“ Herne Common / Herne Bay / Kent / CT6 7LQ / England „
For those of you who have read my recent reviews you'll know I recently went to Canterbury. I remembered the Wildwood Trust from when I was at university there and remembered it was a good day out I therefore thought it worth another visit this time around.
What Is The Wildwood Trust?
Wildwood is a registered charity (charity number 1093702) based between Canterbury and Herne Bay in Kent. They work to preserve Britain's wildlife and along with running a wildlife park that is open to visitors they link every animal they have in captivity to a conservation programme which is aimed at conserving those animals left in the wild. The only exclusions to this programme are those animals that are either rescued or are already very common in the wild.
Their conservation project involves breeding some highly endangered animals in captivity and then reintroducing them to the wild. However they do appreciate that this method isn't suitable for all animals and therefore they are also involved in researching ways to better support these animals in the wild. Every animal they reintroduce to the wild is a part of a research programme aimed at finding out how they can improve these animals lives both in the wild once they have been released and in captivity.
Wildwood also aim to improve conditions for all wildlife throughout the UK, they try to introduce and establish nature reserves for animals such as Deer, Wild Horses and Cattle. This is because their research has shown that the diversity of Britain's wildlife is directly related to the grazing of animals such as those listed above.
(Information was taken from http://www.wildwoodtrust.org)
Getting To The Park
One thing I liked about the park is that it is literally in the middle of open countryside and seemingly some parts are in the middle of a wood, allowing you to see the animals as they would be in the wild. However, this does make getting to it rather tricky if you don't know what you're looking for!
Wildwood is on the A291 which is the main road linking Canterbury and Herne Bay. There are buses that stop more or less outside the park. If coming by car there are brown, attraction, road signs that say Wildwood and have a picture of a deers head in silhouette. The post code for those with satellite navigation systems is CT6 7LQ however it does state on their website that this can sometimes misdirect and having tried this I can confirm that it does so if you do choose to use this method only use it as a back up along with road signs. There is plenty of parking if you do choose to come by car, however the parking is on a field and so if the weather is (or has been) wet, be prepared to leave with a muddy car!
There are offers available on the entrance fee if you choose to get there by bus or bike and there is more information on this in the prices section below however it is worth saying here that the road leading up to Wildwood is a main road with a 60mile an hour speed limit, it's also a country road and so had a lot of corners, whilst these aren't usually blind corners with the speed limit it can be unsafe and therefore cycling there is not recommended for children at all and even as adults I wouldn't advise it unless you are a competent cyclists used to country roads. I also think it's worth saying that the park is a fair way down the road and it is a relatively long way to walk around it and so cycling isn't necessarily a good idea unless you're fit enough to be able to handle this. The last thing you want is to realize you don't have the energy to cycle home after biking there and walking around!
Unfortunately since we arrived first thing in the morning and in the middle of winter many animals were either hibernating or asleep! However, assuming you are able to see them all then the animals in the park are:
* Red Foxes
* Wetland Birds
* Cranes and Storkes
* Frogs and Voles
* Pine Martin
* Arctic Foxes
* Wild Boar
* Wild Horses
* Red Deer
* Various Owls
* Roe Deer
* Red Foxes
* Red Squirrels
* Wolves (including hand reared ones)
* Soay sheep
* Wild Cats
* Edible Dormouse
and a Childrens Area where they can interact with animals including rabbits, guinea pigs and goats.
I have a thing against Zoo's in general, nothing in the way the animals are kept but I live near woburn safari park and therefore being able to drive round that has put me off zoo's because it's too unnatural having them in cages and doesn't give you the same effect as being able to watch the animals without the bars and glass in between you and them. I do appreciate that for some animals the bars are needed - for instance I wouldn't want a tiger to just be wandering around freely with me! However that's where I feel this park really comes into it's own. Whilst, for some animals, there obviously needs to be the bars where possible they have left the enclosures fencing low down and so you can look directly into the enclosure without some annoying fencing getting between you and the animal. Even with the wolves, although walking alongside their enclosure there is obviously a fence between you and them there is also an overhead observation area where you can climb up and look down on them free from fencing or other materials. Also each of the animals enclosures mimicked their natural habitat enabling you to see the animals as you would in the wild.
The pole cats were particularly cute and playful even climbing up the keepers trousers while they were trying to clean out the enclosure! There is also a list of animals recently born to the animals here and I was lucky enough to see a one and a half month old Wild Boar - whilst I had known that the babies were obviously cuter then the adults I hadn't realized how much cuter they were when they were so small and with their baby stripes!
The animals themselves seemed very well cared for and the enclosures seemed more then large enough for them. Some of the enclosures even went over the top of the walk way. Whilst I'm sure this is of no added benefit to the animal except allowing them to climb - it is a nice touch for the visitors.
