Time is up for much loved toy shop down on the farm

Time is up for much loved toy shop down on the farm
Staff at Toy Time in Hildenborough

Toy Time, housed in a barn at Meopham Bank Farm in Leigh Road, has offered new and pre-loved gifts to children for 37 years.

It was the brainchild of Dennis and Brenda Hill, who own the former dairy farm, but both are entering their 90s now and have decided it’s time to stop.

The large 2,500 square feet store has been run by their farm manager Brian Ingleson and his wife Eve, both 68, along with their daughter Karen Greenwood.

“We’ve seen so many generations, parents who have come here as children, even grandparents,” said Mrs Ingleson, who has lived at the farm for 52 years.

“We’ve had customers who have been loyal to us all that time. They have been coming in with tears in their eyes, it’s been overwhelming, very emotional.”

She added: “They come from miles, there are schools from London who come down to buy things for their pupils.

“If grandparents come to the area then they visit us. Some make a day trip out of it and have a picnic on the farm.

“It’s been unbelievable the amount of comments we’ve received, people are genuinely upset that we’re closing.”

The couple met locally after Mr Ingleson came down to the farm from Leybourne in the Yorkshire Dales.

He would spend more than 100 hours a week looking after the herd of 90 Fresian cows while the Hills started up the business.

“Dennis started it as a hobby, the idea came from boot fairs which were a big thing on Sundays, it was huge,” said Mrs Ingleson.

“The first few years we survived through the fairs, then opened a small shop in what was once the Granary, and it’s grown from there.”

Their success – and loyal following – has been boosted by the fact that Mr Ingleson has also taught more than 200 boys and girls to ride their bicycles.

“He doesn’t charge them, it’s all part of the service. He has them up and running in 10 minutes. And he’s adapted bikes for children with disabilities.”

Mrs Ingleson, who has two daughters and three granddaughters, has always enjoyed the job. “I pick up my grandchildren from school, and I love children.

“It’s a joy to see them in the shop. You do get a lot of screaming but we’ve had some wonderful customers down the years.

Since the herd of Fresians left, the land has been used for arable farming and keeping horses – as well as the alpacas that keep the clientele doubly happy. Mr Ingleson’s brother Paul, who is ten years younger, will now take over the farm.

Meanwhile they can expect to be recognised for their service to the community for many years to come – wherever they go.

When they go shopping, everybody recognises them, says Mrs Greenwood. “We were flying to Portugal last year and all the passengers were coming up and saying ‘what are you doing here?’”

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