CHILD’S PLAY Lachlen Murray, nephew of Gruane Pet Farm owner Christina Brady, pictured playing there last summer. The farm, outside Ballyhaunis, reopened yesterday (Monday) with the latest easing of Covid-19 restrictions.
THE promise of an ‘outdoor summer’ took it its first steps yesterday (Monday).
As part of the latest easing of Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions, outdoor attractions such as zoos, golf clubs, tennis courts and pet farms were allowed to reopen for the first time this year.
For Graune Pet Farm outside Ballyhaunis, the relaxation of restrictions comes as a welcome relief after being closed for the guts of seven months.
Situated near the intersection of Mayo, Galway and Roscommon, the farm is currently home to a range of common and exotic critters such as rabbits, puppies, kittens, poultry, llamas, alpacas, emus, goats, sheep, ponies, owls and snakes.
It also boasts outdoor playgrounds, a large indoor play centre, a restaurant and accommodation for visitors of all ages to enjoy.
After being closed for so long, owner and founder Christina Brady is hoping to see a repeat of the busy trade which materialised after last summer’s reopening.
“When we opened for the two months last year, I’d say it was the busiest two months we had in the whole time we were open, but unfortunately it only lasted eight weeks,” she told The Mayo News.
“We’re closed the last seven months. It’ll be a disaster if we open and don’t get a good run at it and have to close again. We’ve been able to sustain it up to now but we’ll be in trouble if we don’t get a good summer.”
Founded by Christina and her husband Michael in 2008, Graune Pet Farm is a largely family-run enterprise.
It is typically around this time of year that the farm enters its busiest period, opening seven days a week to cater for Holy Communions, school tours, birthday parties and holidaymakers.
While normally employing ten full-time and part-time staff during their busiest periods, the Brady family have continued working through Level 5 to keep the animals fed.
Christina says being able to do this essential work themselves has allowed them to keep their heads above water financially.
While they are only allowed to open their outdoor attractions from this week, Christina reckons there is already large amount of interest from potential visitors.
“We’re hoping we’ll get the crowds, and going by the phone calls, messages and emails, we will be busy. I’d say people will just come to the car park at this stage! They just want to get out,” she said.
While they have had no school tours last year, they have already begun receiving a few bookings from schools looking to bring the children for a day out to the pet farm.
If inter county travel is eventually relaxed and people are reluctant to holiday abroad, Christina says that Graune Pet Farm could be in for a successful summer season.
“Last summer the ten weeks that we were open was brilliant. If we get good weather, we will have a better summer than we ever had going by the vibes that we’re getting from people…they won’t be able to travel abroad.
“We also have accommodation that we rent out. One of them can sleep up to ten people and the other can sleep six. They are booked out,” she adds.
“There’s a lot of bookings coming in now and we’d have been booked out throughout the summer. In the years people could travel [abroad], you’d have the odd night it would be empty.”