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Dick Whittington Farm Park - Review Results

PURPOSE OF THE REVIEW
To examine all activities, facilities and amenities provided by the Dick Whittington Farm Park (DWFP) 
To consider all comments and criticisms received by the management of DWFP
To compare the DWFP pricing policy with that of other establishments
To make recommendations for improvement
BACKGROUND
The Dick Whittington Farm Park is a small family run business which was started in 2001. It has grown from a modest beginning into a popular venue in the Forest of Dean providing a wide variety of activities for children. It has utilized a large barn to create a soft play area for children, expanded its outdoor activities and sought to educate children about farm animals and other wildlife.
The number of animals kept at DWFP has been reduced following a dispute with the Forest of Dean District Council. Full information regarding this situation has been published on the DWFP website
Recently unfavourable comments have been sent to DWFP and some have been posted on line. The owner decided to address the issues raised by asking an independent inspector to visit the site and carry out a comprehensive review. Constructive comments were invited and all were made available to the inspector 
CAR PARK AND ENTRANCE
Large free car park
The surface is hard core and level
Some shallow holes in some parts of the car park
Entrance to the facilities is a short walk from the car park up a gentle slope
The path is in good order and lit up at dusk
There are two sliding doors at the entrance which are easy to open
Disabled access is provided
At the entrance hand sanitizer is provided and safety notices are on display 
RECEPTION
Clean and tidy
Friendly, helpful receptionist
Full information about the facilities is given to newcomers
Questions are readily dealt with
CCTV cameras are in operation and activity is viewed from a screen in reception
RESTAURANT
Spacious, clean and tidy
A good range of sandwiches and basic cooked food is available
Salad and apples are on offer as well as snacks such as crisps
All items are freshly prepared and hot food is cooked to order
Food and drinks are reasonably priced
Drinks are made to order and good quality sachets are used for speciality coffee i.e. Latte, Cappuccino and filter coffee
Tables, crockery and cutlery were clean
Paper napkins are provided
Milk is contained in an open jug
Plenty of the sauce bottles available but some had a small amount of residue on the top
A few plastic mugs are discoloured by fruit juice stains but not dirty
There is a separate washing up area next to the kitchen
The kitchen is small and is well equipped to deal with the menu items offered
The cook is experienced, efficient and is fully aware of hygiene regulations
All equipment is thoroughly washed at the end of the day and surfaces wiped clean
The training certificates for First Aid, Food Hygiene and Fire Marshalling are on prominent display               
A misunderstanding with a meal order was being dealt with as I approached the serving area. An apology was being given and replacement food was being prepared. No fuss was made
TOILETS AND BABY CHANGING
The toilets are situated in a corridor between the restaurant and the play area.
They can be accessed from the restaurant or through a door from the play area
Being out of general view privacy is ensured
There is a toilet for men and one for women with two cubicles
The toilets are dated but clean
They are properly equipped with a wash basin in each, hot and cold water, soap dispensers, hand dryers and paper towelling
A large lined waste paper bin is situated in both toilets
Door locks are in place and functioning
Toilet seats look shabby
The disabled toilet is easily accessible from the restaurant and contains all the required equipment
The baby changing facility is screened from view by walls and contains a changing platform, wash basin with hot and cold water, soap dispenser, paper towelling and a large lined waste bin.
PLAY BARN
This is a large area containing a wide variety of play equipment suitable for all age groups.
There is a separate seating area with tables and chairs
The under 5 area is clearly signed
Children can be clearly seen in all parts of the barn so parents and guardians can keep a close eye on them
The whole area is tidy and clean although some surface dust is visible in higher, hard to reach parts
The equipment in the play area is showing signs of wear in places but it is maintained to a satisfactory standard, is regularly inspected by the management and meets appropriate regulations
The padding in a few places is nearing the end of its useful life.
Management checks the heating at regular intervals during the day and makes any necessary adjustments. The heating goes ahead of opening times to ensure an acceptable temperature is reached before the visitors arrive
The 3 centrally placed playhouses are popular. Some of the surfaces/door surroundings are marked but some of it is wear from frequent usage
PARTY AREA
Within the play barn is a separate enclosed area called the Castle Room, accessed by a door, which is used for children’s parties
There are three cosy rooms with hand painted drawings on the walls and information, with illustrations, about Dick Whittington and some of the Kings of England
The dining room has long tabling covered in a pretty, wipe down tablecloth and matching chairs
Party food is provided and there is a choice of reasonably priced packages. The person hosting the party brings their own cake.
The food and soft drinks are prepared just before the party starts and is well presented
The food platters are covered with cling film and delivered to the room
ANIMALS
The outdoor animals are in good condition and kept in purpose built enclosures suitable for farm animals where summer grazing is provided
The small horses are kept in stables which give good shelter
They have access to pens with hard standing to protect their feet and their hooves are trimmed
Water and food/hay is available
They too are in good condition, are alert, have bright eyes and thick coats.
The small animals are housed in cages within an enclosed room.
They are lively, well fed and healthy
They have plenty of room to run about and food and water is available to them
The sleeping boxes, where they can burrow, are suitable to the nature and size of the animals
CONCLUSION
I visited DWFP on a Saturday and Sunday when it was busy and well attended. I stayed for several hours on each occasion. Four children’s parties were held during that weekend.
I inspected the car park, entrance, reception area, the restaurant, the toilets and baby changing facility, all areas of the play barn and the outside area where the animals are kept and have listed my observations above.
I read the comments received by the management and found the views expressed to be fairly equally divided between good and bad points. Most negative comments on specific points were balanced by positive remarks. I looked in detail at all points raised.
While I was waiting to introduce myself at Reception I saw the visitors in front of me being given a friendly welcome and explanation of what was on offer.
I talked to the members of staff on duty and a large number of customers during my visits, all were happy to share their views. Some worn areas were pointed out to me but everyone accepted that some wear and tear was to be expected in well used areas, particularly where boisterous, active children are playing. Some thought shabby items should be replaced more regularly but understood the cost involved. DWFP management is aware of this and replacement of worn items and repairs eg the refurbishment of the large trampoline by a specialist company is in hand.
It is not realistic for a small, independent company to replace large, expensive items which are showing some signs of wear if they are fit for purpose and safe to use. I saw no evidence that this is not the case.
An ongoing programme of improvements is being made e.g. new tiling in the kitchen and the provision of a mini golf course and a notice to this effect is displayed at the entrance to the building.
Customers from the local area appreciate having a facility of this kind in the Forest of Dean where children can play safely and be stimulated by a variety of activities. They like being allowed to bring their own food, which can be eaten indoors. Also there is no restriction on time so they can stay as long as they want.
Visitors from outside the area compared DWFP favourably with other establishments they had visited. They remarked on the range of equipment and the provision of a large bank of slides. They thought it was warm, clean and the worn areas showed it was in regular use and obviously popular with youngsters.
It is difficult to make comparisons with other establishments in the area and surrounding counties as they differ widely in size and in the facilities offered. As regards pricing, most places charge for adults, with only a couple of exceptions.
Some venues which provide specific activities such as trampolining charge by the hour
DWFP entrance fees are similar to those of other venues which provide play areas and activities for children and are reasonable taking into account the variety of indoor and outdoor activities available and the size of the soft play area. Most other venues do not provide such a variety of equipment. Prices are adjusted according to the season and there are often discounts and offers to be had.
Information about other sites is available on line and from widely distributed leaflets which are easy to obtain. DWFP has a range of such leaflets on display at the entrance to the play barn
DWFP provides a secure environment where families and friends can enjoy quality time, have fun together and join the children in their  play
There are cheerful, amusing hand painted murals throughout the building which add brightness and colour. During the time I spent there I saw children playing happily, adults chatting together and a group of children enjoying an indoor picnic. There was a lot of laughter to be heard.
A few areas require a small amount of attention but I found no major issues 
RECOMMENDATIONS
 ·                      FILL IN THE HOLES IN THE SURFACE OF THE CAR PARK
·                      REMOVE WEEDS IN THE CENTRE OF THE GO KART COURSE 

