Article and picutres by Jessica Baker, Contributing Writer
Tucked away behind Summit Elementary School in Collinsville, IL, Willoughby Heritage Farm is teeming with activity and nature. With over 30 acres of wildlife preservation, the farm features animals, gardens, trails, and scenic overlooks. Driving through the suburban neighborhood, one has no idea that just a couple of turns and one-way streets will lead to a recreated vintage farm. From the beautiful 1940s-style garden established by the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners Program and maintained by volunteers, to the goats playing gleefully on the “Billy Goat Gruff Bridge,” to the 1930 Craftman-style farmhouse open to visitors, a day can be made at Willoughby Farms.
Adults will enjoy browsing the old barn, viewing early 1900s farm equipment, along with the antique tractors and equipment stored behind the barn. There is a hammock located next to a lookout area that provides a place to lounge and observe. There is a dedicated playground for the children with bridges, swings for various sizes, and even a tricycle!
There are a variety of farm animals scattered across the farm. These include roosters and chickens, guinea hens, donkeys, a miniature pony, a friendly farmcat, goats, bunnies, pigs, and sometimes even sheep! The guinea hens love following newcomers from a distance, all four in a straight line. The chicken and rooster houses are in the middle of the farm, which gives them a prime scouting spot. Food is available in coin-operated dispensers to feed the goats.
Past the kids’ climbing area, there is a path. Willoughby has over three different hiking paths nestled in the trees behind the farm that branch out from this path. There are additional paths located near the parking lot. Handout trail maps are available at the beginning of the path, and each one is marked by a colored arrow. Hikers can find these color-coded signs throughout the trail which range from .3 to 1.7 miles long. Once you descend into the trees, it is truly like being in another place; it is hard to believe you are hiking in the middle of Collinsville. The trails are rarely crowded and provide a perfect place for solitude.
Willoughby Heritage Farm is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. until dusk. Visiting the farm is entirely free, and special programs are also offered at a low-fee. They also feature “Christmas at Willoughby Farms” in December, which is a family-friendly event. Aside from the gravel or natural trails, Willoughby Heritage Farm is disability friendly; it has swings equipped for wheelchairs, and a lookout deck with a long, easy ramp. With beautiful trails, well-kept animals, bountiful gardens, and so much to see and do, Willoughby Farms is truly a gem tucked away in a suburb.