Furry Friends was the attractions that saw animals return to the farmyard and allowed guests to come face to face with some of the more adorable residents of Alton Towers. The original residents of Furry Friends and one of the star attractions were the Giant Bunnies, who found a home in the barn adjacent to Old MacDonald's Singing Barn, accompanied by a host of adorable guinea pigs. There was also a nursery section located to one side of the building, with a window through which guests could look at the park's latest arrivals.
On the other side of the farmyard pond lived the Fantastical Ferrets, who's enclosure incorporated a whole network of pipes through which they could scamper, as well as tires and various other playthings. Alongside the ferrets lived two farm favourites: the Miniature Donkeys, Little George and Granville, who will often ventured out of their barn to say hello to guests! On top of this, the farm's Feathered Friends in the form of rather plump chickens were to be found waddling around freely along the path to the Dung Heap, along with Alton Towers' omnipresent ducks, who were very fond of spending time in the farm's ponds.
Demonstrations and talks about the animals were occasionally hosted on busy days, with guests having the opportunity to get up close and personal with their favourite furry friends. The nursery area at times also played host to birds of prey (for Scarefest) and a selection of Santa's reindeer (for Santa's Sleepovers).
The Life &Times
When the farm first opened in 1989, it was very much a miniature working farm with paddocks full of animals and interactive experiences such as the Milking Parlour to watch the farm in action. However, 2001 brought disaster for all of the livestock when a nationwide Foot and Mouth outbreak lead to the park's controversial decision of removing all the animals to prevent the contraction and spread of disease.
With no animals to graze in them, the farm's paddocks fell into disuse making and soon this forgotten corner of Old MacDonald's Farmyard looked rather abandoned and unloved. This situation was allowed to continue for many years until the start of 2007 when the The Dung Heap was constructed over a series of the old paddocks and Riverbank Eye-Spy also received a refresh. This left just two of the paddocks still empty but Old MacDonald clearly also had a plan in mind for these.
2007 saw a mini-renaissance for the farm and the park were keen to build on the renewed interest in the area by the reintroduction of animals but with much less space to use for the new arrivals, the park went for animals of the small and cuddly variety this time rather than full grown farm animals. The first animals to arrive were a pair of Giant Bunnies that took over one of the remaining empty paddocks during the summer of 2007 and they were soon joined by chickens in the other paddock.
The old farm tea shop had played host to an information and petting station for the giant bunnies during their first season in the park but in 2008 it received a full make over to become the central hub for the newly named Furry Friends. as part of the expansion rats and guinea pigs were also welcomed to Furry Friends bring a larger variety of animals guests could come face to face with.
Later in 2008, a pair of miniature donkeys were also added the line-up with Little George and Granville taking over part of the barn on the far side of the lake to the main Furry Friends complex. Later the line-up was completed by the addition of a business of ferrets who moved in next door to the donkeys.
What Happened Next...
In later years the Furry Friends Nursery was added next door to the main attraction to house the new arrivals that started to appear in the farm but whilst various animals came and went over the years, the types of animals on show in Furry Friends remained fairly consistent. Occasionally Santa's Reindeer would also join the Furry Friends during the winter as part of the Winter Season festivities as they prepared for their round-the-world flight.
Despite their popularity, as rumblings about the new CBeebies Land started in 2013, it looked as though the Furry Friends were on borrowed time in the park. And indeed as expected at the end of the 2013 season the animals departed from Old MacDonald's Farmyard for the last time but in a surprise move the animals did not depart the resort altogether.
Over the closed season the Furry Friends found a new home at Alton Towers Hotel, where they moved into a new paddock in the hotel garden and became a feature of the resort's Winter Season and February Half Term events. The reprieve was short-lived however and early in 2014 it was announced that the Furry Friends would depart the resort altogether before the start of the new season.
But the story didn't end there... upon departure from Alton Towers the Furry Friends made their way south to Chessington World of Adventures, where the animals found a new home in the Children's Zoo. So next time you're visiting Alton Towers' sister park why not swing by and say hi to Little George, Granville and the rest of the Furry Friends.