Piglets Adventure Farm near York gets ready to re-open for Yorkshire Day

Tickets have gone on sale for Piglets Adventure Farm, which owners Ed and Sarah Sykes have said will re-open on Yorkshire Day – August 1.

Set in the 152-acre Towthorpe Grange near York and having had their doors closed for nearly five months, the couple said they are “overjoyed” to be back.

The farm attraction is home to a menagerie of animals including sheep, cattle, llamas and, of course, the stars of the show, the pigs.

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With Gloucester Old Spot and Saddleback breeds, there are 15 sows as well as a Duroc boar at Piglets and there can be up to 100 pigs on site at any one time.

Edwards and Sarah Sykes the owners of the Piglets Adventure Park near York with their children Joseph 8 months and Samuel aged two on the jumping cushion

Ed’s sells his pigs at Selby livestock market or through private individuals, two of which purchase gilts for their orchards.

Towthorpe Grange itself includes 15 acres of woodland, 30 acres of grassland and 70 acres which is rented to a local agricultural contractor.

The Adventure Farm is aimed at three to nine-year-olds, providing an opportunity for children and their parents, to see and interact with the animals, as well as learning more about them.

The farm has been part of the Sykes’ family since the start of the millennium when Ed’s parents, Geoff and Margaret, moved to York from Church Fenton.

They set up what became a very successful farm shop called Farmer’s Cart and their lettuce crop supplied supermarket chain Morrisons. Ed joined the business as a partner in 2005, after studying agribusiness at Newcastle University.

Piglets started nine years ago and in 2015 the family made the decision to close Farmer’s Cart so Ed could concentrate his efforts on the growing attraction.

“Before we opened Piglets, mum and dad had always encouraged our farm shop customers to enjoy the farm and understand more about where food comes from,” Ed said.

“Focussing on Piglets as our future really started back in 2013,” Ed explained.

“We attended a course designed for small businesses to develop growth plans. This was pivotal in all that has happened since and was the beginning of our transition to where we are today.

“Mum and dad have been very supportive and continue to be.”

Ed said they started looking at farm park attractions for inspiration and visited a number of them, particularly around the London area.

“These were attracting around 300,000 visitors per year,” said Ed.

“Their business model was based around the formula of visitors making a 45-minute to one-hour drive for what would amount to a three-and-a-half hour to four-hour stay.”

With the help of consultant Chris Webster, now chairman of Yorkshire Wildlife Park, and attractions architect, Ray Hole, a ten-year vision for Piglets Adventure Farm was put together and today sees the attraction take up around 40 acres of the farm.

“Chris pointed us in the right direction,” Ed said.

“With a drive time of within an hour we have a potential 2.5 million visitors taking in Leeds, Hull and out to the coast.”

And, Ed said it wasn’t all about the pigs – although they played their part.

“We provide something different in a pleasant, safe location where everyone can eat, drink, play and be entertained.

“It’s all about the experience, as most attractions will tell you.

“If people like it they tell their friends and they keep coming back themselves.”

To keep the experience fresh, the couple organise a number of special events with Halloween and Christmas being stand-out times for the business.

“We grow 10,000 pumpkins across five acres for Halloween,” Ed explained.

And for Christmas they put on ‘sleigh rides’ which he said lifted off the ground thanks to the “wonder of tractor hydraulics” and three grottos in the ‘woodland village’.

Throughout the year they have themed days which include magicians and circus acts, as well as regular appearances from the Sheep Man who shows off different breeds of sheep.

To celebrate the reopening, Piglets will have a seven-acre Maize Maze for visitors to enjoy, along with its popular Fairy Trail.

Like the majority of attractions, the adventure park has been hit by the coronavirus lockdown, which has seen the majority of their core team of ten staff furloughed, however the couple are only looking forward.

“Of course, no-one could have foreseen what would happen this year,” Ed said.

“For us we have lost five months’ trade, but we are looking forward to showing our visitors an even better time this year.”

And they have been spending time putting in new elements for visitors to enjoy.

“We’ve developed our pigs area and now have a ‘Piglets Maternity Ward’ and ‘Piglets Academy’, as well as an area for the sows called ‘Expectant Mums’.

“Children can see the piglets through a glass screen, as though they are looking in on to a real maternity ward.”

There will be restrictions in place to comply with the Covid-19 guidelines so visitors won’t be able to pet the animals or visit the indoor play barn, but Ed said they are working to create a safe environment for everyone.

“We have completed all of the risk assessments and will continually sanitise all touch points,” Ed said.

“Running any experience visitor attraction, you always need to be extremely conscious of health and hygiene and we have always had good hand-washing facilities.”

As they get ready to reopen once again Ed said they will be keeping their fingers crossed for good weather to welcome their visitors.

“We’re hoping the sun shines. We know we have somewhere people love coming to and enjoying because it offers a safe environment for everybody. It will be great to be back.”