nr Ford Hall / Chapel-en-le-Frith / Derbyshire / Tel: (01298) 814099 / Fax: (01298) 816213
Last summer during a trip to Mull, my partner for some reason developed a keen fascination for Otters. We even embarked on an otter spotting evening on the shores of the Loch we were staying right next to. I think it was the story of Elvis the friendly otter of Tobermory that captured his curiosity about the creatures, but alas, we did not see any in their natural habitat on Mull, although they are very common.
Shortly after our return from Mull, I was reading through some reviews and came across one for the Chestnut centre in Chapel en Le Frith down in the Peak district, Derbyshire, which has a number of Otters , Owls and indeed other wildlife to enjoy in the 50 acres of landscaped grounds, which makes up the conservation centre. My partner and I were in the beginning stages of planning our trip to Loch Lomond and decided that it would be a good idea to take a whole week off work and head a little further south to give us an opportunity to visit the centre and see some Otters.
==Chestnut Centre Otter, Owl and Wildlife Park==
The Chestnut centre gets it's name from a mature chestnut tree near the car park entrance, originally planted in 1837 to officially commemorate the coronation of Queen Victoria, although the centre itself was founded in 1984 by the Heap family who own and operate other wildlife parks including the new forest wildlife park in Marchwood Hampshire and the world famous Battersea Park children's zoo in London. The emphasis of the centre is on Otters and owls which combined make up the bulk of the centres' collection which boasts a collection of around 4 species of Otter and 17 different species of owl. Other wildlife that can be found at the centre include the elusive red fox, nocturnal polecats and badgers, and the declining Scottish Wild Cat.
A large part of the centres work is based around the conservation and re-introduction of otters into the wild. The centre is heavily involved in caring for orphaned otters and preparing them for their ultimate return to the wild.
==Getting to the Chestnut Centre==
We were planning our visit to the chestnut centre after we had been to Loch Lomond so had to make our way from there down to the peak district. Luckily for us we had Sat nav in the car so our route was nice and simple. The how to find us part of the website wasn't the most helpful stating
"We're within the Peak District National Park located just off the A625 east of Chapel en le Frith from the A6. Follow the Brown Tourist signs"
Thank goodness for sat nav otherwise we probably wouldn't have known where to turn off the motorway. So directions from the North as follows; we basically headed south to Carlisle toward the M73/74 and carried on along the motorway for a good 3 hours or so. We then got ourselves onto the M61 for the Manchester Ring Road, easily bypassing Manchester and ended up on the M60. From the M60 we had to take the Stockport Exit onto the A5145 and from there onto the A6 and right enough it wasn't long before we started to see the brown tourist signs for the Chestnut centre so following these and using the sat nav we eventually made it in one piece after about a 4 and a half hour car journey from Loch Lomond.
==Arriving at the centre==
It was around 3:30pm when we arrived at the centre, and a little drizzly outside, but we didn't let that put us off. Pulling into the car park we could see the centre gift shop and tea room and headed straight across knowing from the information we had found on the website that the park would only be open until 5:30pm.
Inside the shop I saw straight away that there were a large number of cuddly animal toys and souvenirs to purchase and was momentarily distracted, until my partner suggested we purchase our entry tickets first, and if we had time we could see about getting something from the shop once we had been in the park itself. We headed over to the unattended counter passing the coffee shop which was to our right, but we had no time for coffee, eager to set off round the park to see the animals.
After waiting for several minutes at the payment desk, a woman came over and asked if she could help us. No warm welcome for us then. Immediately I requested 2 adult entry tickets to the park and purchased an information book about the park and it's animals - the total cost was 15 pounds with the adult entry costing 7 pounds each and the small booklet costing a whole pound. The woman who served us was decidedly unfriendly and didn't ask the usual questions I would expect such as "have you been to the centre before", "do you know anything about the centre" and so on and so forth, not even a "please enjoy your visit" passed the woman's lips which I found a little off putting, especially as I had been quite excited about our visit. We weren't even offered a guide book or map of the centre and had to pick up our own. Not impressed with the service at all, but what was I really there for - that's right - the animals.
==Entering the park==
To get into the park itself you have to enter it through a double gated entrance which states before you go in, not to let any of the deer through the gates. I could see from the map I had picked up that we were about to enter a large deer park. My partner and I love deer and so it was pretty exciting as we entered and immediately were met with lots of free roaming Fallow Deer. These beautiful creatures were just going about their business not seeming to mind our presence, some looking at us inquisitively but then I suppose they would more than likely be used to people wandering through the park itself. I was enjoying myself already and we'd only just entered the place. My expectations were high, as I love getting close to nature. I would even go as far as to say that it seemed my partner and I were the only 2 people in the park at that point.
