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Camperdown Park (Dundee)

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Address: Camperdown Country Park / Coupar Angus Road / Dundee / Scotland / DD2 4TF / Tel: 01382 431818

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      03.04.2012 16:00
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      good park with a zoo

      Camperdown Country Park is the largest park in Dundee and within its boundaries has managed parkland as well as wilder woods. The park forms a venue for many city events, from the Dundee Flower and Food Festival to dog shows and Race for Life. Facilities include large adventure playpark for children of various ages, boating lake, water sports facilities at Clatto Reservoir, golf course, picnic areas and a network of paths and walks. The Leisure Park area has a cinema and an ice rink as well as a few eating places, while the Camperdown Wildlife Centre is Dundee's zoo. In the centre of the Park stands Camperdown House, a neo-classical mansion.

      Although called a ''country park'', Camperdown is really a suburban city park, easily accessible from the city and sitting just beyond its main dual-carriageway bypass (Kingsway).

      It's a good park with plenty of open grass spaces, quite a few magnificent, old trees and areas to run about, walk and exercise dogs. The mansion, called Camperdown House (after which the whole park was named) is a severe Neo-Classical building which houses some displays relating to Dundee's maritime and military history, as well as function rooms.

      In addition to an extensive landscaped grounds in the Camperdown Park proper, there is also a small zoo (with bears, and otters and a few other mammalian and bird species) as well as a large adventure playpark divided into several areas suited to different ages, each surrounded by a fence to keep the dogs off and lined with soft, clean sand. There are climbing frames, ropes, slides, castles to play in, ships and bouncy spring-based horses and motorbikes. In the same part of the Camperdown park there is a pavilion with toilets and a basic cafe that serves burgers, sandwiches and hot and cold drinks. Nearby, a large but shallow boating pond offers pedalos and electric bikes for kids to ride round a small track (there is a charge for these and they don't operate in the winter).

      It can get very busy in the children's areas in the summer, school holidays or on sunny weekends, but the parkland area is large enough to afford enough breathing space to everybody, and even more so in the Templeton Woods area across the Coupar Angus road.

      **

      Camperdown Wildlife Centre is a small zoo located in Dundee's Camperdown Country Park, a large park just outside the Dundee core urban area.

      It has just acquired a new Visitors' Centre building - quite a good looking one, with an education room and a proper café as well as bit more spacious facilities for staff I suppose.

      The zoo itself has a small collection of mostly mammal and bird species, largely from temperate climates, and a visit makes for a reasonable hour or so (unless you Hate Zoos on Principle), especially if you have children with you.

      The animals mostly live in fairly large enclosures and appear reasonably content, though I always doubt the humanitarian aspect of keeping large birds of prey in such captivity: at least in all kinds of raptor centres they have the opportunity to fly, albeit in a controlled manner, during the displays. Here the magnificent owls (they have a good selection of those) sit in cages - large, but still cages - and so do eagles and (less cringe-inducingly) storks. Still, an opportunity to see all those owls in the Camperdown zoo is certainly interesting.

      Mammal species include the usual goats, deer, wallabies and lemurs (ALL zoos and animal parks everywhere appear to have goats, wallabies and ring-tailed lemurs) as well as a few (usually invisible) native species like wildcats and pine martens and several more interesting ones.

      The latter include wolves, porcupines (invariably asleep under the infra-red lamps), bats (viewed from a dark viewing shed) and most of all, otters and bears. The last two species are definitely the highlight of the Centre for me.

      Otters have a large enclosure with ponds and several sets and can be seen running about, playing and swimming quite frequently. There are also cameras in the hide that theoretically allow you to view them when at home, but we never had any luck (though we usually manage to spot them frolicking about). These are graceful animals that are fun to watch and worth spending some time with.

      The zoo also boasts two European Brown Bears, magnificent specimens of that species. There is a tradition of keeping bears in the Dundee zoo, I remember seeing one in a small cage about 15 years ago, but the current enclosure is very spacious and with several dens (aka hiding places). We didn't see the bears on our last visit, but we did see them before and when they deign to come out and play they are a delight to watch: it might be my Polish ancestral memories, but I have a lot of respect for bears', the seemingly clumsy creatures who can, in an instance, change into embodiments of graceful power.

      Entrance tickets cost 3.50 GBP for adults and 10 GBP for a family (up to 3 kids) so a visit is not likely to break the bank (the prices in the café are more likely to, so it's better to bring the picnic or utilise the greasy spoon caff by the playpark and the boating pond nearby). Parking is plentiful nearby.

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