Farm-turned-amusement park provides 'good, wholesome, old fashioned fun'
If you've ever wanted to ride a cow, or get towed behind a tractor, or ride a bike like ET, you need to visit Fernbrooke Farm Amusement Park.
Sitting near the base of Mt Taranaki, the park is the brainchild of Stratford farmer Dave Hunger, who for the last five years has spent his spare time creating weird and wonderful machines and toys.
Hunger started bringing visitors on to his farm five years ago after making a trebuchet, similar to a catapult, out of a 13 metre long tree.
The trebuchet had a two-tonne concrete block that could hurl a 20kg object about 100m.
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The contraption caught the attention of the public, with people visiting Hunger's farm for a look and he decided to build other things for them to do.
"I guess it's a hobby to build things, build unusual things and once you've built them you've got to have someone come and play on them or else it's pointless building them," he said.
His collection now includes a set of swings made out of barrels, buckets and a canoe, a massive bicycle with a tractor tyre for a front wheel, magic carpet rides on a sheet pulled behind a tractor and a train towed by a quad bike, to name a few.
Behind the milking shed and across a home-made swing bridge is the ET ride and a flying fox, while beside the shed is a maze made from wire and weed sheet.
The ET ride features two bikes attached to both ends of a long pole, which flies out over a small hill.
While people used to padding on their trampolines might baulk at the idea of hurtling down a wire at full speed, Hunger said ensuring the park was safe kept him awake at night and he always filled out numerous risk assessment forms before each open day.
But Onero grandmother Christine Snowdon said the lack of bubble wrap on everything was part of the attraction for her grandchildren.
"There's nothing challenging out there, they need something challenging," she said.
It was a tough job trying to find a child to ask what they thought of the park because by the time they had finished one attraction, there was always something else for them to run off and try, but the smiles and squeals of excitment said it all.
"Mr Hunger", as the children call him, was also all over the place: feeding Baby the cow while a child stood on her back, then driving the tractor for the magic carpet before the children called him back to the quad bike for another ride down the race.
While the park opened at 11am, the number of visitors started to pick up around lunchtime with people from around the region rolling down the driveway to the "public car park" - a paddock with a muddy patch in the middle.
Hunger said by the time he finished at 3pm, he expected around 80 people thorough the gates, but a busy day could see more than twice that number.
Entry was by a small donation which Hunger would then pass on to a charity.
"It's about giving parents something cheap that will get their kids away from screens, because all parents want their kids away from computer and TV screens and they can come out here and do something that's outside and good, wholesome, old fashioned fun. Parents love it and kids love it too."
It was the first time friends Melissa Murray and Mellanie Topping had visited the farm and Topping said it was a good experience for their children.
"My kids all put their hands over their noses because of the cow s**t," she laughed.
"It's cool that it's just a donation."
Getting people out onto a farm and up close with a cow was another benefit of running the park, Hunger said.
In the past, most people living in the city or town would have gone to visit their grandparents or uncle living on a farm but there was now a growing disconnection between rural and urban life, he said.
"This is giving town kids an opportunity to come and connect with a cow and chickens and see a tractor and meet a farmer and that's important for dairy farmers to rebuild that bridge that's been lost."