===A wealth of information===
As we strolled along the path next to the deer, I couldn't help but notice the various information plaques that were stuck onto various posts and walls allowing visitors to educate themselves on the things they were seeing, making it a little more interesting, and I don't mean just information on the animals, I recall seeing a plaque that detailed the purpose of dry stone walls and how they were made etc along with an area filled with various types of bird boxes and what kinds of birds they attracted etc. I thought that this would make a visit for children a very education and fun one, but seeing as it was just me and my partner, the fun was to be had by us.
===What do you mean we can't see the Giant Otters?===
At the time we were visiting the centre (and we didn't know this until we got to the entrance to the enclosure) the Giant otters Manoki and Panambi were rearing cubs and to give the animals the best chance at success they had closed off all access to the public so the otters could have their privacy away from prying eyes and possible distress.....it's this sort of information I think I would have liked to have been told when we were buying our tickets....a little bit of information on the inaccessable areas of the park itself but instead, we reached the entrance to the giant otter enclosure only to find a notice saying that it was closed. Disappointed we trundled on to the next visitors area. As we checked our map we were met with another element of disappointment resulting from the closure of the Giant otter pool....on the other side of the Giant Otter pool was the location of the badger rehabilitation pen so unfortunately this was another part of the Park we were unable to access.
Passing through another gated section we arrived in the first area of owl and otter enclosures. The path itself resembles the kind of path you would find on a forest or woodland trail with a good covering of trees to keep you relatively sheltered, which on this drizzly day we were quite greatful for, although we were fully prepared with waterproof jackets and sensible walking boots which is highly recommended as the centre is an outdoor attraction.
Entering the owl enclosure we were able to view the southern white faced owl, described by the centre as the most beautiful of owls. A nocturnal owl from Africa with an appetite for large flying insects, large spiders and mammals. Because of it's nocturnal habits we weren't really able to see the owl very clearly as it was perched high up on a branch with it's back to us (presumably sleeping), but the information board provided us with enough information about this particular owl along with a detailed picture of the bird for us to be satisfied.
Next up was the South American horned owl - it's name derived from the large tufts around its ears. We were able to see this owl quite clearly as it was facing us, however it too appeared to be resting and wasn't very active.
==The main event==
What we had really come to see were the otters the park has to offer. The otter pens themselves were located just inside this new gated section of the park situated a little to the right and it was here that we were able to view the asian short clawed otters and the European otters. Again there was plenty of information on the animals and their characteristics where we found out that the asian short-clawed otter is the smallest of all the otters and are the most vocal of all otters, continually chattering to one another especially at meal times. The enclosures housing the otters seemed to be very spacious and the otters appeared to be very happy in their surroundings, and we were able to watch them frolick and play with each other.
Another interesting area of the otter enclosures was the indoor housing area for the North America River otter and the Eurasion otter, where we were able to view them indoors in their little houses....we were able to get some video footage of the indoor houses as there were otters in them at the time and it was fascinating just standing there watching them. The indoor housing area was bathed in a red glow presumably some sort of heat producing lamp ensuring that the otters are kept warm at sleep time.
==The rest of the Park==
We wandered round the rest of the park where we were able to view an array of owls including, burrowing owls, eagle owls, spectacled owls and snowy owls, all with their own unique characteristics both in appearance and habits. Whilst wandering past all of the owl pens we came across an area of small graves which looking at the map told us that there was a small dog graveyard located within the grounds which we assumed was what we were looking at. Although the centre houses polecats and pine martens we didn't actually see any of these creatures in their enclosures, but I did find out later that polecats are nocturnal and so were probably sleeping at the time we were walking around the centre
I think we were incredibly lucky with our timings at some of the other otter pens as we arrived just in time for feeding time. Bascially the keepers served up the otters supper of what appeared to be a variety of fish in what appeared to be metal dog bowls....they happily munched up their food and after they had finished we got to view the otters washing their faces and having a bit of a clean.
We also caught a glimpse of the red fox pacing around it's pen - with plenty of room to run around we caught a few glimpses of this quite elusive animal as it circulated its pen and realised at that moment that it was teatime for this animal too, as we saw one of the keepers jeeps pull up at the back of the enclosure setting up to feed the foxes which we discovered were actually 2 foxes they appeared to get rather excited at the sight of the keeper. The fox enclosure itself was quite woody and seemed very appropriate for these animals. Foxes are said to live up to 12 years in captivity compared to in the wild where they only live for 2-3 years at a time. Housed next door to the foxes was the Scottish wildcat pen where we actually only saw 1 wildcat perched high up on some branches. Again this was quite a woody area and with the markings of the Scottish wildcat they can be quite difficult to see as they blend in quite well with their surroundings.
as we headed out towards the exit of the centre we found ourselves back in the deer park where we got another spectacular view of the deer themselves. In the little shop we were greeted with a more pleasant welcome than when we first entered, and on enquiring about the Giant otters and the successfulness of the breeding programme, where we were informed that so far it was going quite well....the otters had produced 3 cubs but sadly one of them had not made it. Looking on the website today there is confirmation that the Giant otters have 2 teenagers and 2 new cubs so it would appear that the 2 cubs that were born when we visited last year survived and are now thriving in the centre along with 2 new cubs born in March this year.
