Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Cotswold Wildlife Park

It has become tradition in our family to make a trip to the zoo every Father's Day. Since Ted was little we have been going to Whipsnade Safari Park in Dunstable but this year we decided to head to Cotswold Wildlife Park. I haven't been in years, since before we had the children so it was nice to go and experience it with them. Joe stayed at home as he is still recovering from sinus surgery but my parents, brother and sister came along. 

The weather the past week has been awful so we were a bit apprehensive about going. We were right to worry it did rain on and off all day but we made the most of it and in between downpours the sun came out. The kids also loved taking advantage of all the muddy puddles, Callie especially! 

Cotswold is just over an hour from Northampton but the drive is quite easy, parking is plentiful and if you book online you can get a better rate on tickets than on the day. I paid £23 for myself and Ted, Callie was free which is always a bonus. 

When we arrived the first stop was the walled garden, this area has penguins, meerkats, prairie dogs and a whole host of beautiful birds. The walk through Madagascar is only open 11.30 - 3.30 so we were too early to get in there. We did go into the Tropical House and spotted some Sloths but they were quite high up hiding from us! 

We played with the marmosets who are always so full of character. I set my phone up so that they could see themselves and it was hilarious to see their little faces so puzzled by themselves in their reflection. We also saw a beautiful white Tamandua or Lesser Anteater who was being fed as we arrived. It was adorable, the keeper was trying to train him to eat his dinner off of the perch but he wasn't having any of it. 

Next we went on a ride on the train, it was only £1 per person with Callie being free again. It took us on a loop around the park and we saw some Zebras that were actually not there when we walked past later. Callie loves a train ride and waved at all of the people as we went past. 

Off of the train and the kids were begging for lunch, I showed them the map and we decided we would do the Reptile House first and then head to the cafe to get some chips to go with our packed lunch. They agreed this was a good compromise, 5 points for Mummy, so off we went. Within the park there is a huge manor house, the outer buildings make up the Reptile House, Invertebrate House and Fruit Bat exhibits. These are always my favourite parts of a zoo, I find all the small creatures fascinating. 

We also saw an anaconda which always creeps me out, they are just so enormous and remind me of Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book from the 90's. Something so unnerving about a snake that large. 

Coming out of the Reptile House we turned the corner to the restaurant, it was really busy directly outside but if you head to the other side of the building there is a kiosk that sells hot drinks, ice lollies and most importantly the chips! We had a packed lunch but with the weather being a bit chilly we thought something warm would be nice. It was £2.50 for a portion of chips which I thought was quite reasonable and the portion was huge, I got two between me and the kid and we had far too many. 

We enjoyed our chips under a big old tree, I had a hot tea in a flask which was greatly appreciated and we finished it all off with a nice cake. Amazingly it hadn't rained at all up until this point, we were really lucky! 

Next it was time to let the kids run off some energy on the park which is amazing. I remember thinking it looked good when I went last but I was too old to appreciate it, now I could share it with the children and they loved it. Ted went off with my Dad, the two of them get up to mischief when they are together so we left them to explore. Callie found a great toddler area with a miniature zip wire. It said for children aged 5+ but actually it was like a glorified baby swing so I felt fine letting her have a go. She had so much fun and was able to wander around the rest of the area safely too. There was a castle with slides at either end and a rope bridge that was enclosed for the little ones. 

Over the other side of the park was a huge wooden play area with multiple slides and climbing frames. Ted ran around like a wild child and braved the drop slide which I never thought he would be up for. It was so good seeing them let off some steam but the fun was cut short when the rain came tumbling down. We took shelter in the Invertebrate House.

We loved the leaf cutter ants, vipers and scorpions the most. The female tailless whip scorpion had her babies on her back, something we have never seen before and I must admit made all the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. 

Venturing back out into the rain we wandered over to the farm area where Callie sploshed in lots of puddles and ended up with soggy socks! The farm is great, there were huge hairy pigs, horses, goats, guinea pigs, rabbits, mice and rats. I particularly liked the little mice, I could sit and watch them all day munching on carrots and scurrying about.

Can you spot the cheeky rat climbing on the window ledge? The whole rat enclosure was set out like a farmhouse that had been taken over. The details at Cotswold are perfect. 

The kids had a run around with some goats, climbing over hills and rocks like mountain goats before more puddle jumping (there is a bit of a theme here). Next we headed over to the Giraffe enclosure where we were lucky enough to see someone feeding them. I was so close I could have touched the giraffes but the keeper was next to me so wasn't sure I was allowed. They are such gorgeous creatures and definitely a family favourite. These two were called Wallace and Century. 

Did you know a group of Giraffes is called a tower? 

We took a walk back past the lions, they may be "king of the jungle" but we missed the male roaring while we were at the giraffes and by the time we got there not much was happening. They can be really boring when they are just laying around! 

Ice creams were on Grandad next and I attempted to wash Callie's socks in the sink before we went into the Little Africa area. I found my favourite animals in here, the Naked Mole Rats! I know they aren't everyone's cup of tea but I love them, they are so wrinkly and the pointy teeth make me smile. 

We saw lots of birds, lemurs and tortoises around the park too, there were so many animals to see but in quite close proximity because they are mostly small creatures not requiring huge open spaces. It meant the children never had too far to walk between displays but we did take Callie's pram for her to retreat to when she needed a break. 

I think it is an ideal place to take smaller children for their first introduction to animals. Educating children about animals of the world is really important to me and although many people don't agree with them being in captivity there are so many species that wouldn't survive without zoo breeding programmes. So many adults don't know much about animals which always amazes me, especially the man we overheard call a Wallaby a "Kangaroo Rat"!!!

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