On Sunday we headed off for a day at Pensthorpe National Park It was a bright day but blimey it was cold so with hats, gloves and scarves at the ready we took on the elements and emerged triumphant!
Pensthorpe is quite simply stunning and manages to bring together some amazing scenery, wonderful wildlife and a sense of adventure and exploration often missing from family days out.We were there on the last day of the Bee an Explorer event for children during half term, where you could discover yet more about nature on the coloured sign-posts dotted around and all three loved spotting the coloured hedgehogs around the reserve. We stopped off to make our very own hedgehogs out of playdough and to top it off, got to meet a real life little hog – fresh from hibernation.
Freddy the hedgehog was a huge hit and I have to mention the fantastic chap who gave us a talk all about Freddy. It’s no mean feat to keep two active nearly four-year-old boys and a five-year-old girl interested but he managed it. He was engaging, great with the children and just came across as someone who loved his job.In fact this was true throughout the day – there was a sense that everyone wanted to be there and cared passionately – it’s not something you always come across so hat’s off Pensthorpe!
As it was rather chilly and wet we didn’t get to do a big walk but having been before I know there are some great walks with the stamp trail being a big hit with my son last summer. Children can build dens, spot the amazing array of wildlife and the wonderful carved wood and metal animals punctuating the walks. This time we were lucky enough to see the red squirrels too – Arthur thought they were amazing as they basically look exactly like Squirrel Nutkin in Peter Rabbit!
You can even see flamingos and they stand out magnificently this time of year against the vast grey skies and muted browns and greens of late winter.
We stopped to refuel at the lovely Courtyard Café – so pretty and I loved the feeling of bringing the outside in with exposed brick walls and huge open windows. The boys loved sitting and watching the birds at the feeders while they tucked into sausage and chips. It had a relaxed vibe with bare wooden tables, plenty of room and a sense that no one was going to rush you.
The children all had sausage and chips and it was great to hear the meat was from a butcher literally five minutes from the reserve. They really champion local produce and it’s a lovely tie-in to the whole ethos of the reserve. Grown-ups had haddock and chunky chips with peas and it was delicious – fresh, well-cooked with crispy chips. There was loads of choice and daily specials and they also have a dedicated hot and cold children’s menu.
The selection of cakes was too tempting to miss so we had a slice of coffee and walnut and a chocolate oat slice, again delicious and generously portioned. Again the feeling the staff really cared about what they were doing shone through and I had a lovely chat with the girl who served us on the til – it’s these moments that make the day sometimes.
The toilets where big, clean and easily accessible even with three children – this is always important on family days out!
After lunch we hit Wildrootz – it’s just the best adventure play area I’ve been to. The children love it so much. With slides, wooden dens, sand galore and the magical, and it has to be said slightly addictive, musical instruments, it’s just a fab place to be. I was worried the cold would spoil it but they ran around so much it didn’t matter. Only when the rain started in earnest did they agree to head back to the car!
The natural theme continues with animals carved in the benches and lovely bright fact boards throughout – I never new bats always fly left out of a cave. Or that rodent’s teeth never stop growing! They are in the middle of building a £1million indoor play are which will be a fantastic addition and I can’t wait to get back to try it out.
On our way back we stopped off inside the viewing gallery to watch the birds being fed and listen to the ranger talk about the many species of birds, some of them are really rare.
That’s the real beauty of Pensthorpe, it has managed so successfully to merge nature with fun and education –they have listened, developed and continue to get better. It really does have a special place in my heart – if you’ve not been I can’t recommend it highly enough.
So are there any downsides to Pensthorpe:
I like to write honest reviews because I know families will take time and spend money going to these places. But it’s tough with somewhere like this.
- It’s limited if the weather’s not great but the new indoor play area will help this.
- It’s not cheap – but you’re helping to pay for the upkeep of this magnificent place
- I like my coffee a little stronger!