets in this part of the farm.
SHOPS AND RESTAURANTS
Located on the farm is a farm shop and butchery. I did not visit the butchery part but did have a brief look at the farm shop - this sells home grown vegetables as well as other locally grown (not just on this farm) produce. There is also a deli counter which sells cheese, olives and pates. The shop is quite small but there was still plenty in it without it being too cramped. The shop is a great idea if you are worried about food miles!
There is also a restaurant on site that is made from a converted barn and has a real rustic appeal. We visited the restaurant but just for drinks so did not sample from the menu - which looked fantastic . The service we received was great, they were busy so it was a little slow but still, very friendly. The restaurant was also very clean.
The menu looked lovely, including: Slow Roast Rare Breed Pork, Jimmy's Rare Breed Cheeseburger and Homemade Pie of the Day. The prices looked reasonable and are very easy to understand, for example all mains cost £11 and all starters £5.50. There is also a special children's menu.
We located the farm easily, despite not being familiar with the area - it is well signposted from the A14. There was plenty of car parking available and, as it was a dry day, the car park was not difficult to negotiate at all. Once at the farm, we felt a little unsure as to where we needed to go. We were immediately faced with the shop and there were a few barns with animals in that we walked around for a bit, but there did not seem a lot there apart from the restaurant. When we saw other people heading in the other direction and followed, it became clear that the shed like kiosk we had passed was the entry to the nature trail area. In hindsight, there were signposts - we had obviously just missed them, so maybe they could have been a little more prominent.
We paid our entry and had our hands stamped so that we could be readmitted to the area if we left it - the toilets and restaurant are located outside of the paying area. The first are we came to was essentially a large field - and this is where a lot of the animals are located. The ground here was generally good and, where it was more boggy, metal runners had been added to the ground - this made the area pretty pushchair friendly - a definite positive for us! It was very pleasant to just walk around and see the various animals in their enclosures and being able to pet and feed a lot of them too was a bonus. Although it was quite busy when we visited - with school parties as well as a lot of visitors - there is a lot of space to move around and look as the farm is over a large area and the enclosures are large too.
Once we had walked around this large field area, we were unsure really where else we were to go - I felt that a few more signs pointing you in the right direction or the provision of a site map on admittance would have helped a great deal. We couldn't help but feel like we were missing things. Eventually, we walked through the woodland and located another field with the pigs and cows in and the butterfly house.
We didn't take our son into the butterfly house because a) we were unsure how buggy friendly this would be and b) it probably would have frightened him somewhat! I did have a quick peek in there too and saw some really lovely species of butterflies. We visited on a rather warm day though and, as this is very much like a greenhouse, it was very hot and stuffy in there so I didn't want to stay in there too long anyway.
Our visit lasted around 2 and a half hours and this included drinks in the restaurant and a trip to the toilets - effectively two toilets in an out building. These are for both sexes too and the baby change is located in one of the cubicles so I didn't find these facilities very adequate. Coupled with little toilet roll, hand towels etc, a very low grade experience! I think you can make your visit last a little longer than that, particularly if you have young children who will undoubtedly want to spend time on the adventure playground provided. This looked fun, modern, well built and safe.
MY OVERALL OPINION
We enjoyed our visit to Jimmy's Farm. It is very visitor friendly and clean and I will definitely be taking my son again once he is a little older and fully able to appreciate the animals. There are one or two improvements that I would personally like to see to improve the overall experience - better toilet facilities and increased clarity to aid visitor's navigation of the park. The other facilities, notably the restaurant, are very good. In the summer, there are also outside stands that sell ice cream and drinks so that your wait is reduced, this is a nice touch.
There is a good variety of animals on the farm too and a visit here can be educational as well as fun - there are some animals here that children would not get the opportunity to see very often. The only thing that I would say is that this is advertised as a 'working farm' and, from the produce in the shop it clearly is. However, there is not enough opportunity for you to see the working side of this farm, in my opinion.
The price paid for entry is very fair - there are enough animals to warrant the fee and you can spend a good couple of hours here. The price of drinks and food etc at the restaurant is reasonable and not overpriced like it can be at some attractions. Don't get me wrong, it's not cheap, but I wouldn't expect it to be. The shop is pretty pricey but you do tend to pay a premium for fresh produce like this anyway.
