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Blackbrook Zoo (Staffordshire)
Member Name: catsholiday
Blackbrook Zoo (Staffordshire)
Advantages: Plenty to see and not too large so great fir children
Disadvantages: The toilets!!
Winkhill, Staffordshire, ST13 7QR
This little zoo is probably the one closest to us and my grandson had his birthday party here recently with thirteen children including him. We were invited to go to help with transport and share his birthday treat.
PRICES AND TIMES
Open all year round except Christmas day
February half term - 5th November : 10am - 5.30pm each day and last admission at 4pm
6th November - February half term : 10am - Dusk but last admissions 3pm
Admission: these prices include a gift aid but it is a little cheaper without this.
Adults: £9.95 Concessions / Carers: £7.95 Children: £6.50 Family Ticket: £29.95 ( 2adults + 2 children ) Under 3's are free
If you visit in the winter the admission price is drastically reduced to £1.99 per person or £2.20 gift aided. Winter is from 30th November to 31st January so that is useful to know if you live nearby.
A BIT ABOUT THE ZOO
Blackbrook Zoo has the largest collection of birds in the country and is known for its breeding of rare bird species, with over 300 successfully breeding species to date which is a very good thing for conservation.
GROUPS AND PARTIES
They not only have normal admission for families but they also offer a wide range of activities and special group rates. We bought our admission through Groupon and paid £9 for a family ticket. When we arrived my step daughter was sorting out the birthday party admission and so when she had finished i explained that we were with them but this was for our admission, could we take our other stepdaughter in on the ticket as she was our child even though grown up. Very kindly they let us all three in for the Groupon voucher which saved her an extra £9ish.
Birthday parties need to have a minimum of ten in the group and cost £12 per person for entry to the zoo and a lunch either hot or cold. We didn't see the food as the room was pretty small but I believe there were sandwiches and cakes and my step daughter took her own birthday cake which they brought in ready lit at the appropriate time. An extra £40 per group means that you get a guided tour of the zoo with food for the cassowary, pelicans and then the birthday person plus another person can go into the pelican enclosure and feed the penguins. With our lot they let Mum and Dad plus the children into the enclosure and then took two at a time over to feed the penguins so all the children had a turn. While they waited for their turn they had to stand at the other end of the enclosure so that the penguins were not disturbed too much.
The party bag for each child was very generous and had a cardboard folder decorated with animals, a flamingo key ring which sold for about £2 in the shop, a packet of chocolate buttons and a free ticket for a child for the zoo.
School group prices are based on a minimum of 12 at a price of £5.50 per child, accompanying adults are also charged at £5.50, and for every 5 paying children 1 adult would have free entry. Again like the birthday party, for an extra £40 you can have a tour of the zoo with a keeper with feeding of some of the animals which can be tailored to suit the group. There is a maximum of thirty in each of these groups.
I was impressed that they had tied in their school groups activities and even lessons in a special room with the National curriculum and also recommend a pre visit by the staff ( free) and offer a risk assessment in PDF format on the website. If you want to take advantage of their lessons then that is an extra £30 per group. In fact if you take your teacher ID os some kind you can vist free in order to plan a potential visit anyway.
Mother and toddler coffee mornings allow children in free and adults are £5 on Tuesdays after 10am and coffee is included.
I'll do this first as you go through this in order to pay your entry fee. This offered a small selection of drinks and sandwiches which could be eaten in the picnic areas but was fairly limited and not as cheap as our M&S ones that I bought on the way. There were postcards, keyrings, cuddly toys and a range of souvenirs that catered for the pocket money and school trip groups as well as the wealthier purchaser. I have to admit we bought nothing.
We were a little early for our guided tour so we took the children around some of the exhibits before meeting our keeper. The first place we went into was an enclosed bird and reptile house presumably for animals that needed warmth as it was hot in there. There was a pond in the centre with some water fowl including a tiny little duck which was quite sweet. The most impressive birds in here for me was the tropical crowned pigeon which is the largest pigeon on earth, bright blue with the very large and elegant crest on its head.
The zoo is large and so I won't go through every single exhibit and creature in the place as it would be boring and very long. I will pick out some highlights for me and some that were exciting for the children in the group.
The cassowary was a large bird which looked slightly pre historic. Granddaughter was NOT keen but the older children enjoyed throwing fruit into her pen. They can be very vicious and could slit you open with their clawed talons so even the keeper wasn't going to put her hand through the fence to feed her.