==My overall thoughts and opinion==
Overall we spent about an hour and three quarters walking around the centre but we probably could have spent longer looking at the various animals, but entering the park with the knowledge that we only had a couple of hours to see as much as we could we did kind of rush it a bit. I was disappointed that there were certain areas of the park that we were unable to access as I feel that the 2 attractions that we didn't have access to were probably the 2 attractions that we would have found the most fascinating, but in the interest of keeping the giant Otters comfortable and reducing stress levels we understood why they had to close the area, although as inidcated below it would have been nice to have been given this information before we had entered the park. With the remaining 15 minutes we had a browse in the little gift shop and purchased a little stuffed otter as a reminder of our visit to the centre. The information provided on the plaques around the park were excellent and made for a more interesting visitor experience along with a bit of education. The park itself is suitable for adults and children and could potentially provide hours of enjoyment and I highly recommend the park to anyone wishing to visit. The most disappointing feature was the unhelpfulness and unfriendliness of the staff.
===The adoption programme===
One of the other things the Chestnut centre offers is the opportunity to adopt an animal at the centre for a small fee. Starting from just £15.00 adopting an animal will get you an A4 certificate with a photograph of your chosen animal along with an adoption pack complete with a fact sheet on your chosen animal and 2 annual newsletters and a sticker for your car. The centre also offer a special adoption pack for children. A perfect gift for animal lovers or just a memento for yourself you can choose from a variety of otters, fallow deer, owls and other birds of prey, the polecat and the pinemarten, and the red fox or Scottish Wildcat with varying prices depending on what you want, with options for 6 month or full year adoption packs. More information on adopting the animals can be found on the centres website http://www.chestnutcentre.co.uk/adoption.htm
===General centre information===
The centre itself is open all year round every day from 10:30am till 5:30pm apart from January where the park only operates at the weekend. There is a free car park so no need to worry about car parking fees but unfortunately you cannot take dogs into the park due to the fact that there are free roaming animals.
The full address for the centre is as follows:
Otters and Owls are only two of the attractions to this lovely wildlife park situated in Chapel en le Frith. Derbyshire.
The Heap family, who own the centre, got involved because of their love and fascination for two otters who lived in their garden. That fascination has ultimately led to them opening this park and two others in the South of England. (and aren't I glad?)
I have been to this park on a number of occasions since it opened in 1984. Each time I visit I have been impressed by the care and attention to comfort given to the animals here. As far as is possible the animals are kept in conditions close to their native habitat and privacy is possible for them.
The woodland that the park is set in is lovely and contains enough wild indigenous wildlife to be worth visiting on it's own! I lost count of the number of different birds I spotted and have even heard, but not seen, woodpeckers drumming.
The park contains sixteen different species of owls, majestic buzzards, pine martens, polecats, foxes, Scottish wildcats and deer. But for me the stars of the show are the otters and the park boasts one of the largest collections of otters in Europe.
~~~A silly tale about the Giant Otter~~~
I was there many years ago with a colleague and waited patiently to see the giant South American Otters in their compound. It was raining and the otters, very sensibly, were tucked up snug in their large holt. My colleague Hank, suggested that calling for them in English wasn't going to work as they probably didn't speak the lingo. He suddenly started shouting "Hey los amigos salen y dicen hola a nosotros! Don' ¡t sea timido!" (Hey friends, don't be shy, come and say hello!) I was laughing my head off and so was he.
Nothing happened so he tried again, much louder! Unbelievably, a large and indignant otter appeared before us and started barking at him! So Hank had a long conversation with this beautiful animal and I looked on in amazement. I referred to Hank as 'El Dottoro Dolittle' after that!
Last time I visited there was one Giant Otter in residence named Manoki but he was having a rest and I didn't see him. (I didn't shout for him in Spanish either!) The centre has a commitment to breeding endangered species and they were looking for a mate for Manoki. I do hope they find one for Him!
They have a policy of treating injured wild animals and releasing them, whenever possible, back into the wild. Injured, orphaned or ill otters have been treated here from all over Britain. (Along with many other species.) I would have like to see more details of this activity displayed at the centre because I find that kind of information fascinating.