I think the enjoyment that you get out of the day does depend to some extent on the weather as it is very open and, on a wet day, I can imagine it becoming very muddy and boggy. This is a lovely place to take young children as it is so vast they can run about and let off steam without getting in other people's way, they can also get up close with a lot of the animals. I would definitely recommend a visit.
Visited the Science Festival on 20th March - found the staff at the farm rude and unpleasant; as the previous reviewer commented, customer service is non-existent. Food in the restaurant overpriced and of average quality. AVOID.
I placed an order mid December and I was advised it would come the following week, infact it was 2 weeks later and delivery was 48hours not the express 24 so had to stay in 2 whole days! When the order did arrive part was missing and part damaged. It took, 1 e-mail, 4 answerphone messages and 5 conversations with 3 different people including Jimmy himself before I have been told I will be refunded the items that were missing and damaged. I am still waiting to me refunded. The meat was the same as from my local butchers but more expensive and the customer service the worst I have ever experienced. I would not recommend purchasing from their own line shop!!!
The summer holidays are a bit of a nightmare when you have small children, because all of a sudden everything is suddenly overrun with larger children and their parents. I have been actively avoiding some of our usual hangouts because heat, crowds and lots of other children don't go well with my heavily pregnant and hormonal self. So it was with trepidation that I agreed to a day trip to Jimmy's Farm with my friend and her daughter.
***What is Jimmy's Farm?***
Since 2002 a production company have filmed the establishment of Jimmy's Farm, a pig farm for rare breeds just outside Ipswich (Suffolk). The eponymous 'Jimmy' is Jimmy Doherty, a friend of Jamie Oliver who had no experience as a farmer and who struggled financially to get the farm up and running, which of course made for some great TV. Since then the farm has not only survived but has marketed itself as a great day out, a place to buy high quality local produce and somewhere that is trying to reintroduce and market Rare Breeds of pigs, cows and sheep.
***Where is it located?***
Otherwise known as Pannington Hall Farm, Jimmy's Farm is close to the village of Wherstead, just south of Ipswich in Suffolk. It is relatively well signposted from the A14, although we did go round a roundabout a couple of times to make sure that we were going in the right direction. The access road is extremely narrow and pitted and we made slow progress getting to the car park (not just because at 36 weeks pregnant there is only so much jouncing I can take).
***What is there to do there?***
The farm experience begins the moment that you pull into the large car park as it has fields full of sheep on two of its four sides. After a 35 minute journey from Colchester with two stroppy four year old girls in the back of the car it was a relief when they spotted them (and the huge pink pig which is placed by the entrance for donations, which they were more interested in!). Once past the pig you enter the free part of the farm- the farm shop, barn, field kitchens and gardens.
The Farm Shop: A relatively small space of which half is the butchery area. All of the produce is supposed to be local and high quality and they have quite a large range of different types of sausages made from Rare Breed pork. Whilst my friend bought her 94% pork sausages I pottered around looking at the other products for sale. I have bought the award-winning Jimmy's Farm sausages in the past and have noticed no difference between them and the sausages I buy from my (already quite pricey) local butcher for half the price. Although I love to support local enterprise and buy local food whenever I can the prices put me off completely - there is being supportive and there is being a complete mug! The bacon which is so highly spoken of on the website looked ok, apart from the streaky bacon which was almost completely white with the tiniest pink streak down the middle, not very appetizing at all.
The rest of the shop is similarly overpriced - a small bottle of water is £1.20, a small smoothie is £2.20 and the (very small) range of vegetables were at least double what I pay from my usual farm shop. Certainly this is not somewhere I would trek to on a regular basis to buy my meat and vegetables for the week, especially as North Essex has a huge number of quality farm shops which are both closer and larger. It is also very narrow with small aisles and as I was shepherding around two excited four year olds I opted to escape outside as soon as possible.
The Barn: Situated next to the farm shop, the barn offered visitors a chance to sit down and watch episodes of Jimmy's Farm. As we were there on a glorious summers day with two small children we chose not to, but there were plenty of other visitors sheltering from the heat and watching the small TV. The Dung Heap (toilets) are situated next to the barn and were small (just two unisex cubicles) but clean and well maintained. The cubicles themselves were large but the outer sink area was not and I would be concerned about taking elderly people or those with additional needs in safely.
