Thursday, June 01, 2017

Walk On The Wild Side

I am pretty rubbish at having proper days out with little M. At least, when I compare myself to some of my friends, who seem to be managing one fabulous outing after another with their kids. Anyway, sometimes I do get my act together and plan something a bit more elaborate than a visit at the local park - so this weekend I took little M to the Peak Wildlife Park.

After recently visiting Chester Zoo and Knowsley Safari Park, which we both loved, this one looked much smaller. I chose a scenic route through bits of the Peak District and there was already lots to see on the way.  (Queue random shouts of "sheep!", "tractor!", "cows!", "rocks!" and so on.) The park is easy to find if you put their postcode into your satnav (ST13 7QR) and there is plenty of parking available.

The entrance area also houses the gift shop; tickets are £10.95 for adults and £8.95 for kids - under 2s are free. Nearby you will find toilets (with baby change), a family room, indoor softplay area and a cafe.

The park is laid out in 3 sections: the main area where you will find most of the animals, a central zone with the above mentioned facilities, food etc and a play and picnic area. Have a look at the map here.

We made our way into the main animal area and I immediately thought how nice and un-zoo-like it felt. Very little concrete and a meandering network of paths that lead around and through enclosures. All done in a way that minimises barriers allows you to see lots, e.g. you can easily see the penguins diving as well as hopping about in various areas. Lots of windows give insight into the otter and meerkat areas and so on.

You can wander through some of the enclosures, such as the wallabies', goats' (African Village) and Lemurs'. 

If you can convince your kid(s) to be slow and patient, some of these animals get really close and friendly and you can even pet the goats and wallabies when they don't have any young (there will be signs up when you're not allowed to). 

You can also walk right past the Humboldt penguin enclosure - which is just cordoned off by a rope. (I saw some Magellanic penguins in Argentina years ago and this enclosure really reminded me of that experience.)

The nature trail didn't feel like a zoo at all, just a meandering path through countryside with deer and wild birds. There are even a couple bird watching huts - though little M didn't have the patience to sit in there and wait.

All of the above meant that we spent way more time with the animals than I had planned. Little M just loved watching the animals, getting close, seeing them eat, stroking the goats etc.

We grabbed some lunch at the cafe. Their pizza is really nice (proper thin crust!) and makes a great change from the usual food on offer in zoos etc but I found it quite pricey. (Salami pizza was around £10.) Lovely picnic areas though, so I'll probably bring a packed lunch for our next visit.

After another wander through some of the areas we wanted to re-visit, we went over to the other side of the park, where you find the main play area. Before letting little M loose on the bouncy castle, we popped into the rabbit enclosure. Huge and soft and happy to be fed, little M loved them.

So after that, off we went to the play area: a big bouncy castle, nice set of slides and climbing frame and a sand pit - which he loved. A little kiosk nearby provides cold drinks and ice cream.

We probably spent about an hour there and I pretty much had to drag him away in the end. The obligatory visit at the gift shop (yes, you have to pass through this when you come and leave) and we were on our way home.

Will we go back? Yes, definitely!

Top Tips/things to remember:
  • Try and catch the the feeds and talks: really informative and good fun to watch the animals getting excited. We missed it but there was a little table near the warthog enclosure where kids could make enrichment packs for the meerkats and then throw them in at feeding time. A really nice touch and great way of having them get involved.
  • If you think you'll go back there regularly, it's worth considering getting a season ticket, which costs £29.99 (adults)/£25.99 (children). If you buy it on the day of your visit, they credit your entrance fee.
  • Bring a packed lunch: lots of nice picnic areas and the food on offer is quite expensive.
  • According to local signs, Alton Towers is just 6 miles away, so if you are on holiday in the area and spend a day at Alton Towers, this would be the perfect antidote - but no less enjoyable!
Have you been or are you thinking about going? Let me know!

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