The otters are kept in large compounds, most with their own source of running water. Derbyshire is in the Peak District and there usually is no shortage at all of running water! Streams meander through the centre and it is lovely to see the creatures playing in a natural environment. The several different variety of otters are all very beautiful and delightful to watch.
The owls are impressive too but are often harder to spot perched up on the branches in their enclosures. I found that I needed patience and a good eye to pick them out from their background of leaves and branches. It was worth it though. I love owls and it was great to be able to stand and study them. Again, I would have liked more information about the birds on the enclosures. I noticed that for some of the younger visitors that it was very difficult for them to see the owls. Perhaps a bench or platform for the kids to stand on would help. The range of different species of owls is impressive. I was particularly struck by the difference in size between the tiny little pygmy owls and the massive eagle owls. It amazes me that they are the same kind of bird!
The Sika and Fallow Deer are timid but well worth a visit. I was amused to hear one child beseeching her Dad to get her a "Real Bambi" which she said she was going to keep in the outside loo. Daddy was not impressed with the idea but, judging by the look of longing on the infant's face, it won't be the last he hears about it! Disney has got a lot to answer for!
I won't bore you with a list of all the many animals there. There is much more information about them on their website. The website is very useful and has some beautiful pictures of the grounds and animals on it.
The cafe/restaurant offers reasonably priced snacks and meals. It is a light airy place and pleasant to take a break in. There are tables and benches outside for the good weather. I have never eaten here but have had quite a few decent cups of coffee. The staff are cheerful and courteous. They appear to enjoy their work which is always a good sign!
School parties are welcome by prior arrangement and activities and information packs are available.
The centre holds various activity days and special events throughout the year.
I liked the shop and I don't always like this kind of shop. As usual I was caught by the soft toys on display. (One day I will grow up!) I resisted them but bought in a stock of beautiful postcards of the animals. (Well, baby otters have got to be one of the most irresistable creatures on earth!) There are pocket money type toys for children. (Which I had to have a bit of a play with for research purposes!) Some very nice calendars, (Good little presents for elderly relatives) And did I mention the soft toys!
It was a well stocked and not exorbitant little shop.
The paths around the centre are gravelled or tarmacced and would provide some challenges for a person with mobility problems. Wheelchair access is possible but it would be hard going on some of the inclines. The cafe, shop and toilets are wheelchair accessible.
~~~Where is it?~~~
Signposted 'Chapel en le Frith' off the A6 in Derbyshire.
Parking is free and plentiful.
Adults - £6.50
Children (between 3 and 15 years) - £4.50
Family (2 adults and 2 children) - £20.00
I thought that the admission prices were reasonable considering what it must cost to keep the place running. It is possible to buy a season ticket too.
This is a well laid out and very pleasant place to visit. I have never found it crowded and the walkways and scenery are restful and inviting. The refreshments won't break the bank and the toilets are well maintained and clean.
A little more information as you walk about would be welcome. (But that might just be me!)
It is an educational and entertaining day out for any age and the otters are very special little creatures. Anywhere that helps them to survive gets the thumbs up from me!
I am very lucky. I live within 45 minutes drive of this place. And what a superb place it is. Many people will be going-otters and owls are boring -but here they are not. The Chestnut Centre sets new standards for sheer beauty and animal welfare
It is truly excellent.
The Chestnut Centre is one of two otter centres that are run by the Heap family-the other being in New Forest. They also own the Battersea Park Childrens Zoo.
The Centre is named after a big chestnut tree in the park which was planted to commemorate Queen Victoria's 50 years on the throne. In 1984 it officially opened as an otter and owl conservation centre. It had all started with two Asian Short Clawed Otters in the garden named Kizzie and Ferdie. It provides care for any injured otters and owls and many go back in the wild. Many of the other animals are rare of elusive British mammals but the otters and owls come from all around the world.
As you may have realised The Chestnut Centre is situated in the Peak Distrcit and is quite near Castleton and Chapel-en-le-Frith. They are located of the A625 east of Chapel-en-le Frith from the A6 and is well signposted. After turning you must make another sharp turn to go into the car park. The car park is really small but hadrly every full and is free. The toilets are here outside the park and are quite small but are very clean . The ticket lets you in and out of the park as you please.
You now enter the visitor centre. It is quite small and is divided in half. On one half is the gift shop which is home to lots of t-shirts, caps, cuddly otters, photos of otters etc.etc. It isn't full of tacky rubbish and is very reasonably priced-baseball cap costing only £1.99.
The cafe is on the other side . Its quite nice with wooden tables and sells lots of tasty cakes and tea as well as Jacket potatoes and a good range of hot food wich is once again very reasonably priced.
