May 6, 2023
UK, Europe and North America
We're excited to be creating lots of adventure play in farm parks, both as an extension to existing play offers and also for a wide variety of new build farm parks. Increasingly, we're also being asked to masterplan whole sites, in order to create a plan for a phased, structured and managed programme of growth and development. These can then be delivered over future months or years as demand and visitor numbers begin to grow in line with investment.
We’re especially excited to be developing the concept of combined indoor/outdoor play rather than being strictly confined to one or the other.
Adventure play is an important feature that will attract more visitors and radically change their experience at farm parks. Great quality adventure play delivers benefits such as increased dwell time, secondary spend, and repeat visits to name but a few. So let's look at the seven main benefits in more detail.
One surprising thing we noticed very early on working with farm parks, was the time people spent with the animals themselves. We found that for petting zoos and farm parks that still keep animals, it is a very important draw, tending to dominate their marketing. But once visitors have arrived, they spend much less time with the animals and far more playing and exploring, inside and out.
This may be different for some, but it's certainly true for many. Visitors come for the animals and stay to play.
As long as the design of your adventure play is bespoke and not a kit of parts play structure from a catalogue-based supplier, incorporating play into the farm park will greatly help with differentiating your offer from other attractions in the area. This can help attract new visitors and retain existing ones.
At CAP.Co, we create bespoke adventure play, both indoors and outdoors, that draws on the history and stories behind the farm site. We build some of the structures in our workshop, but much is created by our team on-site. We can masterplan the whole site and manage the entire design and build on your behalf, from groundworks to the final detailing of the build, paths, parking areas and F&B units.
When we launched BeWILDerwood back in 2007, we were actively marketing the attraction, well before the construction had finished. We did this with an image of a nearly finished treehouse structure, retouched it and then used this single shot across all of our marketing materials. In the same way, when you have a play area that looks and feels different, this lead image will become the strongest draw in your own marketing materials.
These days, we often work with CGI's to create a clear picture of what it will look like when complete and the build is finished. These can provoke incredibly positive reactions in early marketing, build anticipation, conversation and drive pre-booking and membership.
Creating a bespoke play area gives you those money shots. They feed the marketing machine and give you loads of opportunities to create great images for social media. In short, they make marketing easier and more powerful.
When you create a high-quality adventure play experience that delivers immersive adventurous play for families, it will improve your reputation and increase positive word-of-mouth recommendations. We all rely on feedback from Tripadvisor and other review platforms, so, creating something amazing will have a hugely positive impact.
There is a proviso here however. Any play area you create needs to be well-maintained, safe and designed to be as inclusive as possible. Excluding visitors with limited mobility will have a negative effect on your feedback (and the fun that people have in playing together) and limit the numbers who visit.
Managing reviews online is a critical area for your business. We have developed systems and processes to both encourage positive reviews and deal with the few negatives everyone receives.
Well designed and immersive adventure play will enhance the overall visitor experience by providing a fun and engaging activity for children and parents to enjoy. Even if parents expect to bring the kids and sit down and relax, they invariably join in with the kids and all have far more fun playing together. This almost never happens in traditional soft play environments as, even with the background noise, parents sit outside the play area and watch, or browse on their phones.
Creating the right type of engaging adventure play will increase dwell time and secondary spend.
Adventure play will encourage visitors to stay longer within the farm park, as children are often busy playing on the equipment and having too much fun to want to leave. They may well have made new friends and be engrossed in their imaginative world. This means that exploring other areas of the farm park or participating in additional activities are deferred until later.
Longer dwell times will almost always increase the secondary spend. Visitors who stay longer spend more money on food, drinks, and souvenirs. Their day also feels like better value as they have spent more time with you. This gives you the option to raise prices and improve profitability.
If the play is engaging enough to push the dwell time longer still, into the post-lunch period, families will often treat themselves to ice creams, coffees and the profitable snacks we all love. As an interesting aside, secondary spend is almost always improved if tickets are bought online in advance rather than bought at full price at the gate on the day of the visit.
Adventure play can create a positive experience for children, which can encourage repeat visits and increase membership numbers to your farm park. We often see significant increases in membership numbers, which is a great way to level out your annual income.
Children will want to return to the farm park to play on their favourite equipment or explore new areas. With the right level of adventure play, there may be some areas that the children have not yet conquered. This is when they assess their own level of risk and take on the challenges that are within their comfort zone, on a repeat visit, this zone may have extended and there's a real sense of achievement when they complete a challenge they couldn't overcome previously.
Additionally, parents may be more likely to return to the farm park if their children had a good experience and enjoyed the adventure play. It's a safe bet for a great family day out.
So, that's the theory, let's have a look at a few examples of the farm parks we're working with.
Walby Farm is a working farm that has been owned by the Milbourne family since 1928. Today, the farm is run by Katie and Neil Milbourn and their three daughters. It's located in North Cumbria, just outside Carlisle and covers 450 acres of land. Since 2008, around 30 acres of this is operated as the family attraction, Walby Farm Park.
The design concept for their new play space draws heavily on the amazing history of Hadrians Wall which runs through the farm and directly under the farmyard on which our adventure play has been built. This encourages visitors to experience the history of this landscape in a fun, exciting and interactive way.
Our work was focused on the newly covered old farmyard, interlinking the two existing covered farm buildings and a refurbished silo, also covered with a new roof. The new covered areas gives Walby the advantage of an indoor/outdoor offer, meaning they are a genuine all year round attraction.
Chobham Adventure Farm was created as a brand new adventure playground in Surrey.
Formerly a family owned nursery, we created the new adventure play in a site that was originally full of greenhouses that were slowly falling into disrepair. After these were cleared and the whole site landscaped, the start of a huge new adventure play centre was born. The build of the indoor play centre gave it a focus and plenty of visitor traffic, with a petting farm added later.
In 1983 Wroxham Barns started life as an exhibition of local arts and crafts and its creators. Converted from a working farm in to a series of workshops and retail spaces the site has showcased crafts from batik and bookbinding to furniture making and glassblowing. Popular from the outset Wroxham Barns has been one of the most loved attractions in Norfolk for over 30 years. The introduction of the fun park in 1988 and farm park in 1992 has allowed Wroxham Barns to cater for families of all ages, attracting visitors from far and wide.
In 2020, we started working with the team on a new masterplan to bring their new brand ethos to life. The entire site was replanned and zones created for future growth with the level of detailing covering signage, wayfinding, and even the materials palette to create a consistent look and feel across the site.
Work to date has included adding new entrance archway to better portray the park's desired character, future proofing its development and creating an aesthetic that could be rolled out across both the fun park and wider site. Other features and attractions have been added including a new central hub to reorganise the entrance area and make movement further into the site more logical.
Adding amazing adventure play into a farm park WILL enhance the overall experience for visitors, increase dwell time, secondary spend, encourage repeat visits and increase memberships.
These factors, along with better imagery for marketing will have a positive impact on the farm park's visitor numbers and revenue.
If you're an operator that's already running a farm park and thinking of what to add next, or considering converting part of your farm into an attraction please speak to the team. We'll come and visit, discuss the option available and create a plan to take you forwards.
In the meantime, if you have any questions, then please do call us and we'll be happy to chat.