Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Madhouse diaries : La Ferme Vernaelde

One of the things I most love about where we live is the huge choice of free days out. You may remember back in the autumn, we visited a multi-era reenactment camp and the World War II area was in an educational farm called La Ferme Vernaelde. I thought it looked like a great place to visit in its own right and decided we'd head back another day. Half term was the perfect opportunity to pop back and explore.

The first thing we saw was a very muddy field full of donkeys.

They were very friendly and came right over to the fence to see us. There are signs everywhere saying that you mustn't feed the animals so they must genuinely like getting attention from people.

They even trailed along behind us as we walked along the side of the fence. We laughed about the shadows from the fence making them look like Teenage Mutant Ninja Donkeys !

Despite supposedly being the animals that like wallowing in mud, the pigs were having none of it and stayed safely out of harm's way in their pen.

The goats were much braver though. Pierre was stunned to see that they had playground equipment in their pen for them to clamber on !

This one apparently had a poorly foot. He was skidding all over the place in the mud so we wonder if he'd twisted his ankle (if goats even have ankles).

He seemed happy enough munching on the grass though so it can't have been that bad.

Moving on, we saw geese ...

chickens ...

guinea pigs ...

and rabbits.

As is often the case in this neck of the woods, we stumbled across a World War II bunker. These are dotted all over the place in Dunkirk - you may remember when we visited them on the beach and even saw one that has been covered in shards of broken mirror like a giant mirror ball !

Apparently this one housed ten German soldiers - it must have been a bit of a tight fit in there.

As this is an educational farm, there are various things such as a vegetable patch, a compost heap and this insect hotel to teach kids about gardening and wildlife.

There are also various things made ot of wood, such as this tractor which Pierre thought was very cool because the steering wheel goes round.

There was also a very large aeroplane made out of tree trunks.

And a totem pole next to a teepee, which Pierre thought was brilliant, because he'd been learning about them at school.

It certainly seems to be popular with the local bird population as there was a huge flock of pigeons on the roof of the main building.

We went inside and discovered that it was the stables.

We wandered along patting the horses and reading their names.

There was also a chart at the end with symbols next to each name to show you their mood - happy, grumpy, under-the-weather - so that you know whether to stroke them or leave them alone. I might have to adopt this approach at The Madhouse now that the teenage strops are kicking in !

At the end were some very cute little Shetland ponies and, walking around the corner, we came across the indoor riding zone with tiny children learning to ride ponies.

It was a great place to visit and I'm sure we'll be back when the weather gets better because there were some walks signposted but the fields were very muddy.

Dragons and Fairy Dust

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall


  1. It's great that you have such a variety of days out near you. Looks like you had lots of fun #countrykids

  2. This really reminds me of our farm in winter, I must say all our animals look much the same, I can almost feel them longing for long summer days and fresh lush grass. Our fields are as muddy and boggy as I've ever seen this year and I've decided it is a myth that pigs like mud! Ours have been indoors, ignored there garden and just come out onto the hard standing for food, I know when the grass is back they will be back in their garden again. It looks like a wonderful place to visit and I love the bug hotel and totem pole too and of course the WW2 bunker. I hope you get to return and see the farm in summer too. Thank you for sharing with me on #CountryKids

    1. Roll on the warmer weather ! I actually thought the pigs would be the only ones to be outside !

  3. Love those donkeys and ponies. Such a lovely farm, so odd to wander across bunkers in the woods though. Thanks for linking to out and about

    1. There are bunkers everywhere - on the beaches, in the middle of fields ... There's even one in the middle of what is now a housing estate that has been grassed over to make a hill !

  4. Oh wow you really are spoilt for free days out! I wish we had more like this near us, especially a re-enactment day out! I'd love to experience something like that. Those donkeys are so cute! It looks like such an interesting place to explorer, and so many bunkers to find! A true peek into the history of the place. Thank you so much for linking to #whatevertheweather x

    1. We'll definitely be back to explore more when it's not quite so muddy !

  5. What a wonderful place to visit, so many lovely animals to see. And that wooden tractor is super. I want one for our garden!

  6. A lovely place to visit and meet the farm animals. I like that you ca get up close to the animals and the idea of knowing the horses moods is brilliant! SO interesting learning more about the history of Dunkirk as well, I didn't realise there were as many bunkers dotted around. Thanks so much for linking up to #Whatevertheweather :) x

  7. Looks like a fabulous day out, I love the photos of the donkeys.

    Kirsty Fox