The ticket office is here to. Admission prices for 2008 are:
Season tickets are also available:
The prices are quite reasonable for what you get but for some reason I always think they are a tad expensive.
Opening times for 2008
Autumn/Winter (Open daily but only weekends in January)
10.30am -dusk (around 4pm)
Last admission 3pm
Open daily 10.30am -5.30pm
Last entrance 4pm
After passing the harvest mice and going through double doors you begin tyour journey...
The very first bit of the centre is actually a deer park. Its big and green with some lovely views of the surrounding hills and farms. One word of warning-it always rains when I go-so bring a brolly!
There is a surfaced nature trail through the park and very so often there are signs talking about and showing bird houses and information about the trees you can see etc. These are quite informative. Another attractions here are the fallow deer-a fairly large herd with a lovely massive area to roam around. You will probably see them and they are a great sight. About three quarters of the way round there is a path down to the enclosures which are in a lovely wooded valley at the bottom. We always carry on and after crossing the bridge over a lovely stream our journey begins...
I'm going to start with the otters. I love these chaps. There are five species of otter here....
The very first one you shall (hopefully meet) is the Giant Otter. He has a nice big millpond with plenty of space to run around and swim in and there are viewing points . This is a stunning sight-I have seen him/her once and I'll never forget it. He is a massive fellow about as big as a dog and will great you with a weird barking sound. No actually Iv'e seen it twice. You can view hish house-it is very big with some pools and voxes. Unfortunately one otter died and this one is getting on so he might not be here much longer.
Another otter rarely seen atr other zoos are the Canadian or North American Otters who's big enclosure and pool is right after the giant otter. You have access to their house-where they are usually cuddled together!
The otter most often seen in zoos is the Asian Short Clawed Otter who you have all almost always seen before. They are also the world's smallest otter-the Giant otter being the biggest! These chaps are very friendly and often run around their enclosure exploring, playing, having fun and greeting visitors while making a strange squeaking sound. They are great fun to watch and there are about 10 enclosures home to them here-all perfectly suited and larger than most zoos enclosures-one family had a massive enclosure with a stream running through it!
The final one is the European or British otters. Some of these are put back in the wild later. They are very shy and rarely seen-even here! . There's about 5 0r 6 lots here and most of them are further along in the park. There enclosures are once again spacious with big pools.
The centre also has an extremely large collection of owls. It has all five British species-Barn, Tawny , Long and Short-eared and Little. All have spacious and clean aviaries with lots of perches and trees.
One of my favourites is the spectacled owl-a smallish owl but one that is beautifully coloured with yellow faces these owls will capture you hearts.
Another old favourite is the gorgeous snowy owl -there are two here in a lovely themed aviary. I really like these chaps.
Before the polecats and pine martens on a separte trail are the two biggest owls in the centre -the Great Grey and Eagle Owls.
The Eagle Owls are stunning with loevly red eyes.
BuT The great Grey owls are even more spectaculuar-there colours although grey areput into strange patterns and look vibrant. Their eyes are huge and yellow and stare right at you while their heads turn from left to right. Amazing.
I cannot get across to you what a massive aviary these chaps have-they are huge with perches, next boxes, gravelled and grassed floor with pine trees.
Other owls are the Scops owls the smallest in the world-they are so cute!
As i said before the centre alos has some other British animals many of which have been rescued. The foxes are opposite the wildcats and although I have seen these chaps many times in the wild I still love to see them because well they are beautiful There enclosure is very large and well planted up.
The Scottish wildcat is in fast decline as they mix breed with domestic tabby cats. They do look like a wild tabby cat and are lovely beats and make a weird 'meowing' sound. I think there is one here and he has a good enclosure with a big tree climbing frame
I have never seen this chap but I have smelt him. For such a small mammal he is given a massive area which is heavily planted and superbly planted up so it looks just like his natural habitat.
The wild version of ferrets I can't help but love these guys. They have adorable red faces and are funnr running around . Here they even have a delicious looking white polecat. I always make time for these guys becuase there antics are hillarious. When asleep they all cuddle up together -a big aaahhh moment. Their enclosure is good with pleanty of toys and they also have a nice run to a smaller enclosure.
A permanent resident here this poor lass was shot and could not be returned to the wild. Her partner is also here so she is not lonely as she has a broken wing. You must look at this enclosure from a distance as she is extremely weary fo humans but her aviary is really good and is well equipped with toys.
These guys are in the shop in a big glass tank filled with corn. Its quite a good size for these and they enjoy running around and are good fun to watch while playing. They ahve very adorable faces and seeing them curled up in their beds is ...cute.