The Field Kitchen and Gardens: Down the side of the barn (past a peahen and her chick) is a small eating area called the Field Kitchen where you can purchase coffee, cakes, burgers, hot dogs, icecream etc. It is set in a pleasant small walled herb garden and there are plenty of tables and seats. Burgers were around £4 but we were too hot for cooked food and instead investigated the icecream area. Jimmy's Farm sell small tubs of local icecream for £1.95 each and smoothie type ice lollies for the same price. Having worked out that for all four of us it would be close to £8 we passed and went down into the vegetable garden. This area is relatively small but fits in a lot of different fruits and vegetables. It was ideal to show our children where our food comes from and we spent at least twenty minutes wandering around trying to identify the different plants. There is a larger area further on where vegetables for the shop etc are growing but we were all exhausted by this point and we didn't get that far.
The other part of the farm is the Nature Trail and animal area and this does cost to get in - £4.50 for adults and £3.00 for children. We paid £13 for a family ticket (two adults and two children) which saved us £1.00 each. I also forked out £1.00 for 2 small bags of animal feed for the girls to feed the sheep, goats and pigs as well. Once through the gates we strolled down a gentle hill (covered with molehills which is worth considering for those who are less than steady on their feet) with animal areas on both sides. Four very attentive sheep were loose and waiting eagerly to be fed, jumping up to try and reach the food. We all enjoyed getting close to the very friendly sheep and both children loved it (and the mums too!). Other animals in large penned areas include turkeys, chickens, ferrets, rabbits, pygmy goats and guinea pigs who have a little village made of tiny houses. There was also a very exhausted looking mother pig with her litter of ten piglets. Two members of staff were moving around the site and both girls got to hold a guinea pig and groom a goat under supervision, in addition to feeding the animals with the animal feed.
Another area that was very popular was a small adventure playground, securely fenced in and with enough there to keep our two occupied for twenty minutes or so. Nothing was very busy and we never felt crowded or as if we had to quickly move on to make space for other visitors - the site is big enough to absorb all the school holiday traffic and we had no trouble finding a shady place to sit and eat our lunch. Once we had visited all the animals (at least twice for each) we investigated the Woodland Trail and the Butterfly House.
The Woodland Trail: This is a long wide path that winds its way through the woods on the farm. Whilst there is a somewhat steep slope at the beginning of the trail it was not difficult to scale and we saw lots of pushchairs being taken up. Whilst efforts have been made to keep the path smooth, this is a wood and there were still plenty of obstacles etc to keep an eye out for. This was one of my favourite parts of the place, our girls raced ahead on the clearly defined path and we got to enjoy a leisurely chat in some lovely surroundings. My only complaint is that it was poorly signposted and whilst we didn't get lost it would have been nice to have had signs pointing in the direction of various activities, especially when there were several paths converging together. One nice feature was the Den Building activity, where a big pile of sticks had been placed in a clearing to be put together into lean-to shelters. We spent about 40 minutes wandering around in the woods, letting the girls get thoroughly filthy and collecting cobnuts and acorns to feed the pigs.
The Butterfly House: Two polytunnels have been put together and filled with a variety of tropical plants and beautiful butterflies. A small area but still interesting, although it was very hot and we weren't sure exactly what butterflies we were looking at. We were a little surprised by how few butterflies there actually were in there, but the plants were beautiful and if it hadn't been for the heat we would have stayed in there much longer.
In addition to all of this there are regular special events. We visited once before in the winter when a temporary ice rink had been set up and this time there were big signs up advertising the forthcoming sausage and beer festival (tickets £5). Farmer's markets are held every month, there are regular family fun days and plenty of other events including a Harvest Festival in September. More details can be found on the website.
9am- 5/6pm in Summer
9am- 4/5 pm in Winter
We had a thoroughly enjoyable day out with our four year olds and we did feel that we got our moneys worth out of the place in the 6 hours that we were there (I spent about £7.50). However, this is not somewhere we will be visiting regularly as there are much cheaper things available in the area. It is certainly worth a visit just for the friendly sheep alone but a packed lunch is a must unless you want to leave with a significantly lighter wallet. Overall it offers a great outdoors experience where children can get up close to farm animals in a well managed and safe environment, burn off a whole lot of energy and can learn about food production in an accessible way.
