Cannon Hall – it’s lambing live!


Woolly jumpers!

This weekend saw Winter discard her fleecy pyjamas and sheepskin slippers and sashay into a spring cotton negligee and some fluffy mules – if only for a day or so. We took a trip out in the welcome sunshine to Cannon Hall Farm – a working farm and tourist attraction near Barnsley in South Yorkshire in the UK.  As spring is in the air, a BIG attraction at the farm is just about now, when hundreds of baby lambs are born. All the excitement builds up to the main event in a couple of weeks’ time at ‘Lambing Live!’ where you can even visit through the night and see more of the little woolly critters make their first entrance into our wondrous world.

Hat trick Hetty
The lambs (and their mums of course) are kept in big hay strewn pens, and they gambol playfully about with their new found friends all painted with a number. A28 sheep will bleat for a bit, and suddenly A28 lamb will run back to its mum for a quick sheep check. You can watch them from a handy platform above and play match the numbers. Some sheep were looking particularly smug as they seemed to have produced two or even three lambs at once – talk about a production line.


Counting sheep..



The farm also raises goats, pigs and cows. In addition, a large gaggle of other animals make Cannon Hall their home.  Llamas, Alpacas, donkeys, rare breeds of chicken, birds, ferrets, rabbits and guinea pigs are all happy to say hello. The smelliest animal award went to the ‘intermediate pigs’ pen which was full of porky looking teenage pigs bombing about into each other while having little regard to their personal pig hygiene (as some teens don’t.)


Fumbling with his ferrets




I was especially looking forward to the excitement promised by the ferret racing and the sheep racing which was scheduled to happen several times that day. The ferret racing was a wee bit disappointing however. While an exciting structure of raised ferret racing plastic tubing was in evidence, the ferrets, when released, were not really buying into the competitive concept… Rather than scampering at speed, they were more sidling along the tubes at a pedestrian pace, knowing, I suspect, that they would get some small ferret fancies at the end, whatever the outcome. I feel some sort of motivational talk was required.



Reluctant Racing Rodents



The sheep racing (the Sheep Stakes) were more exciting, with young, athletic looking sharp sheep, a bit more up for a canter. The sheep had a rather smart purpose built course to traverse. Features include the Canal Turn, Beecher’s brook and several (modest) jumps. You could place a free bet at the bookies, with the chance of winning a return visit to Cannon Hall. My sheep was called Rapid Lamb, which probably quite a generous description of its racing prowess.


Heading for the finish line..



Cannon Hall Farm was once the home farm for Cannon Hall, built by the Spencer-Stanhope family. The Hall was open when we were there and there were lots of interesting ceramics and glass pieces on show, as well as an interactive display where you pressed a button to ‘wake Walter up’ and the life size video of an actor playing Walter Stanhope Spencer woke up from his snooze in the chair and began to talk. He then rabbited on for a good while about his life at the farm, his fifteen children, his greenhouse, how much he loved his library etc.  People do love to talk about themselves don’t they?


Cannon Hall – has spring sprung?


Open to visitors since 1989, apparently things used to be a bit more relaxed at the farm and you may well have encountered a pygmy goat bouncing round the café or the car park as they are pretty good escape artists. Today you can’t cuddle the lambs or stroke the ferrets, which is a shame as I do like to give furry animals a bit of a squish if I possibly can.  Everything has gone a bit too health and safety for me, but then you can’t be too careful when huge hordes of under five’s are descending upon you. And huge hordes of them there definitely were, this weekend. There were more buggies than they have at Mothercare. Based upon my observations, there is absolutely no danger whatsoever of the Yorkshire species dying out anytime soon.


Crocus Pocus



Cannon Hall is a very well organised farm experience, well thought out, and capable of managing quite large visitor numbers well. There are also lovely gardens next to the Hall and a substantial farm shop selling a wide range of delicious items to eat if you feel the need to shop. I can highly recommend it as a real fun day out with, or without the addition of small children as accessories…


Sheepstakes sign