The badger enclosure is too deal with injured bagers however I have never seen them . If there are any they have a nice big wooded area with lost of tunnels to go through. Their sett is a nice big ouse full of straw and the entracne is a mock sett entrance.
Wheelchair access is mangeable as most paths are surfaced but there are a lot of hills so your carer must be strong.
I would recommend two hours for a visit but we always stay till late because this is when they feed them so you get good views of all of them.
Youc an adopt the animals for six months or one year at these prcies
Otters( All bar giant), owls, birds of prey, fox and wild cat, polecta and pine marten
Yearly adoption £50.00
6 months adoption £25.00
Yearly adoption £100.00
6 months adoption £50.00
Yearly adoption £30.00
6 month adoption £15.00
Yearly adoption £60.00
6 month adoption £30.00
You will get a certificate and photo of our animals ready for framing as well as factsheet on your animal, cra sticker and thank you plate on the encsoure on the enclosure where your animals lives. They can be used as a gift. You also get two annual newsletters. All money goes towards feeding ,c onservation and welfare.
Overall this is a super day out in a wonderful setting . All of the animals are well kept in massive enclosures and there is a suprisingly highr range of animals. The gift shop and cafe are well priced and the parkland and surrounding countryside are quite simply stunning. This is a great day out for all ages but is especially good for children. Just wish it'd stop raining though...
Thanks for reading
The Chestnut Centre is a wildlife sanctuary located in Derbyshire near Chapel en le Frith. I had seen the signs to this attraction many times on my regular visits to Castleton and I decided to pay it a visit one Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago.
The Chestnut Centre opened in 1984 and covers 50 acres of open land. Within this there are various woodland trails. As you follow the sign posted footpath trails through the woods and across the open grassland you are likely to see several Fallow Deer. There distinctive Deer with their tiny white spots roam freely around the park and can often be found in quite large groups. We saw three separate groups within quite a short space of time, the largest of which contained about twenty of them.
The Chestnut Centre takes its name from a large Horse Chestnut tree within the grounds that was planted in 1838 to commemorate the coronation of Queen Victoria. It is owned by the Heap family who also own he New Forest Wildlife Centre in the New Forest and the Battersea Park Children's Zoo in London.
This place is especially famous for its Otters and it actually has one of the largest collections of Otters in Europe. There are various different species of Otter here, including the only Giant Otter in captivity in the UK. These Otters are within enclosures in the park but these are not like the standard cages that you tend to find in zoos, they are actually quite spacious and contain areas of trees, bushes and shrubs where the animals can seek cover. Whilst some of the Otters have been born here, many others, especially the European Otters have been brought here from elsewhere, often from less desirable surroundings. Some of these animals are eventually released back into the wild.
In addition to the Otters there are also fifteen different species of Owl as well as other birds of prey like Buzzards. Other animals within the park include Pine Martins, Foxes and Scottish Wildcats.
The Chestnut Centre puts a huge emphasis on education and welcomes groups of school children throughout the week, when the staff are always on hand to answer any questions that might be thrown at them.
There is a large car park and a gift shop.
During Autumn and Winter it is open daily, except during January, when it is only open at weekends. During this period it is open between 10.30am and dusk.
During Spring and Summer it is open daily between 10.30am and 5.30pm.
The admission charges are:
Adults - £6.00 (9 Euros)
Children (aged 2 and 15 years) - £4.00 (6 Euros)
Family ticket - £18.00 (27 Euros)
A family ticket admits 2 adults and 2 children
Dogs are not allowed into the park, since some of the birds and animals roam freely. Guide dogs are however accepted. Due to the nature of the lay of the land this attraction is not particularly suitable for wheelchair users and prams. Wheelchairs are allowed into the park but there is a notice warning that carers of wheelchair bound visitors must ne fit and healthy.
The address is as follows:
Chestnut Centre Otter, Owl and Wildlife Park
Telephone - 01298 814099
Fax - 01298 816213
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
*** Our Special Offer ***
I have had a few holidays in the Peak District, but despite the Chestnut Centre being well advertised in the area, I was in no hurry to visit it. This is because when I had seen otters in captivity before, in various locations, they were only active briefly at feeding time and their enclosure stank of fish.
Then this summer Morrisons gave us some Buy One Get One Free vouchers for days out, as a reward for shopping there, so me and hubby decided we would use one at the Chestnut Centre. We were pleasantly surprised at the lovely time we had there.
*** The Estate and Wildlife ***
The Chestnut Centre is in an area of outstandingly beautiful countryside which is specially protected so that wild creatures and plants can live in safety. Sadly the picturesque hilly landscape that the centre encompasses makes it unsuitable for disabled people and children who need pushchairs, unless they have extremely strong carers with them.
