“ Address: Herne Common / Herne Bay / Kent CT6 7LQ / United Kingdom „
Although Wildwood Discovery Park is only located about a 20 minute drive from me, I only got round to visiting the park a couple of weeks ago.
Wildwood Discovery Park
Wildwood Discovery Park is located on the edge of the Forest of Blean near Canterbury in Kent. It opened in 1999 and the idea was to create a centre of excellence for the conservation of British Wildlife. After three years of being open, Wildwood received charitable status and the Wildwood Trust formally took over the management of the park in 2002. Wildwood is designed to tell the story of the changing wildlife of a Kentish woodland over the last 1000 years. Wildwood is set across 42 acres of ancient woodland and there are over 300 animals to be seen. One of the things I particularly enjoyed about Wildwood is that all the enclosures are semi-natural and are made to fit in with the surrounding woodland, meaning that the habitats are as natural as they can be for the animals that live here.
The Forest of Blean where Wildwood is located is actually a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Wildwood was never designed to be just another zoo and they take great pride in the fact that they are involved in many conservation projects. For example, since they opened, they have bred more than 2000 water voles which are Britain's fastest disappearing mammal. They then re-introduced the Water Voles to various sites across Southern England
Wildwood is open every day of the year, 10am until 6pm in the summer and from 10am until 5pm from October onwards.
I was actually quite surprised at the admission costs for Wildwood as I expected it to be much more expensive than it was. 10% of your admission costs goes directly to the Trusts Conservation project. The prices are as follows:
Visitors who use public transport to get to Wildwood will receive a 50% discount on their admission costs. Visitors who chose to cycle to the park will get in for free.
Wildwood has a large coach and car park which is free to use. There is a restaurant which is situated inside a log cabin style building and blends in really well with the rest of the park. Various types of food are available here such as soups, kid's meals and adult meals as well as snacks and sandwiches. I was really impressed to find vegetarian chilli on the menu as many places do tend to cater that well for vegetarians. There are also a range of hot and cold drinks available as well as ice creams.
There is also a gift shop which sells various items connected to the park as well as some weird and wonderful items. There is a large children's play area (which is currently being extended) and there is even a smaller section of the play area which is purely for very small children. I have to say, the children's play area looked awesome, so much so that I wanted to go and have a lay around myself.
There are several picnic area dotted around the park with benches to sit on and visitors are invited to take along their own food to have a picnic.
Finally there are male, female and disabled toilets available.
As I already mentioned, there are over 300 animals at Wildwood and these are a mixture of:
*Native species such as badgers and otters
*Introduced species such as the North American Mink which arrived in Britain either by accident or were brought into Britain deliberately
*Formerly native, currently extinct (in Britain) Species such as Wolves, Wild Boar and Beaver which used to live in Britain but were hunted to extinction.
The enclosures at Wildwood are large and look completely natural. Each enclosure has been adapted to each animal housed inside. The park is well laid out and the walkways have all been made from natural ingredients like wood as the aim of the park is to complement the wild environment, not intrude on it with concrete and bricks. There are signs up all over the park which inform you that Wildwood is set in an ancient woodland and that all naturally occurring obstacles and hazards that you would find in open woodland such as overhanging branches and muddy ditches will need to be avoided.
Each enclosure has a sign on it, stating which animal is inside. On this sign are all the vital statistics of the animal inside. I really liked the fact that each enclosure was labelled because it gave you the chance to look at what the animal looks like on the picture, and to then find it for yourself inside the enclosure.
I won't talk about every single animal that is held here, but I will run through my favourites and the main attractions at Wildwood.
The Wild Boar had a massive enclosure which was set within a wood. Part of the ground was really muddy which they seemed to love. The day we visited we saw two large Boars (which I assume were Mum and Dad) and also a baby. It looked like apples had been thrown into the enclosure for them to eat and they were happily crunching on them and paddling around in the mud making quiet grunting noises.
There were loads of Roe Deer in the enclosure, which again was massive and set within the woods. There were many adults and also quite a few babies which were extremely cute. They had loads of room to roam around and I also liked the fact that part of their enclosure was out in the open i.e., with a large field bit for them to eat the grass but it also had a sheltered part with lots of trees so they can escape the sun when they wish to.
The Red Deer enclosure was almost identical to the Roe Deer enclosure although this was set slightly further into the woodland. The Red Deer appeared to hang around in groups and many of them were settled on the floor of the woodland.
The Konik Horse enclosure was huge and it was really nice to see they had so much area to graze. Wildwood Discovery Park, along with the Kent Wildlife Trust have bred Konik Horses and now use them to manage the Kent Wildlife Trust nature reserves. On the day we visited, some of the Horses were grazing, while others were laid down amongst the trees in the shade.
The Artic Foxes were beautiful. I didn't actually expect to see them because we visited Wildwood over Easter weekend when they weather was lovely and I assumed that many of the animals would be escaping the heat of the day and hiding away. The Artic Foxes were playing with one another and running around the enclosure making noises at each other. I really enjoyed watching them and they were much smaller than I expected.
The Badger enclosure had an inside and outside section. The outside section was fairly large with all natural things such as overturned log and mounds all over the place. The inside section, I found far more interesting as you can actually view inside theirs setts through glass panels. When we visited, the Badgers were asleep inside their setts so we got a really good view of them sleeping the day away. Many of the Badgers housed at Wildwood were babies that have been rescued from the wild after their parents have been killed in road accidents or caught in traps.
