At the weekend we jumped in the car and trundled off to Pensthorpe. A beautiful nature reserve set in the tranquil Wensum Valley, just outside Fakenham. I wasn’t sure what to expect, would it simply be walks around wetland and spotting some pretty birds and butterflies?
I was hugely impressed, I mean really impressed with the place. Not only is it beautiful but it’s interesting, fun and interactive all at the same time – without relying on huge rides and lurid lighting. It’s nature at it’s best, with a few ma nmade additions which sit respectfully alongside and only add to a magical experience. We walked through the gift shop, got our badges and maps from the friendly, helpful staff and off we went on an adventure.
Pensthorpe is a wonderful natural playground and we explored most of it. We did the bug walk and Arthur spotted centipedes and butterflies. We wandered up to the bird hide and later Arthur saw his first red squirrels - a testament to the conservation work happening all around the reserve. The wildflower meadow is just beautiful and all around there are places to sit, picnic and take in the views. It’s extremely well thought out and catered for everyone with really good wheelchair access and clear sign-posting throughout.
Our walk was punctuated with I-spy moments were tiny natural treaures had been placed under a magnifying glass for children to wonder at. I say children, but we were looking too. When else do you get the chance to slow down and really see what’s around you. I absolutely loved watching his face when he saw a dragonfly or watched a swan in the water – he was amazed and what more can you ask from a day out!
It’s utterly stunning and the sunshine helped oil the wheels of our walk – with stops for lunch and a few other things we managed to while away five hours and that’s with a toddler walking most of the time too. Arthur loved it because we could let him run around and enjoy being free.
He built dens with daddy, went pond dipping with the nets provided searching for tadpoles and Boatman. We found a lot of slimey grass and not many insects but he was very happy! He was fascinated by the cranes which stood back from the main path and just kept shouting,’mummy, let’s see big birds!’.
Geese wander freely and you can buy special feed for the numerous wildlife swimming in the water and enjoyig the sun. It was clear it appeals to all ages and we saw lots of older people, wheelchairs and large families all enjoying the day.
Pensthorpe also run their own Wensum Discovery tours which you can book when you arrive and is a chance to see some of the areas you might have missed during a walk.
The amazing new Wild Rootz adventure Playground was a huge hit with Arthur and is really worth a visit – although take a towel and some spare clothes because the little stream is a hugely inviting for small people! Arthur and his dad spent ages on the fantastic twisting slides and we all loved crawling through the rabbit and mole tunnels.
The sandy area is great and Arthur loved sitting on the digger and making piles of sand. I really enjoyed the musical area with a vertical xylophone, jingly jangly triangles to play and a fantastically addictive seesaw board which plays notes when you stand on it. We could ahve spent a lot more time there but I wanted to make sure we saw as much as possible.
Wild Rootz was great for Arthur at two and a half and works for all ages with ropes to climb, zip wires, and the wonderful sandy stream which surrounds the area. It’s beautifully done and even the benches and tables are carved wood with owls and other creatures carved into them – attention to detail is second to none and really adds to the experience.
No day is complete without trying the cafe and we were not disappointed. It’s all locally sourced and fresh with specials ranging from local sausage baguettes to creamy mushrooms on toast and delicious looking cakes and scones, We wanted to sit outside but sadly the wasps had had the nod it was busy so we made an escape indoors where it’s spacious and bright. Well worth a visit.
I would go back in a heart beat. There are few places you can go where you have a genuinely fantastic day but also know you’re helping to keep the natural world alive and healthy. Pensthorpe surprised me and I can’t recommend it highly enough.