Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Pensthorpe Natural Park & Wildlife Reserve

Our part of Norfolk has some spectacular wildlife and we are fortunate enough to have several reserves close to the cottages where we are able to appreciate this nature in it's own habitat.

Pensthorpe is a fantastic example of this and is approx 20 mins drive away from the holiday cottages.

It was made famous by BBC Springwatch which used Pensthorpe as it's base for 3 years between 2008-2010 and is a beautiful calming place.

It is made up of a series of walkways taking you through some outstanding woodland, beautiful gardens and nature trails and is home to some spectacular wildlife.

I took the husband and kids along for our first visit this half term week and was hugely impressed, it has something to offer all ages and we all had a smashing time :)

Having parked the car up in the large car park, complete with excellent disabled parking facilities we went and paid up to enter the reserve.

For those with either a physical or mental disability, a carer is allowed free entry.  First impressions were amazing - we walked through the indoor viewing area where you could happily while away the time sat watching the wildlife from under cover, perfect if the weather wasn't as good as it was for us!

We walked out into the reserve (the wrong way we discovered later on!) and were immediately greeted by some friendly web footed friends! You are allowed to feed the birds but the Reserve ask that you feed them special food bought from there to ensure that the wildlife is getting a healthy diet.  Due to this, the ducks and geese are very friendly and mill about among you as you wander around. In fact, there is a scheduled Feed Time where all the birds are fed which is at 4pm, would be well worth seeing! There were some very cute ducklings and gosling's pottering around under the watchful eye of their mothers and there were so many different species I had never seen before.  I used to think a duck was a duck!  How wrong could I be!!

We carried on, strolling along the path.  which was very wheelchair accessible.  There are designated paths for wheelchair users which cover a large proportion of the reserve and are clearly marked on the map.

As you wander round, it is clearly signposted if that area is accessible or not.  There are many different routes around that you can take, taking in different aspects of the Reserve.  There is a bird hide you can hide out in to get closer to the wildlife or you can simply wander along the pathways. We chose to walk through the woodland walkway which was charming.

It was full of wild flowers and the odd bench dotted about so you could sit and take it all in.  There are red squirrels here but none were forthcoming on our visit!

Dogs are not allowed on the whole due to the abundance of wildlife roaming freely around the Reserve but they do make an exception for Guide/Assistance Dogs on a lead to ensure that the Park can be enjoyed by all.

We then deviated off the pathways and wandered through the Wild flower Meadow which was stunning.  I had arrived at the Reserve a slightly stressed out mother of 2 young children on Half Term and I could feel the weight lift off my shoulders while I was walking around, it really is the most tranquil environment to be in, the children were chilled out and having fun exploring and I could have stayed there forever!

An overprotective father chasing us off!
Well that is until our tummy's started talking to us!  It was lunch time!  There was a fantastic picnic area which you can use but we decided to check out the Courtyard Cafe where we sat out in the courtyard and enjoyed a yummy lunch - the food was delicious, if a little pricey!  The menu was varied and it was clearly pointed out what was gluten free & dairy free.

Close to the Cafe are the toilets, including 3 disabled loo's.  There is an optional raised toilet seat and all have moveable hand rails and an alarm system.

After lunch we were dragged by the kiddies to the recently created Wildrootz, a fantastic play area with an abundance of things for kids of all sizes to play and do!  From a meandering stream which toddlers were happily splashing about in, a sandy play area to a high tower with big slide, zip wires and swings.  There were also some fun musical equipment there for the kids (and maybe the Mummy's too!) to experiment with!!

By this time, my lot were done in and ready for home but there is so much more that we could have seen and done!  There is a Wensum Discovery Tour where for an added fee, you can sit in a purpose built trailer and be guided around the Reserve, taking in all it has to offer, learning about the history of Pensthorpe and their Conservation Projects.

There are also so many more nooks and crannys that we didn't manage to find - I know we will be back to explore further.

Pensthorpe also do various themed events - they have a Mediaeval Spectacular coming up 23rd - 25th August, check out their website for more details.

To sum up, I was incredibly impressed with Pensthorpe and would highly recommend a visit, whether with children or without, there is something for everybody.