“ PARK. 6 miles from Reading. Lower Basildon, Basildon, Berkshire RG8 9NH. Tel: +44 (0)118 984 5172 Fax: +44 (0)118 984 5171. Great for kids and all ages. Model boat collection, large collection of rare birds, 'hands-on' pets corner, adventure playg „
Beale Park is situated on the River Thames, and is near Pangbourne and 6 miles from Reading. The park is a landscaped park of 350 acres in all, and there are gardens and some child friendly playgrounds to visit and a variety of wildlife to see.
There is no doubt that on a sunny day, as it was on my most recent visit, Beale Park is a nice place to go, however I do have to wonder if the park has lost sight of the founder's mission to create and give the park "to the people" as I would have to say that the only people now able to visit and enjoy the park would be those with a fair amount of spare cash. Much as I admire the park's conservation work the park is, for a charitable trust, a rather expensive day out.
2009 prices seem to be much higher than those in previous years and reviews on the dooyoo site. You now have to pay for children over 2 (previously under 3's were free as they are in many major attractions), and a family of 2 adults and 2 children pay £25. Adults are £8.50 in high season, and children £6.00, prices being a couple of pounds less in low season which is February to October.
What is there to see and do?
There is a train which runs round the park, included in the entrance, which is actually quite good but can only be ridden once for "free". The train travels the length of the park so you can see the various animals that the park houses. There are wallabies, meerkats, various monkeys, deer, goats, pigs and rabbits and guinea pigs. There are also quite large varied owls and birds to look at, and you can while away quite a lot of the day looking at them if you are there with children.
There are 3 park areas, one adventure type playground, one climbing playground for older children and a little tikes village of houses and vehicules. There are also two paddling pools. The little tikes village may be mid transformation as it looked a little run down on our visit and they had changed the sandpit to a rather perilous one which my two year old fell from, backwards onto her head.
In fairness to the park I have emailed them to say that the little tikes village was a cause of concern and I will update my review if they are indeed planning improvements. All of the playgrounds are fun for children but nothing special. There are two paddling pools though one seemed to be in the process of being repaired. To my annoyance there was a trampoline section and tea cup ride of the small fairground ride size, I say annoyance as these were a further £1.50 that I was not prepared to pay, with the predictable fallout amongst my children!
You can go on a river cruise for an additional cost - the cruises are run by a private company.
There is a large lake, quite a few walks and a picnic area at the end of the park with deer and goats. All in all the park is pleasant to walk around and well maintained, there are a few animals to see but not on a very small zoo scale.
The food and drinks seemed to be rather highly priced, £1.70 for an icecream and £2 for a bottle of Oasis. I would advise you to take a picnic.
Overall in the three years I have been visiting the park I have had some nice visits, I have to say, however, that with this season's price rise I am not sure that the park is great value for money, I certainly wouldn't consider going as a Summer holiday day-filler/treat, just too expensive.
On the website the Trust who run the park state:
"Since the Trust was formed the bird collection in particular has advanced from a few peacocks to one of the foremost collections in Europe. The main source of funding for these important projects is from ticket receipts at the gate so Beale Park relies on its visitors more than ever before. Visitors are helping conserve rare and endangered birds just by coming to see the collection and enjoying a day out at this traditional wildlife park."
Laudable as conservation is I think your average visitor does expect value for money and to pay a reasonable amount. I am not sure whether £1.70 for an icecream or £6 for a 2 year old to look at some animals and birds is actually reasonable. I was a little disappointed by my most recent visit in all honesty, so with regret I can only give the park 3 stars - I just don't like feeling like I am a charity on a family day out and I think I could have spent £25 on a better day out elsewhere, it is a pity as this should be better than it actually now is in my opinion.
