Reviewed: The Big Sheep
Don't adjust your screen, that's me on a rollercoaster. But how did the small rate North Devon's Big, woolly day out?
The Big Sheep is billed as North Devon’s best all-weather family attraction, with the county’s biggest rollercoaster and it’s been on our list to visit for a little while now. Created out of a working farm, it’s been in the business of entertaining small people for 30 years and was born out of a desire to diversify, having weathered several crises including foot and mouth. Animals remain at the heart, but you’ll find rides, all-weather play, daily shows, even a brewery and a gin distillery (one Muddy reader has told me the Atlantic Spirit gin knocks the socks off some of the more well-known brands). They’re definitely not afraid to keep pushing the bar, keeping things fresh and interesting throughout the year.
You’ll find The Big Sheep just outside Bideford, heading towards the North Coast. It’s ideally situated if you’re looking to break up a holiday by the seaside. If you’re coming from the south, you’ll reach it via the A361 from the M5, or the A386 if you’re approaching from the west. We drove up from south Devon and, since there’s no dual carriageway it took us about 90 minutes or so. Tractors – you’ve gotta love them.
Food & Drink:
There are a few cafe options dotted about, including kiosks for quick snacks and ice creams. We ate lunch at The Barn, decked out to feel like a farmhouse kitchen. Kids can fill their own lunch box with 5 items and a drink (always a hit with the Mudlet). Plus, there’s a menu serving hot dishes, from jacket potatoes to gammon, egg and chips and a quiche of the day with salad. I had a savoury cream tea, with two massive cheese scones, cream cheese and onion marmalade and couldn’t manage it all, so Mr Muddy got stuck in. The whole lot came to just under £15.
The current summer season charges are as follows: Adults, children and seniors £14.95; Children under 3ft £6; Babies under 12 months FREE; Disabled £12.95 and carers FREE with a disabled admission. You can get 20% off admission prices by booking online.
Once you’re paid up, a few rides and experiences carry a small extra charge of £1, including pony rides and tractor driving school. You can also buy animal food, which can be fed to all but the lambs.
THE HIGHLIGHTS ACCORDING TO THE MUDLET:
1/ Rampage Rollercoaster
Of course it was! She may only just be 5, but this was a total hit and we endured several circuits. Being fairly quiet, with most people on the beach, we could have stayed on for much longer and the staff were very happy to indulge! Nothing too scary, but just enough speed, bumps and bends to induce many squeals of delight.
2/ The Twister
A close second, again thanks to the gentle exhilaration this ride provides. Swings that make you feel compelled to stick your arms out like an aeroplane? Always a winner.
3/ Lamb feeding
At certain times in the day, scoop up the smalls and gather in the arena for feeding time. They’re given bottles, then a flock of super-cute woollies are released, desperate for a feed.
They’ll frantically gulp from the bottle, downing the contents faster than a stag do on a pub crawl. It’s exciting, if a little intimidating for very small people to begin with, but they’ll soon be pro’s.
4/ Swan pedalo’s
I know, we thought. We’ll do the pedalling and Mudlet can do the steering. How many near misses did we have with the island? Too many to count – but still, plenty of giggles as we went around and around again. That’s my workout done. For the next month.
5/ Pony ride
Into the arena and saddle up for a lap on one of the ponies. It’s an extra £1 and over and done with pretty quickly, but worth it if that’s what they’re into. From her vantage point on horseback, the Mudlet became distracted by her next target: the bouncy pillow!
6/ Bouncy pillow
And here it is – no trips to casualty necessary, thankyouverymuch. There’s a small one for under 5’s and bigger one – both proving to be very popular.
7/ The animal barn
At the heart of The Big Sheep is the animals; you can’t escape the fact that you’re in a farm environment, with sheep and goats roaming around in the fields – there’s even a model cow with lifelike udders that you can ‘milk’, although I think it needs a vet, since it’s producing water.
Anyway, I digress. The animal barn is just cuteness wherever you look, with lambs, alpaca’s, piggies, plus smaller creatures like rabbits and guinea pigs, which are released for cuddles at certain times in the day. It’s always fun watching kids trying to be brave, holding out their hands full of food for the animals, only to freak out at the last minute!
8/ Duck trials
There are loads of live shows throughout the day during the school hols, but the Mudlet loved this one – a border collie rounding up Indian ducks, encouraging them to navigate their way through the obstacles. Great fun, even when they don’t play ball!
9/ The train
So many puns on one journey. Jump on board at Ewe-ston and take a scenic ride around the park. Had it not been for the rollercoaster, this would have been much higher on the list, but despite it’s more sedate feel, the Mudlet still loved pointing out all the nursery rhyme characters en-route. Great for smaller ones.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: All ages are catered for, but I’d say kids aged 10 and under will get the most from the day here. We didn’t need to venture indoors for the all-weather play (hurrah!), but I reckon you’d still be able to enjoy yourselves if the weather didn’t play ball. Special mention goes to the staff who were ALL super-friendly and paid special attention to the kids (not just ours). It makes such a difference when it’s so friendly and easy-going and the staff look like they actually want to be there.
Not for: Older teens may feel it’s all a little beneath them. It’s also worth checking which rides are running, as some are rotated with the seasons and you don’t want to go promising something, only to find it’s a no-go on the day.
££: Good value for money, in my opinion. You can easily spend a whole day here (certain rides will entertain on a loop!) and, if you book online you’ll get 20% off your admission prices. Bargain!
The Big Sheep, Abbotsham, Bideford, North Devon, EX39 5AP. Tel: 01237 472366. thebigsheep.co.uk