The Story

Once upon a time…

Mixing classic fairy tales, animals and adventure play, children will love Fairytale Farm.

Fairytale Farm is the UK’s first visitor attraction that is open to all, but where disabled children come first in our design and layout. A truly inclusive experience, where everything is accessible and everybody is welcome.

Nick and Nicola Laister, whose eldest daughter Olivia has cerebral palsy, had always wanted to visit an attraction that catered equally to children with and without disabilities. Like a large proportion of families with a severely disabled child, Nick and Nicola had children who were not disabled too. Although there are a number of centres for disabled children, these tended to be somewhat institutional, always requiring advance booking and they don’t really provide for the children who are not disabled, leaving them largely on the sidelines. On the other hand, most mainstream visitor attractions (theme parks, zoos, farm parks) do their best to accommodate disabled children but are generally not fully accessible, leaving the disabled child on the sidelines. 

Nick and Nicola noted that there was no provision in this middle ground – an attraction that the whole family can enjoy together, whether disabled or not disabled, where no pre-booking was required. Nobody seemed to be filling this huge gap in the market. Noting that there were very few rural facilities for disabled children and their families, and that much of the countryside is effectively out of bounds, they decided to build an inclusive farm-based attraction, which would be the first of its kind in the UK.

Nick and Nicola decided to create a visitor attraction that everybody could visit – whether disabled or not – but where disabled children and their families would not be left on the sidelines. Their vision was to create the sort of attraction that they would have liked to have visited with their own children, which Olivia could have enjoyed alongside her brothers and sister.

Nick’s experience as a planning and development advisor to a large number of visitor attractions around the UK meant that he had an insight into the attractions industry and could use his professional experience, as well as his experiences with his own family, to create something truly unique.

The new concept would be simple: just turn up and have fun – everything is accessible and everybody is welcome!

Finding the Site

Nick and Nicola embarked on a search for a site. It needed to be in a rural location, as it would involve farm animals and other countryside activities. As the use would need, for example, a parking area and possibly adventure play equipment, it was felt that a rural location that was adjacent to other existing businesses and activities would be most appropriate, outside of landscape designations and where it would not be prominent on the wider landscape. It would also need good access from a good quality road, a dwelling for the family to live in and be located on a flat site.

After searching throughout 2007 and 2008, Nick and Nicola were sent the details of Southcombe Farm. This had been used as a farm shop and other businesses (including an engineering business and recording studio) for a number of years and came with a range of outbuildings, including several workshops, farm shop, stables, and a farm house, built in the 1800s.

Planning permission was granted in 2009, work started shortly thereafter, and Fairytale Farm was opened to the public on 25th May 2013. The official opening ceremony was held on 21st June 2013, when the Prime Minister, David Cameron, cut the ribbon. Since then, the attraction has gone from strength to strength, with new additions every year, so there is always something new to see and do.

Above: Prime Minister David Cameron opens Fairytale Farm on 21st June 2013.

Nick and Nicola Laister

The farmhouse

From left to right: Guy, James and Grace Laister, who are Olivia’s siblings (Olivia is standing in front, and was our inspiration for the project).

The view from the Southcombe Farm stables. All the fields in the foreground have now become Fairytale Farm.

Whats on

Don't miss a thing. See the latest seasonal events from Fairytale Farm to delight your little ones. From a visit from the Easter Bunny to our themed weeks and half term events. There is always something going on.

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