It may have been a demoralising, grey-skied Sunday afternoon, but in one small corner of rural Suffolk, the day-trippers were out in force. A laneway, fringed with hedgerow, meandered down through a couple of wintry fields, and passed a small pocket of untidy forest. A few small pigs foraged amidst the bracken. Finally, the lane concluded on a large field, which served as a sort of impromptu car park. There are dozens of Farm Shops in Suffolk, but few of them have car parks on this scale. This, however, is no ordinary Farm Shop. It may be a smallholding, but it's becoming big business.
THE PIG FARMER: The fortunes of the 'Essex Pig Company' have grown exponentially since 2004, when Jimmy Doherty, its photogenic proprietor, began to feature in his own series on BBC2. It will perhaps come as little surprise to learn that Jimmy is an old chum of Jamie Oliver, and he certainly appears to share many of Oliver's interests. (He has even published his own cookery book recently.) In the BBC production, Jimmy is affectionately presented as a sort of bumbling, over-grown schoolboy, darting confusedly from one hair-brained little scheme to the next. He is seen rescuing featherless battery-hens, and re-housing them on his farm in modified caravans. He acquires a rare Essex pig from a Kent prison and rehabilitates it to the point of glory, with the pig earning himself a garland at a country show. He plants vegetables without defending them against a sizeable rabbit population, and adds an array of unsuitable poultry to a menagerie that, thanks to the local foxes, steadily diminishes. As to the Farm itself, it is presented as a sort of romantically isolated, rural idyll, set in the wilds of Suffolk
In truth, Jimmy's Farm is located right at the fringes of Ipswich, near a small village called Wherstead, just a short distance from the A14. When you reach the farm, it is the sound of the motorway that can first be heard humming gently in the distance, rather than the twittering of forest birds, and the tiled roofs of a distant housing estate can be spotted on the horizon. As to the Farm itself, one can only conclude that the picturesque, storybook quality evident in the BBC programme owes more than a little to the cinematographic skills of those involved in its production.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Upon arrival, there is a slightly desolate sense about the farm, with its untidy fields and dilapidated outbuildings. I've visited the farm on several occasions over the past couple of years, both in summer and in winter, and with respect to the buildings, little appears to have changed. The old farmhouse is a promising shape, but is clearly uninhabited, with windows merely for effect, clumsily painted onto wooden boards. There are a couple of disused sheds, and some small but unsightly mounds of scattered refuse and timber line the edge of the car park. Errant chickens dart amongst the cars. Whilst much of this is undoubtedly par for the course for a working farm, and issues with council planning permission have clearly stymied some of Jimmy's proposed improvements, a little more could probably be done to tidy this area up, and improve upon first impressions.
THE FARM SHOP: Housed in an old, converted shed, the Farm Shop represents Jimmy's main business on site, and is the first thing you encounter upon leaving the car park. Outside, there is a large stand displaying fresh vegetables, some of which are produced on the farm. On our visit last weekend, a rather charming collection of birdfeeders and birdhouses were assembled for sale across the outside wall. These, a hand-written sign announced, were built by 'Dolly' the Farm's very own Doolittle-esque bird expert and mascot, and a genuine star in the television series. They cost £15 each and proceeds go towards feeding the wild birds in Jimmy's forest.
Inside, the Farm Shop houses both a butcher and a sort of deli area, selling local and regional produce. On the weekends, there is a good deal of polite jostling, as locals secure their eggs and bacon, whilst confused tourists scrutinise the merchandise, hunting for souvenirs. The produce on sale is mostly excellent, but somewhat expensive, and they are clearly constrained by the size of their premises. The on-site butcher has a very good selection of freshly prepared pork products. The more popular items sell out quickly on the weekends, however. There are several types of bacon sold, including the 'Old Colchester Forest Bacon', cured with forest herbs, and inspired by an ancient Roman recipe. The scarcity and delectability of this is reflected in its price, at £4.44 for a packet containing 6 neat and lean rashers. The butcher also creates about a dozen varieties of sausage, such as the 'Suffolk Beer Pork', the 'Suffolk Farmhouse Pork', the 'Norwich Red Pork', and the perennially popular chipolatas, as well as a variety of other meat products, mainly pork-based.
