During half term, our Mamaventurer group took the children to the Rural Life Centre in Tilford, Surrey. We had an amazing day out, and the 1 – 4 year old children with us were engaged the whole time.

I was really surprised, actually, that we were the only people there the whole morning, and it was only as we were leaving mid afternoon that we started really seeing other people turning up! I know that if we’d driven two miles down the road to the indoor soft play centre, it would have been heaving on such an overcast and rainy day, but this day out cost us less, and was so much more pleasant!

Let me tell you about it.

The Rural Life Centre is a country life museum run by a charitable trust. It is pleasantly distributed over ten acres of field, woodland and barns, and comprises a large number of implements and devices marking over 150 years of farming. Many aspects of village and rural life are also displayed in realistic individual settings.

Plunging Laundry, Milling ‘grain’, Family Friendly Activity Sign, Learning About Forging, Tiling A Roof, Colouring A Flag in Fancy Dress

There are more than 10 buildings to explore, with replicas, paraphernalia and activities in each one.

At the reception each child was given an activity sheet to encourage them to look for things – implements, ornaments and so on – in each of the buildings.

Our first stop was a post war prefabricated house, set up as they would have been following the war. Then we moved on to a working forge, hired from the museum, where the blacksmith stopped what he was doing, went down on his haunches and really engaged with the children showing them some of the flowers, snails and other decorative metal work that had been made there. They didn’t have the fires on on the day we were there, but the kids still got so much from this man, it was wonderful!

There’s a log cabin, a shepherd hut, a chapel, a leather workshop, school room, bomb shelter and so much more for the  children to explore, decorated completely true to the era they were used. It was fabulous.

There’s also a barn set out as shop fronts with a post office, and a lot of trades – bakers, dairy, dress maker – an absolute gold mine of olden day stuff!

Chapel, School Room, Indoor ‘town’, Hut, View of the Centre’, Children Pumping Water

While the Rural Life Centre is outdoors, the buildings themselves all offer ample hiding place from rain. During one particular downpour we amused ourselves in the laundry room, where the kids were very excited to see how laundry was done in years gone by, and all got in on pretend washing with a plunger and a washing board. Who ever knew old fashioned laundry washing could be so much fun.

We also found, conveniently located by the laundry room, a water pump, which provided a fantastic teaching opportunity, not only about where water comes from, but also how some countries – and children in those countries – still pump their water that way. It started raining as the little ones were pumping water, but they didn’t even notice. I think that pump kept them going for a good 20 minutes.

Dotted around the centre are family activities – things you can do, fiddle with, touch, and experiment with. The water pump was one of them. Another was an A-frame ‘roof-tiling’ activity. Even the one year olds were putting the tiles up on the A-frame. This too was turned into a learning opportunity as we poured water over two tiles side by side to show how the water runs through, then did the same on the tiles that were overlapping, and showed how no water leaked through. Simple, and fun.

Other activities included colouring, puzzles, old fashioned toys and dressing up. We took advantage of them all, and even the play park with a really old slide, merry-go-round, and milk truck.  It was brilliant.

The Rural Life Centre offer demonstration sessions for pre-booked groups, where you can choose from a host of activities. We’ve agreed we’d like to visit again next year and perhaps do the laundry session as that’s the most obvious ‘difference’ between then and now for a group of under 5’s.

Coffee Report: There’s a cafe on site that’s open to public without going to the museum. There’s indoor and outdoor seating, cakes and meals, and I’m pleased to report: very good coffee!

Leaves, Bomb Shelter, Engaging Titbits, Playpark, Children And More Leaves


Address: The Reeds Rd, Tilford, Farnham, Surrey GU10 2DL
Phone:01252 795571
Cost: £8.50 adults, 5 – 16 £6, under 5’s go free.
Hours: Please check with attraction before visiting!

Monday: Closed
Tuesday: Closed
Wednesday: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Thursday: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Friday: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Saturday: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sunday: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
View on the Mamaventurers Map


Categories: Surrey UK