There were other huge cranes and storks which were not popular with the youngest but I rather liked the fabulously coloured saddle-billed stork who was huge with a very carefully coloured head area.
Feeding the pelican was very entertaining. A huge bucket of small very smelly fish was provided for our group and every child got to throw fish to these pelicans. They were fine if they caught the fish but really struggled to pick fish up from the ground as they had to turn their heads on to one side and flick the fish up with their bills and try and catch them. The anti bacterial hand gel on the wall of the shelter got good use after that activity I can assure you.
We then moved on to the penguin enclosure when we had to wait and watch from outside but our little group went in and took turns in pairs feeding these wonderful little creatures. It was hard to see from outside because of the protective wall around the pool but my (step) son in law was there and took some close up photos of the children having their turn.
That was really the limit of the keeper tour apart from feeding the tortoise but I missed that as granddaughter needed the toilet and at two and half there is little warning for that request and so i took her off to the portakabins.
The meerkats were a delight and we spent some time watching them. It was especially nice to see the babies as they were so tiny and cheeky. These seemed to be quite small compared to those we saw in the wild in South Africa but I am not sure if they were a different breed. I discovered that only one pair of meerkats in each group breed, the rest have to share the various baby sitting duties.
Other animals that attracted our attention were the mongoose, the lemurs and the flamingos. The children were quite taken with the guinea pigs and rabbits but wanted to get in with them which was not such a great idea. The number of birds was quite breathtaking and huge ponds with wildfowl of various kinds at various places around the park. A couple of kookaburras called out which caused some interest amongst our little group as they are VERY loud and not at all what you expect to come from a bird that size.
The part of the park housing the flamingos and other pink birds is called 'pink paradise'. They are very beautiful and you can sit and enjoy your picnic within the enclosed area or sit in the cafe overlooking this section. Boards around the park give you some little titbits of information such as what the animal is, where it comes from and sometimes other interesting information such as the colour of flamingos comes from natural chemicals in their diet the pink or orange pigments are found in the brine shrimp and blue-green algae that the birds eat. Captive flamingos are given a special diet including prawns and additives such as beta-carotene or canthaxanthin which have these colours - just think of carrots which are rich in beta carotene for the colour!
This was enclosed so children could be in here and you could relax knowing that they were not able to run off except through the gate. There was a good variety of equipment which catered for a range of ages and the children were very happy playing in there for a fair time while waiting for their lunch.
This is something that is quite unpleasant as they are portakabins and there is a distinctly unpleasant odour despite the fact they were all very clean. I think a bit of money should be invested in creating proper plumbed in facilities when they are catering for large groups. I would have hated to bring an entire class of children to use these as there were three in each cabin and another set with similar I believe but we only used one set. I made sure all those children we took washed their hands carefully.
There was a sink with soap etc in the lunch room so presumably the adults in charge sorted out the handwashing prior to the eating but I was not with them as there were not enough seats for all our group plus the extra adults.
We sat below the room where they had their lunch in the cafe. We had bought M&S sandwiches to eat and bought a couple of coffees from the cafe. The other grandparents ordered the burger meal which came with salad and chips and was a pretty substantial meal. They said it was tasty and my step daughter (not the mother of the birthday boy) had some of their spare chips with her sandwich which she had bought from the gift shop as we came in.
There were tables inside and outside so if it was cold we could have chosen to sit inside but we shared an outside table with an umbrella for shade. We visited on a weekend and it was quite busy however there were still plenty of spaces at this cafe and I believe the other cafe also had plenty of seating but somehow with toilet visits and chasing up children I wasn't able to inspect that.
This may not be the biggest or grandest zoo in the country and you won't see giraffe or elephants but they have a huge variety of animals, mostly birds but still enough mammals and others to be interesting. They do a magnificent job in conservation of rare species and the way the park is laid out is attractive and the animals all have good sized enclosures with plenty of vegetation and variety of landscape within them. I am not a huge fan of zoos as I don't really like animals in cages but I realise they do a great job in conservation and this is the only way many people will be able to see some animals too.
You could happily spend a day here with children as there is plenty to see and if you take a picnic you can eat it in the picnic areas or outside tables or you can use the cafes which were not too expensive really.
I would recommend this if you are in the area with children or if you have a particular interest in rare bird species then this would give you the opportunity to see these.
I have removed a star for the yukky toilets.
Thanks for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name.
Summary: A nice little zoo which has a great conservation programme
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