One of the best things about moving back further out of Dublin City, is the proximity to the many great parks on the south side of Dublin. Marlay Park is one of the most popular. We enjoy taking trips there, but do find it a bit tedious during the summer months when everyone else and their dog also shows up. The playgrounds are too crowded to be worth visiting, and you have to walk quite a distance to get a bit of space for yourself. The queues in the lone coffee shop become ridiculous. Worst of all, after battling for a car parking space when you arrive, you face an indeterminate wait when you go to leave as cars queue to depart from the traffic light-less Grange road entrance. That’s no fun with a tired toddler whining and crying in the back of the car because nap time is late. So typically we choose to go to one of the many other quieter and more accessible parks when the hot weather and events start attracting all the crowds to Marlay.
We made an exception last weekend as the wonderful Co Co market lured us back for some tasty treats. With the aroma of various types of snacks and baked goods lingering in the air, it’s almost impossible to walk past the courtyard without wandering in to sample some of the wares. We have a hard time choosing between all the cakes and pastries on offer. We stocked up with cookies and a brownie this time, then pushed the buggy while balancing hot drinks until we found a spot to lay out the trusty picnic blanket. Unfortunately we’d barely made a dent in our haul before the rain clouds gathered and started pelting big fat raindrops at us. All around, people fled for the cover of the trees. Including the massive crowd that had been queueing over at the Mobile Farm across the way.
I’m in two minds about these kinds of public displays or events involving animals. It’s great for kids to see animals up close and personal, but you never really know if the animals are being looked after properly. Do they perceive what they’re doing as a lot of fun, or an ordeal for them to endure? We don’t go to circuses, and rarely to the zoo. Our animal adventures are more mundane, listening to Tom cats fighting (or mating?!) outside at 3am, considering murdering the neighbour’s dog as it barks all day and night, waving at the cows or horses in the field across from the family holiday home in Wexford. We decided to go over and have a look and see what was involved in this one while it was a bit quieter. However, as the rain eased off, the crowds started to return, so it was a very short visit before going home for nap time.
First up was the goat (that gloats – the constant repetition of toddler story books has me brainwashed). This little fellow was attached by a lead to a pen containing a few pigs. He seemed fairly content munching on green grass. In fact he was determined to get all the best grass, scrunching his head under bars and through rails to access anything that looked good to him. The Rascal was intrigued to meet a real live goat, though unsure what to do about it. We didn’t go near the llama that was stretched out looking somewhat uncomfortable and disinterested. However I’ve no idea what a comfortable llama looks like, so maybe he was just having a lovely snooze!
Next up were some ducks and geese that caught the Rascal’s attention. He’s a big fan of
quacking ducks. He’s seen plenty of free-range ducks at various parks before. There wasn’t much to do here other than stand around pointing at them and saying “Oh duck!” excitedly while circling them. There was some poo stepped in at this point. Minus points for that experience. And then the Rascal spotted what was the star of the show for him. “Trader, Trader!” he shouted, and ran off to investigate the large trailer set to the side. Our excited toddler proceeded to clamber up with assistance and dance to the music he could hear in his head. Never waste an opportunity to strut your stuff on a stage in public… He wasn’t the only little boy attracted to trailers though, and was soon having a competitive dance-off with another toddler.
We took a brief look under the canopy at more birds, rabbits and hamster-like creatures. These were all available for petting. The Rascal wasn’t particularly bothered with them. Especially not with the siren trailer still calling to him. One of the kindly assistants proffered him a couple of birds to hold, but he was wary of this stranger bearing moving gifts. He stroked each with a single finger and mostly looked confused about what was going on.
And that was it for our visit to the mobile farm. I love the idea of bringing the animals to the children, and the animals themselves seemed well cared for. However, it felt like there were too many people crowded about in quite a cramped space for us to be happy wandering about for long. I can’t imagine the animals were too enthusiastic about being handled so much either. I think we’ll be sticking with more peaceful and much less crowded visits to see animals in future. We’re lucky to get out of Dublin city when we want to though, so have the opportunity to see animals in a more normal environment. We’ve yet to actually visit a proper ‘open farm’, that might be more our kind of thing.
I find it’s easier to judge what’s appropriate for animals we’re more familiar with, as we can make an attempt to assess their happiness and comfort. But the ones we rarely see – it’s hard to judge what’s appropriate for them. How do you feel about these kinds of things? Hate them, love them, undecided? Where would you draw the line on educating or entertaining people versus animal welfare?