It was named after a tree planted to commemorate Queen Victoria's Coronation, and was opened as a conservation centre in 1984.
As well as entertaining visitors it hopes to educate them about the wildlife we have in this part of the country, in order that they will want to do everything in their power to help conservation work too. There are plenty of information boards around the estate designed to interest youngsters as well as adults.
The centre is involved in captive breeding and re-introduction into the wild, and also help to rehabilitate injured wildlife.
The entrance is near the top of a hill. From there we strolled past the deer, with sheep grazing in the distance, down the path, passing Ford Hall which dates back to Tudor times, to the woods where the otters, birds of prey and other animals suitable to this environment live.
The many species of otter we saw on this cool October day, were all active. As well as running and swimming, I was impressed by the amount of different vocal sounds I heard from them.
Photographers, be warned, you are likely to end up with a lot of photos of otters' tails unless you are a lot quicker than me and the others trying to get pictures of the otters on the day I visited. Due to persistence, I did get the odd photo of a full otter though, and had a good laugh with others about how quick the otters moved when a camera was pointed at them. They didn't hide though, just had fun at the photographers' expense.
The many species of otters are the main attraction. The most active was the Giant Otter, an endangered native of South America. He seemed to love showing off his swimming and jumping skills to human visitors. He is intended to be part of their breeding programme, so I hope he has talents in this area as well. I didn't have a tape measure with me but think he was about 5 foot long.
We also saw many species of owls and deer, polecats, wild cats, pine martens and fox.
All the enclosures for the birds and animals we saw were clean and generously sized with seemingly contented inhabitants in them.
At the end of the day we went into the reception building in the car park, which has a gift shop and café, for a hot drink.
*** Wear Sensible Clothing ***
Visitors must be able to cope with walking up and down hills, on uneven paths. They should have sensible footwear for this. Otters live by water, so even in dry weather conditions the path may have slippery splashes from the streams and ponds on it.
Also be prepared for the weather conditions on top of the hills to be different from that in the valley. On the day we visited the hill tops were above the clouds holding in the warmth to the valley, and the temperature was 5C cooler.
*** How to Get There, Opening & Prices ***
It is about half way between Manchester and Sheffield at Chapel-en-le-Frith in the Peak District National Park.
From the A6 we saw plenty of brown tourist signs as we got near.
The Chestnut Centre is just off the A625 Castleton Road between Chapel-en-le-Frith and Mam Tor.
The number 200 bus from Chapel-en-le-Frith to Castleton runs nearby.
Spring and Summer opening times are daily from 10.30 am to 5.30 pm. It closes at dusk at other times, and in deep Winter is only open at weekends.
Chestnut Centre Otter, Owl and Wildlife Park
Derbyshire SK23 0QS
Tel: 01298 814099
Entry Fees (updated 7 May 2009)
Adults - £6.50
Children (between 2 and 15 years) - £4.50
Family (2 adults and 2 children) - £20.00
No dogs admitted, except guide dogs.
*** Other Centres ***
The Heap family who own this Peak District conservation centre, have another centre in the New Forest at Marchwood and also run Battersea Park Children's Zoo in London.
*** Recommendation ***
A good value for money and enjoyable day out, if the weather is good, for those who want to appreciate the wild life (especially otters and owls) and plants of this picturesque Peak District area.
You do have to be able to cope with a hilly walk.
Me and my fiancé Dave love to go on days out to places and because we have been saving money to buy stuff for our new house, we have not had the chance to do much for ages. Daves Mom and Dad are very into going out every weekend and they came back one Sunday saying they had been to this great otter sanctuary in some stunning grounds and we should go take a look. Dave got it in his head that he wanted it to go so Sunday just gone we decided we would have a day trip there and what a wonderful day it was even in the pouring down rain.
What is the Otter Sanctuary?
Te actual place is called the Chestnut Centre and it is an otter and owl sanctuary set in beautiful countryside in Derbyshire.
Chapel en le Frith
To get to it is very easy indeed as you can get the M6 motorway to stoke-on-Trent which is Junction 15 and then follow signs to Manchester, Stockport and then Buxton will begin to be signposted. When you are in Buxton you will see tourist signs to the Chestnut Centre. We found it easy to get there and that everything was clearly signposted from miles away and very regularly so you cant really get lost.
Adults - £6
Children 2-15 - £4
For the time you can spend at the sanctuary and for what you can see I think these prices are very fair indeed.
The parking area to be honest is quite small and we were actually lucky to get a space and this was on a rainy day. There is just space for about twenty cars at the actual sanctuary but we saw people parking on nearby roads and walking down to the area. There was a man standing in the parking area telling you where to go and as he is dressed in bright green you cant really miss him.
