Nestled down a residential lane close to Manchester Airport, this is the farm shop with tearooms and huge play areas for kids that has become a firm family favorite for days out. Nixons Farm Shop in Heald Green has expanded in recent years to offer a range of attractions for shoppers and families alike.
There’s a raft of glowing reviews on TripAdvisor hailing the farm shop and facilities “fantastic”, “amazing” and “a great place for children to play and for you to have a coffee”. Families praise the vast play areas with loads of indoor and outdoor seating with two different tearooms to choose from.
The outdoor play area includes loads of play equipment, chalk boards and climbing walls with picnic style seating. There’s also a covered canopy area which includes lots more seating, play equipment and a bouncy castle.
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Meanwhile inside, in the farm’s converted cow shed, is now a huge play barn. It boasts a mini-tractor race track (well, as fast as little legs can peddle anyway) and more bouncy castles.
There’s a dedicated soft play area for the littlest kiddies, and a lego mega-brick play zone. There’s even a football strip running the length of the barn for older children to shoot some goals.
The farm has been owned by the Nixon family since 1930, and they’ve sought to diversify over the years to rise to the ever-changing economic landscape. And during lockdown they took the opportunity to really expand on their outdoor space, which has created the brilliant new play areas open today.
Julie Egglestone runs the farm shop with husband Roger, her brother Paul Nixon and cousin Ian Nixon. She says: “During lockdown we were open all the time, we put the canopy all down the middle of the yard so that people could stand outside and so that we had plenty of outside space.
“Last year the buzz word was outside space just so we did it just so we could keep functioning.”
There’s loads of free parking at the back of the farm, while you pay £6 per child for the indoor play barn for 90 minutes, or £5 for unlimited use of the outdoor play area at the front of the site. At the front of the converted farm building is also a dedicated tearoom where you can order hot and cold treats to eat while watching your children play.
Next to the farm shop there’s also the indoor “Moody Cows” tearooms with lots more seating and where you can order home-cooked treats many of which showcase the farm’s own locally-reared meat including their “famous” big cooked breakfast for £7, while children’s meals start from £3.
When the Nixons first moved here it was a dairy farm, but as the business developed the cattle were all moved to their other farm in Congleton, Cheshire. It has meant they’ve been able to expand the public offering at the farm.
Julie says a huge amount of work was done during lockdown so that they did not have to furlough staff but instead develop and adapt. She says: “We decided to make it that the garden was more self-contained, so we made it once you go in the garden you don’t have to come out. It’s all been done during lockdown.
“We didn’t furlough staff we kept everyone as busy as possible so that when we reopened fully we were just ready to go because that’s what you do in the farming community. We have 20 full time staff, and 25 part time.
“Originally when it first started when my grandparents were first here it was a dairy farm. There were also lots of pigs and they used to deliver milk to all the houses in the area.
“When a large chunk of the land was sold to the Seashell Trust school, we stopped doing milk and we moved the cattle to our other farm in Congleton. That was five years ago and that’s when we made the cow shed into the playbarn.”
The farm shop and cafes have been such a success that they subsidize the farming set up in Congleton. Meat is traditionally slaughtered, with beef and lamb on sale from their own stock, while eggs are from Disley, milk from Bidlea Dairy at Jodrell Bank and fresh produce is offered from farms across the region.
Julie said: “This set up subsidises the farming at Congleton, where it’s an exceptional farming set up. That’s why we started doing the tearooms really. Pre-Covid between 2018-2019 the shop sales were slowing because people found going to the supermarket easier .
“We increased our cooking skills in the cafe, and we do promote the cooked breakfast because it’s our bacon, our sausages and local eggs, we started doing it to promote products in the shop. If you enjoy your breakfast you can go and buy your own sausages, bacon and eggs from the shop.
“Over the years we’ve done all sorts of things to try and keep improving, keep with the game. 25 years ago there wasn’t a supermarket within 10 miles of here, and now we have every supermarket going within a five mile radius We have to keep reinventing ourselves, it gets a bit wearing at times, but that’s what you have to do in farming.”
There’s also a “pets corner” at the farm where families can visit rabbits, donkeys, hawks and budgies. And an unexpected bonus of being so close to the airport (it’s around a mile away) is the extra treat it gives to kids.
Julie laughs: “We’ve been here so long that we don’t notice it at all, but we hear little children saying “plane, plane” as they look. Some of them come down so low it’s almost as if they’re going to land in the fields.”
The farm shop has proven popular for families from all across the local areas including Wythenshawe, Cheadle, Stockport and Gatley. Julie says: “We are very, very lucky that we do have such a good loyal customer base.
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“We have lots of yummy mummies with their children but also lots of older people who know we remember where they like to sit, what they like to eat. It’s a very inclusive atmosphere when people eat.”
How to get there and tickets
Nixon’s Farm Shop is on Bolshaw Lane, Heald Green, SK8 3PS. It is just off the A555 Manchester Airport Relief Road.
Entry to the farm shop and Tearooms is free, but you need to book tickets for the indoor playbarn in advance online with sessions from £6 for 90 minutes, where you can purchase discounted wristbands for the outdoor play area.
Wristbands for the outdoor play area can be purchased from the farm shop on the day for £5 for 90 minutes or £3 after 3pm.
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