·                      REPLACE TOILET SEATS

·                      ADD THE REFURBISHMENT OF THE TOILETS TO THE PROGRAMME OF  IMPROVEMENTS

·                      REMOVE FIBRE AND DUST ON THE STEPS TO THE SLIDES: MORE FREQUENT  INSPECTION OF THAT AREA TO BE CARRIED OUT

·                      REMOVE STUBBORN MARKS IN THE PLAYHOUSES USING A STRONG CLEANSER *

·                      REPLACE SOME OF THE PADDING IN THE UNDER 5 AREA OF THE PLAY BARN *

·                      DISPLAY DRINKS PRICES  ON THE WALL BY THE FOOD MENU

·                      REPLACE STAINED PLASTIC MUGS

·                      PROVIDE A LIDDED JUG FOR MILK
*These areas have been pointed out to management
 
APPENDIX
 
Comments from Visitors on the days visited 
Nothing else like it in the area
They cater for children of all ages
It’s a safe environment
You can stay as long as you like and bring your own food
It’s comfortable, warm and welcoming
I’m happy with the facilities
Great to have a bank of slides
Not bothered about not so many animals. My kids are more interested in the play area
Slightly worn parts are acceptable-it’s a sign of usage and must be popular
Well used and looking a bit tired
Wants updating
Some shabby bits but hygiene standards are ok
Toilets in need of refurbishment
Steps need cleaning but it’s stuff off the mats not dirt
Some dust but it’s a barn not purpose built
Adults should only pay a small fee
I’ve been to a similar place that doesn’t charge for adults
It’s our first time here but the kids are happy so we’ll come again
Amazing place, my kids love it
Comments by children
I like it here, there’s so much to do
I’m hot now; I’ve been running around a lot and going down the slides
It’s fun
We’ve been here loads of times, I like the digger