Getting round the park itself is easy, although they do have a map that they offer you and I would recommend taking this as there are several short cuts to get you back to the childrens area and picnic area and even with the map I sometimes struggled to tell which was the way to continue going round and which was the way back to the picnic area. I also went with someone who was in a fairly wide, adult sized, wheelchair and did not find this to be a problem - the chair fit, albeit with a bit of effort sometimes, inside the enclosed areas to see in the animals sleeping areas and despite the park being in a wooded area it wasn't too hard to push around - just watch out for the tree roots sticking out of the ground! However, there were two of us to push him - I think on my own the distance would have proved too much but then I guess you could take a short cut back to the start and then go back to where you were.
Besides a quick drink we didn't use the café during our visit and therefore can't comment on the quality of the food served but they did offer a variety of hot and cold snacks. As with any attraction though these did seem to be overpriced for what it was so I would recommend bringing your own food/drink with you if you plan to be here for the day.
We visited on a Monday during term time and therefore there were no talks offered during our visit however there are every weekend and every day during the school holidays and so if you are planning a visit I would make it on one of those days if this is something you are interested in. There are however signs around the park giving you in depth information about each animal such as their average size, how common they are in the wild, when and how they were introduced to britain, what their typical diet consists of and several other pieces of information which is not just educational for the kids but I found it very interesting as an adult! Especially the sign that told me that the Cranes were hunted to extinction yet there I was staring at one!
The shop at the end of your visit is a bit of a mixed bag really, they have the usual cuddly animals and toys/games for children but they also have extra things for adults such as photos and crystals. Again, as with any other attraction most of the items in this shop are overpriced but if you look deep and hard enough there are some bargains to be found and at the end of the day lets not forget that the profits are going to a charity which is more then can be said for some other attractions.
Prices and Offers
Entry to the park costs:
Adult - £9.95
Child (up to 17) - £7.95
Senior - £8.95
Family - £32.50
Any children under 3 go free, disabled people are charged at the full rate but the carer gets free entry. Since this is a charity you also have the option of gift aiding your entry fee enabling them to claim 28%.
However, if you get to the park by public transport there is a 50% discount on the entrance fee and if you get there by bike entry is free - however as I said above I wouldn't recommend this unless you are both fit and a competent cyclist.
For those of you with children there are educational quiz sheets for your child to answer as you go around the park. I believe these are free but you may need to ask for them at the entrance if this is something you are interested in.
Finally, if you live in or around Canterbury/Herne Bay or visit regularly then you can also join as a member. This costs:
£3.00 a month for an individual
£4.50 a month for two people
£6.00 for a family (2 adults and up to 6 children)
This entitles you to free entry both that day and unlimited visits throughout the year, special events exclusively available to members, a newsletter and the option to get involved in projects to protect and save endangered wildlife.
This is a day out I wouldn't hesitate to recommend. We joined as members and I am already looking forward to our next visit. The one warning I will say is that this involves a lot of walking and is (obviously) outdoors with little protection from wind or rain and so check the weather before you leave - also it's probably best to go during the spring since a lot of animals were hibernating when we went and this won't be a problem during the spring.
All in all though a really good day out for all ages and considering the entrance prices of other similar places it's very good value for money too.
Tel: 01227 712111
Fax: 01227 719035
We've just come back from a spontaneous visit to Wildwood not knowing really what to expect. We were there for a good few hours and really enjoyed our day. We saw lots of animals that you just dont get the chance to see even though they live in the wild. We listened to 2 talks which were fascinating; 1 about wild boars, and 1 about badgers. The badgers are twice as old as they normally live and are so tame that I hugely recommend seeing them soon as you will rarely get such friendly ones!
I thought the prices were a bit steep but we found a 2 for 1 voucher at www.amazingdaysout.com which made it ok. There is a lot to see and we could have spent more time there but we'll probably go back again.
Take a picnic and your camera and make sure you go to a talk or 2. Enjoy!
On paper, a wildlife park in Kent and an animated movie by Japanese genius Hayao Miyazaki about giant wolves may not have much in common. What I found on an overcast autumn day in late 2008 was, however, no less wonderful and I have a tale to tell that's also about a magical forest, majestic animals and a beautiful girl.
To prevent the similes becoming too silly, I'll reveal early on that the beautiful girl was my lovely girlfriend, who was just as excited at the prospect of seeing a range of fascinating creatures in a semi-natural environment as I was. Getting to the park was fairly tricky for us, as it involved travelling from Bromley to Herne Bay by train and then negotiating the transfer by bus. This would have been fine but for the fact that the bus driver promised to give us a shout when we reached the park, got off the bus two minutes later and didn't bother to tell the new driver! We were both feeling a bit grumpy by the time we got to the park and a good dose of whimsy and excitement were just what we needed.
Wildwood is situated between Canterbury and Herne Bay in Kent.
