The Nurture Barn at The Blue Egg in Great Bardfield, Essex, is an indoor and outdoor play centre for babies, toddlers and young children in Great Bardfield, North Essex, and although it is located out in the countryside it has a growing and loyal following of visitors from not only the local area, but also much further afield.
With so many people now willing to drive for an hour or even longer to spend time there, I checked it out for myself – here are five things that I loved about the place.
1 – The Owner
When I first met Mel, I thought that she was ‘a bit barmy,’ and by the end of my visit I had decided that she was totally bonkers. This is exactly the sort of person that you want running a kids play centre and dealing with the parental politics that can sometimes rear its ugly head.
Check out her latest Facebook video if you need any further proof of this.
All of the other staff were exceptionally friendly as well. Another reviewer has accused the place of being ‘chaotic’ in the past, but all I could see was a very busy Easter Holidays event with a visit from ‘The Frost Queen’ (named so for copyright reasons) being organised very well.
2 – The Tour
It is company policy for all new customers to get a whistlestop tour of the premises – literally just two minutes to check out the main play areas, the gardens and the cafe. You instantly feel at home.
Believe it or not, someone actually complained about this recently as they felt it was too ‘in your face.’ To be honest, I felt like I was being introduced to a kids play centre, as opposed to being pressurised into purchasing a Nissan Qashqai.
3 – Hard Play
Soft play is all about chucking yourself around without worrying about breaking bones and dislocating the odd joint, but the Nurture Barn is very much about ‘hard play’ – they have an amazing and engaging range of wooden toys including a large dolls house, a tree house for climbing on, a play kitchen and much more.
In fact, they have become so famous as a showcase for wooden toys that manufacturers are literally queueing up to display their latest products there across both floors.
So much of the toy market is designed to be plastic and disposable these days, and it was refreshing to be able to unleash my three kids on equipment that they could give a bloody good hiding to without worrying about getting billed for the damage.
4 – The Food
I would honestly say that the food is priced ‘slightly higher than average,’ but then again I am a South Essex peasant. Having said this, everything that we ate and saw was of an exceptionally high quality with fresh ingredients, and my one-year-old was more than happy to wear his pasta in tomato sauce which is usually a solid seal of approval.
There is a strong emphasis on providing portions of vegetables with kids meals, which is also a nice touch.
Naturally I spent ten minutes trying to take an artistic photo of my BLT … and failed.
There was also a Princess Lunch being run in conjunction with Enchanted Parties, and I have to say that The Frost Qu … oh FFS ‘Elsa’ was even more like Elsa than the actual Elsa. She also spent time downstairs playing with the children and posing for photos.
5 – The Outdoor Space
Although the inside can fill up quickly (it is a smaller venue after all), there is a great deal of outdoor space with a mud kitchen, sandpits and other fun features. I tried to imagine the weather with another 10-15 degrees celsius on top, and I could see how pleasant it would be to sit on one of the outdoor tables while the kids knacker themselves in the middle of August.
All in all, I would have to agree that it is well worth a long drive, and will definitely be going back there soon.
The Nurture Barn At The Blue Egg, Braintree Road, Braintree, CM7 4PY