Marie Louise McConville: Newtownards farm offers a fantastic fairytale experience for children

Abbie and James visit the three little pig's houses in the Fairytale Forest at the Ark Open Farm in Newtownards
Marie Louise McConville

It really is amazing just how much parenthood can change your life.

One minute you're planning a boozy weekend in Benidorm with the girls, the next it's all about stay-cations and finding the hotel that has the cleanest ball pit and safest climbing frame.

It can really feel like a switch has suddenly been flicked and all that matters in the world is our little munchkins.

It used to be all I wanted was my wages to be in the bank, orange Bacardi Breezers behind the bar and the weekend off.

Now, all I care about is my little family and making sure they are safe, happy and healthy.

Like many families, on Easter Monday we packed up the car and took ourselves out for the day.

We found ourselves at the Ark Open Farm in Newtownards hoping for some family fun.

I really can't state enough just how brilliant this place was and can honestly say, I've experienced nothing like it before.

Of course, as with all family-friendly farms, the kids enjoyed ample opportunities to cuddle chicks, bottle feed lambs and enjoy pony rides.

They tired themselves out at the many parks, soared towards the sky on the kangaroo jumper, laughed across the zip line and made friends at the duck pond.

However, the mesmerising secret to this place was to be found deep inside its magical Fairytale Forest.

I'll be honest, I really wasn't expecting much but that was the sheer brilliance of this hidden jewel.

Buried deep in the woodland was a place which ignites kids' imaginations.

Both big fans of fairytales, you an imagine Abbie and James's delight when we stumbled upon the three little pigs' houses complete with three live little pigs grunting away.

Next, Abbie's eyes danced in her head when she spotted Rapunzel's Tower, with her golden locks flowing out of the window down to the ground.

Abbie jumped and screamed with excitement and my heart just melted.

As we made our way through the forest, we saw numerous little doors on trees - the fairies' homes- and then we came across the home of the three bears, complete with Goldilocks conked out in the bed.

It was fantastic and our two just went crazy.

I have to say, it was the best family day out we have experienced and well done to the Ark Open Farm for creating this fantastic little hidden attraction.

I just wish I could have bottled up Abbie and James' wonderful reactions and beaming smiles.

Goodness knows, we could all do with a bit of that at the moment.


A big well done to Next following its announcement that it is to launch its £22 jeans range in the "in-between" sizes of 11, 13, 15 and 17.

This is great news for us ladies who always struggle to find the right denim fit.

From the end of the month, customers will be able to buy the new sizes in its skinny, slim and boot cut styles and also their £20 chino trousers

A Next spokeswoman said the chain was "always looking for ways to help women feel amazing in what they wear".

Well done Next, we thank you.



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