A Lancashire pumpkin picking farm has come under fire for introducing a booking fee for this year’s event.

Pumpkin Alley Pick Your Own Pumpkins, near Ormskirk, is charging a £6 booking fee this year for the first time and they insist it is to tackle the parking ‘disaster’ which happened at last year’s event.  

However, not everyone thinks this is a good deal with some threatening to go pumpkin picking elsewhere.

One customer said: “Gutted that the prices have inflated so much.

“We are a large family and we normally buy at least one pumpkin each so to charge £5 each and £6 parking will just be too much for a couple of hours out .

“We have made this a family tradition for the last eight years and made some lovely memories even featuring on the local paper with the farmer but will now have to go somewhere else.”

Another said: “Maybe just have the booking system on busy days like the weekend before Halloween and not try to scalp young families.”

“We've been coming for a couple of years," started another.

“While I fully understand the booking system, £6 is a bit excessive.”

A spokesperson for the company said the new booking system was to counter long queues and dangerous parking which took place last year – and made national news.

They said: “We introduced a booking system for the first time this year, which we aren’t really used to ourselves, and neither are the customers.

“We actually got a lot of suggestions for it last year after on one of the busiest pumpkin picking days of the year we had the recipe for a perfect storm.”

Last year, parts of the pumpkin patch’s car park were forced to close after some bad weather which lead to a shortage of parking spaces and causing other people to park dangerously on the road.

A spokesperson added: “Coronavirus restrictions meant pumpkin picking outdoors was one of the few things families could still enjoy, and all the other patches had actually closed and run out of pumpkins.

“A lot of people turned up and had to be told to come back later because there was nowhere to park.”

Some people commented on the company’s Facebook page, recalling seeing the long queues and dangerously parked cars.

One person wrote: “It was crazy when I drove past, I felt so sorry for your guys.

“But you couldn't have done much more to stop them from parking on the road as you had cones out but they just parked at the end of those.”

Another wrote: “It was absolute nightmare yesterday trying to get back from work.

“So many idiots parking on blind bends. Buses, trucks and tractors could just about fit between them all.”

Many commenters also suggested introducing a booking system which the company “decided to run with “ in 2021 to avoid the bedlam of the previous year and give customers “better managed parking with a time slot to turn up”.

The company were forced to temporarily shut down the pumpkin patch and claimed staff members were “verbally abused, spat at and threatened with violence.”

A spokesperson added that their patch , even with the new booking fee, is still “very good value for money compared to other patches and Halloween attractions”.

They added: “We actually did our market research into other places so we know our pricing isn’t unreasonable.

“However we do understand that the introduction of the charges upset a lot of customers and we were upset because we don't want to ruin anyone’s family tradition.

“Therefore we listened to the customer feedback and their views and decided to include the free pumpkin.”

Joe Appleton, owner of the pumpkin farm, issued a statement about the booking fee prices after the move received a huge amount of backlash.

He said: "Having read all the feedback from the Facebook page and understanding more about the deep feelings everyone has over the cost implications for families I can only apologise it was not my intention to make a fun affordable day with us on the farm too expensive for everyone.

“We have always prided ourselves with our safety at the pumpkin patches and the booking system was introduced to help in keeping our 100% safety record.

"Also planned with the extra charge for admission (£5 per family group plus £1 booking charge from a reputable booking agent) is to put on other attractions at our patch to make it a fun day out.

“I have understood and am upset by the frustration and upset caused to you all and will try to address this by including a pumpkin from our patch in the family ticket price.”

The move was applauded by many commenters, with one person writing: “How amazing is this. Actually listening to the customers. Well done.”

Jane Dee added: “You’re not just paying for a pumpkin from Asda!

“You're paying for an experience, your children or grandchildren will love and remember.”

Another wrote: ”As a small business I hope people will understand you’ve had it tough too!

“It’s hard times for everyone but I think £6 is a fab price for a whole family experience.”

Currently included in the entry fee is a free pumpkin, face painting, beat the scarecrow penalty shootout, off your gourd (gourd shy), hay bale play area and use of wheelbarrows.

If you want to visit the farm and pick your own pumpkin in October, you can buy your tickets on the Skiddle website.

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