It would appear to be far easier to get to Wildwood by road, but don't let this put you off the public transport option. All the information you need is available on the Wildwood Trust website www.wildwoodtrust.org - an enthusiastically created, if somewhat unpolished site. Those taking public transport will be rewarded with a 50% discount on admission - a great little saving for considering the environment when planning your outing. Please note, this discount is not valid on the already discounted family ticket. For those of you who cycle here it's even cheaper and I'm sure you can stretch to the £0.00 it costs! That's right, cyclists get in for free.
*Entry costs and opening times*
Wildwood costs are very reasonable for the great range of animals present and at time of writing they are:
These prices comprise a 10% donation to the Trust's conservation projects and I suppose you could ask not to pay it. If you're like me and love animals, however, you'd probably feel like a bit of a git for doing so. The park is run by a charitable trust and it's possible to make a gift aid submission that will allow them to reclaim further monies from the government based on the cost of admission/donation. It is also possible to join as a member and receive additional discounts.
Wildwood is open every day of the year, 10-6 in summer and 10-5 from October onwards.
Despite being in a woodland setting, Wildwood caters to wheelchair users and those with impaired mobility well. The paths are reinforced to allow wheelchairs to go along them, although they do advise a 'moderately' fit helper. The park can provide its own wheelchairs as well, which might be useful if you don't want to get your own chair covered in muck.
The park has a particularly good little gift shop, picnic areas, a childrens' play area and clean bathroom facilities (including wheelchair accessible ones). The one disappointment for us was the food, which was a mix of stodge, overpricing and school dinner fodder. We spent somewhere in the region of £4 to get two tiny cones of chips and this was about the only thing on the menu we could afford after spending £60 between us getting there and getting in. A family would really struggle to get a good feed here for a reasonable price and I'd definitely take a picnic next time. After all, few things are better than sitting under some pine trees in a large forest eating your lunch.
Wildwood itself covers 40 acres of picturesque ancient woodland and has a real aura of tranquility and mystery about it. It is home to a throng of animals, most of which are native to Britain and some of which are endangered. I won't list them all, but highlights for us included:
Wild boar - These gentle, tusked beasts were having a great time wandering about their enclosure and were fairly secretive and shy around visitors. This was understandable, as they had young with them which were keeping close to mum!
Roe deer - Relatively common in parts of England and seen in the Scottish Highlands, these graceful animals seemed quite inquisitive and very sedate.
Polecats - I'm not sure whether the polecat we saw had fleas, but it was a cute little beast all the same and spent some time scratching behind its ears like a cartoon dog.
Red squirrels - Far more attractive in my eyes than the non-native grey squirrel, the red squirrels were bundles of barely contained energy and zipped around their enclosure (interestingly designed to go directly over a footpath used by visitors).
Wolves - Possibly the most impressive of all the animals in the park. The beautiful and healthy wolf pack were breathtaking to look at and just a little intimidating in their very primal enclosure. The sight of a large adult wolf appearing from behind a tree mere metres away is an odd mix of terrifying and enchanting. We spent a good 25 minutes just staring at these fantastic critturs.
Owls - We saw snowy and eagle owls and the size of the latter was huge! It was only late afternoon, so he was somewhat snoozy, but that was good as it allowed us to get a closer look.
Scottish wild cats - Definitely the highlight of our day. We were graced with the opportunity to see these incredibly reclusive and people-averse cats close up and engaging in a range of playful activities. The adult pair had recently given birth to a ridiculously cute kitten and his antics as he went between pestering his tolerant mother and his imperious father were hilarious. Mum put up with him - retrieving him when he wandered too far and cuffing him on the head when his war games got too much for her. Dad - on the other hand - was having none of it and promptly sat on a branch out of reach of the kitten, who promptly forget about him anyway.
Some of these animals (particularly the wolves), had very large enclosures, but I did feel somewhat sorry for the Scottish wild cats, who were in a fairly small run. This was somewhat mitigated by my personal pleasure at seeing an animal that is almost invisible in the wild. As an anecdotal example, my Dad is an avid hillwalker in Scotland. In over 30 years he's only seen a Scottish wild cat once and that was retreating into a bush.. If they're breeding, I have to rest assured that they can't be too miserable in their habitat?
*Schools, education and volunteers and events*
The park can cater to group visits, offers a range of useful print and audio visual material through their site and provides some opportunities for erstwhile park workers and students etc. More information is available on their site. You can also download information packs and further details on conservation research carried out by the Wildwood Trust.
The park staff offer a range of themed events and many of these would suit kids best. These are usually free or cheap (a few pounds) to take part in. Events that might suit adults more include the opportunity to visit the park after dusk - one that we'd love to try in future. Who knows, maybe we'll hear some wolves howling?
From owls to otters, badgers to beavers, and wild boar to wolves, experience close encounters with native wildlife in an environment that is close to nature.