En­joy a day out at Pen­sthorpe

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T his,” an­nounced three­year-old Topsy, as she hur­ried to­wards WildRootz ad­ven­ture play at Pen­sthorpe, “is my favourite thing in the whole world.”

When your daugh­ter says some­thing like that, and you know that your mum is equally happy – hav­ing seen so much wildlife, walked around such a stun­ning set­ting and had a lovely lunch - you know you’ve cho­sen the right place to visit.

Pen­sthorpe Nat­u­ral Park is proud to of­fer a “nat­u­rally in­spir­ing” family day out and it’s not dif­fi­cult to see why it won Best Large At­trac­tion Nor­folk in the EDP Tourism Awards 2014 and 2015. Set in the Wen­sum Valley, Pen­sthorpe has more than 700 acres of wildlife, gar­dens, ad­ven­ture and in­door play. There is so much to see and do – what­ever your age.

We loved watch­ing the cranes from the pur­pose-built hides and mar­velled at the beauty and colour of the flamin­gos.

Then there were the red squir­rels – how many other places can you get within a few feet of these en­dear­ing but en­dan­gered crea­tures, and know that a per­cent­age of your ad­mis­sion fee will go to help them in the fu­ture?

We en­joyed walk­ing around the Mil­len­nium Gar­den, de­signed by world renowned plants­man Piet Ou­dolf, and strolling out on to the Monet-style bridge.

What makes Pen­sthorpe so spe­cial is that it isn’t just a delight to visit for grand­par­ents and par­ents – a huge amount of thought has been put into how best to in­spire chil­dren as well. There’s a stamp ac­tiv­ity trail that en­ables young­sters to find out fun wildlife facts (and col­lect a badge from the gift shop once they have col­lected all the stamps), a bug trail with ques­tions and an­swers, and a mir­ror trail too.

And of course there’s WildRootz, a de­light­ful nat­u­ral play area that we all en­joyed and didn’t want to leave.

Mean­while, Hootz House has rope bridges, tree tow­ers and wind­ing slides for older chil­dren and a spe­cial soft play area for the un­der-fives. The lat­ter was closed for main­te­nance on the day we vis­ited, but Topsy has thor­oughly en­joyed it on pre­vi­ous vis­its and it just meant we spent more time on the out­door play area this time.

With such a di­verse range of habi­tats, Pen­sthorpe Nat­u­ral Park is now na­tion­ally recog­nised as a breed­ing site for many species, as well as be­com­ing a haven for nu­mer­ous types of bird, in­sect and mam­mal.

We were also pleased to learn that by vis­it­ing, we were sup­port­ing the work of Pen­sthorpe Con­ser­va­tion Trust – 15 per cent of the en­try fee sup­ports the work of the trust, help­ing it to man­age its pri­or­ity habi­tats and work with con­ser­va­tion species on a lo­cal and na­tional level.

A spe­cial men­tion must be given to the staff too. Ev­ery­one – from those on the ad­mis­sions desk to the Court­yard Cafe to Hootz House - was friendly, ap­proach­able and quite clearly happy to be there. We ar­rived when the re­serve opened and soon lost track of the time. We would still like to re­turn to take the Pen­sthorpe Ex­plorer war­den­led tour, we would have liked to have spent more time walk­ing, Mum would hap­pily have en­joyed an­other meal in the café and Topsy didn’t want to leave the play area.

Pen­sthorpe was un­doubt­edly a

There is so much to see and do – what­ever your age.

hit with us. But the last words, as those first words, should surely be­long to Topsy. So, what was her favourite part of the day?

“All of it,” she said, sim­ply. We agreed – and we’ll def­i­nitely be back.

Head to Pen­sthorpe Nat­u­ral Park for a lovely day with the grand­chil­dren.

Grand­mother Mau­reen Ban­ham loved her ‘Grand Day Out’ at Pen­sthorpe al­most as much as her grand­daugh­ter Topsy did.

Vis­it­ing the red squir­rels.

Photo : Steve Adams

Tak­ing a tour of the park.

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