Ferrets / Polecats
The Ferret and Polecat enclosures are very similar to the Badger enclosure as they have an inside and outside section. The outside section consists of lots of branches and ropes for them to climb along. You can tell that a lot of effort has gone into creating an exciting enclosure for them to climb around. The inside section shows the areas in which they sleep (as they can sleep for up to 12 hours a day).
Again, this enclosure was very large with wooden platforms at the front of the enclosure. When we visited, the Foxes were sunbathing on the wooden platforms and looks extremely content. There were lots of brambles bushes, log piles and piles of dead leaves in the Red Fox enclosure and I felt that the enclosure looked very natural.
The Lynx enclosure reminded me of an aviary although obviously it was much larger. There were lots of logs for them to climb along and also plenty of platforms for them to lie on. The day we visited, both the Lynx's were sat up high on their platforms surveying the area. I thought the Lynx's were absolutely stunning.
The Pine Martens are actually kept separately as this is how they would live in the wild. They only come together during breeding season for obvious reasons. The Pine Marten enclosures were cleverly linked together which means they the trap doors can just be opened during the breeding season. Pine Marten's are highly endangered and are actually protected by law.
Stoats / Weasels
Both the Stoat and Weasel enclosures had indoor and outdoor sections. The outdoor section consisted of lots of branches and logs for them to climb over. The Stoats and Weasels were very active on the day we visited but this probably had something to do with the fact that it was feeding time. They dragged their food (dead chicks and rats) back to their sleeping areas where you could view them happily munching away.
As you can imagine, the European Wolves are one of the highlights at Wildwood Discovery Park. The Wolf enclosure was absolutely massive and again, looked natural. The enclosure was set within the Woodland and part of the enclosure was out of bounds to visitors which means that the Wolves can retreat here to get some peace and quiet when the wish to do so. I really enjoyed watching the Wolves, they really were stunning.
The Otter enclosure had plenty of land area and also a massive pond for them to swim in. When we visited, we saw two Otters sleeping on one of the grassy banks and a further two who were playing with each other in the water.
The Wild Cats look very much like domestic cats although they are slightly larger with bushier tails. Their enclosure was a good side, with overhanging branches, brambles bushes, logs and trees inside. The Wild Cats were sat on top of the branches of the trees on the day we visited.
I really enjoyed watching the Beavers. Their enclosure consisted of a large pond with banks all around the edges. You could see various trees inside their enclosure that had been chewed down to a sharp point by the beavers. You could also see a collection of wood chippings and piles of wet leaves where the Beaver's had obviously been busy creating a dam.
In this section, were animals such as Black and Brown Rats, Water Voles, Red Squirrels, Bank Vole and Harvest Mice. Each enclosure is designed to be as natural as possible for the animals kept inside. I really liked the Rat enclosure which had chains and ropes all over the place for them to climb along.
The Red Squirrels were kept in an aviary style enclosure with lots of nesting boxes for them to hide away in. Sadly, the day we visited, they didn't come out of their boxes.
I really liked the harvest mice enclosure too which was set up to look like a kitchen. There was plenty of bread and seeds littered around the enclosure, with glass viewing panels which meant you could get really close to the mice and watch them going about their day.
There are many birds to be seen at Wildwood. These include Herons, Egrets, Ravens and Owls just to name a few. Many of the birds are in the same enclosure which was huge with several ponds inside. The Wetland Birds were mixed and included Herons, Ducks and Egrets among many other species. The enclosure was netted to ensure that the birds didn't fly away but somehow they seemed to know not to fly too high as they were all flying around the enclosure but never went as high as the netting.
I particularly enjoyed the Owls as I think they are really stunning birds. When we visited, the two Barn Owls were snuggled up together on a branch grooming and preening each other which was lovely to watch.
Reptiles and Amphibians
This section houses various reptiles and amphibians such as Adders, Terrapins, Grass snakes, Sand Lizards and Pool Frogs to name a few. These enclosures have glass viewing panels (for children and wheelchair users) but for adults, you can actually just look in straight over the top of the enclosure which means you have more chance of seeing the animals inside. For example, the Adder enclosure obviously consisted of lots of long grass and I didn't think we would have much chance of actually spotting the Adder but after looking for only a couple of minutes, we spotted one sliding through the grass and eventually saw three in there.
The Pond Tortoises and a selection of Frogs were all kept in the same enclosure which had lots of long grass and several pond areas. The Tortoises were very easy to spot, either in the pond (along with the frogs) or basking in the sunshine by the side of the pond.
In this section were the Honey Bees and the Wood Ants. The Honey Bees can be viewed from behind a glass screen. There were around 15 hives and you could see the bees flying away to collect nectar and taking it back to their hives. You are warned to stay to marked footpaths to avoid getting in bees flight path.
The Ant's were also really interesting as the forest floor literally looked like it was moving with the sheer amount of ants going about their daily business. There is a box near the Ant Nest which holds several magnifying glasses so you are able to get a closer view of the ants.
Talks and Feeding Times
The Wildwood keepers put on various talks throughout the day and details of the times are posted on a large blackboard just inside the entrance. The Feeding Times take place during the talks so you can plan your day around the times of the talks to ensure that you get the most out of your visit to the park.
In summary, I would highly recommend a visit to Wildwood Discovery Park. I love the fact that the park is actually very educational and is heavily involved in conservation projects to help British Wildlife. I thought the admission prices were very reasonable and a trip to Wildwood will leave you feeling like you have got great value for money.
I thought a lot of effort had gone into the design of each enclosure, making it as natural as possible for the animals kept here. The fact that many of the animals here are breeding tells you that the park are obviously doing something right.
If you are looking for a fun filled day, that offers good value for money where you will also learn something new, then Wildwood is definitely worth a visit.