http://www.bealepark.co.uk for current information
We were staying with my parents in Berkshire recently. We had been on holiday all week and my husband had the 'going out for the day' bug. I had the 'we have spent far too much money already this week' bug but you can guess who won! My step-mother suggested that Beale Park was a place she thought my 2 year old daughter would enjoy visiting, so that is where we decided to go. Beale park is a 300 acre wildlife park about a mile from the village of Pangbourne in Berkshire. It has beautiful grounds that can be explored, many different types of animals and birds to see on your way round and plenty of activities for children of all ages. There are a number of rare breeds of birds to see, as well as some more usual animals, such as goats, sheep, cows and pigs. There is a pets corner where children can learn all about and touch rabbits, guinea pigs, chipmunks, mice, squirrels and lambs. There is a deer park at the end of the grounds where you can see, close up, different species of deer. Some of the more fun things to do include a ride on the steam train, a trip down the river Thames, a dip in one of the three paddling pools, climbing on the adventure playground (mainly for older children although our toddler felt the need to have a go), fairground rides for small children, a couple of sandpits and crazy golf. Or, if you are out for a relaxing day (as I was, but failed to achieve!) you can just stroll around the grounds or sit in one of the beautiful gardens and let the world pass you by. The park is easy to get to, being situated not far from the M4 motorway and parking is free. Or you could take a train to Pangbourne and walk up the river Thames to the park. One word of warning though. Take plenty of cash with you. We were shocked to discover that they did not accept plastic of any kind at the entrance. I found this a bit strange, particularly as the entrance fee was not an insignificant o
ne (£4.80 per adult, £3.40 per child, or £12 for a family ticket). Also, almost everything you want to do (or more specifically, your children will want to do) inside the park costs extra. The river trip is fairly expensive, as is a ride on the train. We had to bribe our daughter out of the paddling pool by promising her a go on the roundabout, only to discover that it was 70p a turn. Because we had used all but £1 of our cash getting in, we were not able to do much else once inside the park, so we had an angry toddler on our hands for the rest of the afternoon! This did annoy me a bit, as I would rather pay a larger entrance fee, knowing that my children (or child in our case) can enjoy the things they see inside without the constraints of money. In spite of this, we enjoyed our afternoon at Beale Park. It was extremely hot and busy, as one would expect in the summer. It would certainly be worth another visit out of season, when I believe the entrance fee is also a little more reasonable.
Today I saw the sun shining and went awol from work. I packed some food into the cool bag, filled a thermos with freshly brewed coffee, put Michael and the children in the car and headed off to Beale Park near Reading. If you’re anywhere near and are suffering the children’s summer holiday cry of ‘What can we do today? We want to go OUT!’ then Beale Park comes highly recommended by the Murphy family. The brochure reads, ‘No simulated high-tech adventures, no gravity defying rides, just genuine natural attractions in the glorious setting of the Thames Valley….’ and that’s just about right. Beale Park is certainly not the most exciting place you will ever visit but it is a charming day out for both small, bored, restless children and for parents who never want to see another theme park with its attendant queues and overdraft-hammering bill EVER again. It’s run by a charitable trust and strikes a nice balance between fun and and worthiness. On arriving we headed straight for the large, wooden adventure playground which suits toddlers to children of around ten and sat at one of the surrounding sheltered tables. Conor and Kieran were off and had made some friends in no time. We sat with the papers and a coffee and one eye on them. Next to the adventure playground is a huge sandpit, spotlessly clean and they dug a few holes and made a few castles. After about an hour Michael and I stirred ourselves and took the children off to one of the three, also spotlessly clean, paddling pools and had a good splash about. The children were getting hungry by now so we took a ride on the little train around the whole site and then up to the deer enclosure where we ate a picnic lunch, well we ate ours, but the children fed the deer! Time then for a leisurely stroll around the farm area where you can scratch a pigs back or pat a deer. You may need to rescue any loose pieces of cloth
ing from a greedy goat with a nasty look in its eye and an equally nasty tendency to lower its head and give you a crafty butt! A little further on and you can walk past aviaries of owls with their inscrutable eyes looking down at you and see the collection of other birds; flamingos, pheasants and parrots. Further still and there is one of those ‘pat a pet’ areas with rabbits, guinea pigs, and yet more evil-minded goats. We then took a half-hour boat ride along the Thames, but I’m afraid the children weren’t keen as it involved too much standing still! Rain clouds were gathering and so we headed for home, still we’d been there nearly all day and (apart from the boat ride) not a complaint from either child! I’d read the paper from cover to cover too, and that’s a rare event. Beale Park is found on the A329 at Pangbourne off Junction 12 of the M4. A family ticket is just £13, although the train and boat rides cost an extra £12 this is still much, much cheaper than most days out you’ll find. They run craft and adventure days during the summer holidays for children aged eight and above which cost around £12 and also two-day animal-keeping courses for children at about £25. The place has a relaxing, ‘chilled-out’ atmosphere about it, is busy but not crowded and will give your children a fun time without giving you a headache! UPDATE: As we’ve got this nice, shiny new UK Guide Category I thought I’d remind you of this quiet but fun little place. Everything I mentioned above (with the exception of the paddling pools) can be enjoyed on a dry autumn day. There are winter entrance prices too, I’m not sure exactly how much but I think the family ticket comes in at about a bargain £9.