There are some attractively speckled, free-range eggs arranged in cardboard cartons, although the majority of these certainly weren't laid by any of Jimmy's cheerfully underproductive hens. The remainder of the merchandise consists primarily of Farm Shop staples, such as pickles, cheeses, hand-cooked crisps, smoked fish and quiches.
THE BARN: Immediately behind the farm shop, there is a tall and attractive old wooden barn, with a couple of stalls to the side. On the weekends in winter, they barbeque sausages inside the barn, which can be bought in a fresh roll for £2.50. When we visited on the weekend, there was also a stall set up with a woodturning display, and a local was selling his hand-turned wooden bowls and implements. In the stall, a great fat sow malingered on a bed of hay, encircled by a delightful litter of pink and black striped, Essex piglets.
THE NATURE WALK: Jimmy's 'Animal Paddock and Woodland Trail' is located directly opposite the Barn. The Animal Paddock is much as its name suggests, being a fairly essentially a large field with animals, concluding in a small pond. Various birds, include a peacock, are housed in a fenced-off pen to the one side, and a number of other animals, mainly rabbits and specialty hens, are displayed in small hutches, dispersed across the field. Small bags of feed can be purchased for 20p, so that children can feed the various animals as they walk around. My little boy adores the animal paddock, especially the sheep and Free Range chickens, and it has arguably become the Farm's most popular attraction. Formerly, the animals were displayed in small pens outside the barn in an untidy and rather chaotic fashion, with geese, ducks and chickens frequently escaping, nipping at fingers, attempting to steal unguarded sausages, and generally making a nuisance of themselves, so the completion of the Animal Paddock is a great improvement. At the bottom of the meadow are three large ponds fed by a stream, one for the ducks, one for fish and another set up for pond dipping. A number of plump and rather satisfied looking ducks swim about on the largest of these ponds. The trail continues over a small bridge and leads up into the woodland, passing beside the areas inhabited by Jimmy's pigs. In the spring, the forest floor is blanketed with a sea of bluebells, and in summer, the sunlight is dappled through the overhanging trees. Handwritten signs along the trail point out features of the wood and information about the native wildlife that inhabits it.
THE FARMER'S MARKET: Held on the first Saturday of the month, the Farmer's Market is always enormously popular, attracting visitors from far and wide. It is, in many respects, simply an extension of the Farm Shop, with many of the producers whose goods are sold within the farm shop throughout the year hosting their own stalls. These include the Two Fish Wives from London, who sell specialty, homemade products such as fish cakes, producers of Organic and English wines, locally grown fruit, homemade cakes, and an array other products. Were it not for the exhausting crowds, I would recommend this Farmer's Market very highly.
FINALLY: There's a rather touching idealism about Jimmy's farm and the associated projects, his desire to re-invigorate endangered pig populations, and his undoubted enthusiasm for the Countryside. We live just a few minutes drive from the Farm, and when my friends visit from London, their ears invariably prick up at the mention of it. Furthermore, they are rarely disappointed when we visit, although I suspect this is largely because Jimmy himself is generally to be sighted, looking handsome, and marching about with a sheepdog in tow. Whilst there is still a lot to be done if those hordes of visitors are to be satisfactorily accommodated, Jimmy has made great progress over the past couple of years, and his small farm for rare pigs really is beginning to come together.
GETTING THERE: If travelling from London, exit the M25 at Junction 28, then proceed towards Colchester/Ipswich. Continue along the A12 until the Copdock Exchange with the A14. Exit the A14 at the first exit (Junction 56). At top of slip road turn right at the roundabout towards Brantham/Manningtree. Proceed straight across the next roundabout. After approx 1/3 mile the turning to the farm shop is on the right (signposted).
The Nature Trail costs £2.50 for adults and £1.00 for children.
It's worth mentioning that if you can't make it to Jimmy's Farm shop, his full range of meat products are also available online, via his website. Orders are dispatched once a week, on Wednesday, arriving throughout the UK the following day. The meat is 'securely packed and delivered inside reusable insulated ice packed boxes to ensure maximum freshness'.
Jimmy Doherty's Books,'A Taste Of The Country' (published by Penguin) and 'On The Farm' (published by Ebury Press) are available from approximately £10.00 on Amazon marketplace.