Ray’s Farm is located in Billingsley near Bridgnorth. There’s always a lot going on “down on the farm”. As one would expect, you will see a wide variety of farm animals, but there’s also woodland creatures of the day and night and bits of fantasy and magic as well.
The Cartwright family has owned the farm for a quarter of a century and lovingly taken care of the property and animals with never ending devotion and sensitivity to the environment and the conservation ethic.
A friendly greeting is always awaiting the visitor to the farm. To help ensure that everyone enjoys their visits and doesn’t miss out on any of the highlights, there is a detailed map of the grounds which comes with the admission. The Cartwrights are always wandering around the grounds and are eager to answer any questions or tell a tale about any of their animals.
There is a suggested route which can be easily altered to fit most visitors’ needs and abilities.
The farm accommodates visitors with special needs by providing a designated drop off / parking area, disabled toilets, indoor and outdoor eating areas to accommodate wheelchairs and good well laid paths that are easily manoeuvrable by wheelchair or pushchair.
You will find that all the animals have names and display boards telling you a bit about their species, their history, how they came to live in England and their habits.
There is a magnificant collection of aviaries that house over 40 owls. Many of the owls have undergone rehabilitation from various tragedies that have befallen them. During the mid-day they are sometimes sleepy, but by late afternoon, as dinnertime approaches, the owls become more active and vocal. You might see some owls outside the aviaries that have come back to visit after having been rehabilitated and set free in the nearby forests.
Just like Old MacDonald’s Farm there is a wide variety of farmyard animals with paddocks right along the wide paths for easy viewing of pigs, chickens, geese, peacocks, guinea fowl, rabbits, sheep, goats, calves, horses, ponies, llamas and the baby reindeer to name a few.
The barn by the courtyard is for the baby orphans who need a little more care or security, like the duckling who needed a soft toy to cuddle up to or the calves who needed their milk bottles on a regular basis.
Another shelter in the courtyard is for small animals like guinea pigs, chipmunks and chinchillas, animals that today’s children are probably more familiar with than the farm and wild animals.
The Play Barn has cycle tractors to allow budding Farmer Johns a taste of what tractor driving is really like.
The Education Centre is set up for school parties as a learning and activity centre and can be very useful when the weather takes a turn for the worse.
As you walk about the grounds look out for the weather stone which forecasts what type of day you will be having down on the farm.
The courtyard in the middle of the barn complex is enclosed and a safe place for the younger more active visitors. In the courtyard there is a Wendy House, picnic tables, a play wooden log train and plenty of space to twirl about or talk to the farm dogs and cats.
Ray’s Farm is a mix of the conventional farming practice blended with conservation. The farm’s red squirrel population of 5 is an example of their efforts in wildlife regeneration of the species and their habitat. Red squirrels are not indigenous to our neck of the woods. The Cartwrights hope to introduce a breeding program which will increase their numbers and one day allow the red squirrel to be released back into the wilds once again.
As you leave the courtyard it’s easy to follow the arrows. The path will take you past the log cabin style shelters of the owls and birds of prey. Each aviary tells their common name, Latin name and a listing of their individual diets.
Opposite the aviaries are the field paddocks which are designed so as you follow the paths you will circle the paddocks and cover both sides, thus affording you a full view of all the animals. These paddocks although high on a hill are surrounded by arable fields and ancient woodland on the lower half so the animals are well protected.
Grazing on the grasses are goats of all sizes and fleeces, sheep, four types of deer, donkeys, horses, ponies, alpacas, llamas(do you know the difference between them?) and Santa’s baby reindeer.
Find the big wind mill and see if you can tell which direction the wind is blowing on your visit.
One of the fields has an entry gate for the children to be able to go in an mingle with the goats and give them a hug, they love the attention and its quite fun to feel the different textures of their coats.
At Christmas Time Ray’s Farm is a hive of activity as Santa and all his helpers get ready for December 25th. For the whole month of December the children can come and see Santa and tell him if they have been naughty or nice and visit Joseph and Mary in the Stables, talk with the reindeers-Rudolph, Dancer and Prancer and watch the herds of deer in the fields. It’s an old fashioned Christmas with all the old traditions and fun, but BOOKING IS ESSENTIAL WELL IN ADVANCE. December on the farm is an annual even no one wants to miss.
Throughout the grounds you will find wood carvings representing various aspects of nature, mystical creatures and fairytales. There are now about 70 sculptures in all carved by Jim Heath of Chirk, Wales.
The second half of the tour is the woodland walk which can take as long as long as an hour or can be shortened.
Woodland walking is more difficult with a bit of steepness, steps, uneven surfaces and in wet conditions it can even be a bit slippery.
If you decide to go into the woods you are in for a big surprise, it’s a secret place where your imagination can be set free.
Along the paths are “Wise Owl Boards” which give information and identification of various trees, flowers, insects, weeds and then also explains what they are useful for.
The walk affords the more observant the chance to see wildlife in its natural habitat and the more playful can have a paddle in the brook.
The woods are considered ancient woodlands because they are over 400 years old and have been managed by coppicing of natural species.
There are story telling areas, double headed dragons, places to make a wish and if you look hard enough you might be able to find the spot where King Arthur’s sword, Excalibur, was recently found in the underbrush. For those of confidence and strength have a go at becoming King of England and see if you can remove the sword.
After your walk, there’s a family coffee shop for a drink and a snack. The foods are all either made on the premises or sourced from local businesses, so everything is fresh and of the finest Shropshire quality.
The gift shop has an excellent selection of reasonably priced gifts and science and natural activity kits for children. There’s locally produced jams, honeys, candies and gifts for adults as well.
At Ray’s Farm the visitor’s needs are catered to with the same care and consideration as the needs of the animals.
A visit to the farm is like coming home to family.