The toilets are situated just up a small hill on the right of the car park. There are only two womens toilets so be prepared to wait ladies. They are very clean though with basic facilities.
The gift shop is very small but there are a few things you can buy such as the usual otter cuddly toys and then lots of pencils, keyrings and other sorts ofstationary with the Chestnut Centre written on. My favourite thing though was that you could buy proper photos which you could put on the wall as art work at home. The prices of everything was very reasonable indeed.
Now usually when I walk into a café at a place like this you can just get sandwiches and then junk food. Here you walked in and it smelled strongly of Jacket potatoes which was nice. You can get the usual sandwiches but they do some proper meals but as we were not hungry we did not go in. the prices looked ok though with a jacket potato and cheese being a couple of pounds and there was plenty of seating within the café.
This is actually a 25acre park so as you can imagine it is absolutely beautiful. You walk in there and it is just so green and looks so beautiful and we went when it was pouring down with rain. The entrance to the park is at the gift shop and you will see gates that close automatically because of big rocks attached to them so that the animals cannot escape the park. As you walk into the park you can see that there area couple of paths you can take but either way will get you to see everything.
The thing I liked about walking around was that you go through open grass land and then through some woods to see all of the animals so it is really nice to take a picnic and I wish I had thought of this before we went. Throughout the park you will see directions on where to go and you will also notice that dotted around are benches and places you can have a sit and eat if you need to. There are bins around the park as well.
If you walk quickly around the park you can do it all in about half an hour. Although there are not any steps I would not say it is wheelchair and pram friendly at all which is a shame. The paths especially through the wood are up and down an very uneven so unfortunately I would not recommend it for those with prams, pushchairs or wheelchairs. This is my only gripe with the park but there reasoning is just to keep everywhere as natural looking as possible.
Ok now the reason you come to this park is to look at the animals and they do have some pretty nice ones here.
The otters are the main reason for visiting this park and they certainly do not disappoint. The have quite a few variations of otters such as short tailed ones and they are in lots of different enclosures throughout the park for you to look at. We were getting a bit worried at first as we came upon the first enclosure which had a female otter in and she was nowhere to be seen. We then traveled to the next ones and there was an inside room to look at and they were all in there fast asleep. I was saying to Dave that I think the otters should wake up and give me my moneys worth.
As we walked around though we saw many otters and they were just so lovely. They are obviously really used to humans because as soon as you stand by them they come up to the cages and start making noises at you which is so cute. I hate it that the otters are caged up but I cant really get across to you in a review how much space they do actually have. The good thing about the otters is that you will see lots of places to go and stand where you can see different views of where they are. I think with the amount of otters in the sanctuary you will see some out and about and it is quite nice to see them playing about and basically being naughty.
Owls are the next animal that this sanctuary specializes in and there are so many. They are not in just one specific place but as you walk around you will see them all about in their cages. Each owl has a huge cage and they are really nice. There are many variations so you can see snowy owls, barn owls and eagle owls and many more. They are quite friendly owls too so all of them were out and were easily visible. My favourite part was when a Mom asked her son why they were called snowy owls and he replied because they live in the snow and eat snow, bless!
There is a single polecat in the park and he has a great cage full of pipes and a huge run which leads to another little area for him. He was friendly and stayed out in the open which was nice.
Although I loved the otters I have to say that the red fox was my favourite animal I saw at the park because he was just so beautiful. I actually made Dave sit and wait for about fifteen minutes until I caught a glimpse of him but because it was raining he decided to keep himself indoors for most of the time.
The park boasts quite a large number of Fallow deer and they are literally in the main area so you could just stumble across them if you were lucky. As we were entering we didnt see them but as we were coming out we spotted them and there were about thirty there. It is a shame I cant show you all a photo as it was so amazing to just see this huge pack of deer right by us. Obviously though when I tried to get a little closer to take some good photos they heard me and ran off but hey, who can blame them?
For those of you who worry about caged animals as I do to, I will tell you that they all have extremely big enclosures and although it cannot mimic really what they would have in the wild, all of the animals do actually seem happy as you can see most of them playing about.
The Chestnut centre is wonderful and we had such a fantastic time there. The thing about places that keep animals is that you do worry about them being in cages but this place is one of the best for giving them big spaces and the animals seem to genuinely like humans coming forward to people when they are near.
My favourite part of the day was when we were at one otter place and there were six or seven huddling together and then pinching leaves from the plants and then rolling over, going for a swim and just playing together basically. They were so lovely and it was nice to see them as you dont usually see otters. All of the animals though were wonderful to look at and there are plenty to see.
In conclusion I am giving this park top marks because I think it is a fantastic time for all ages and I think everybody should enjoy it. You will get to see some truly amazing animals and see some beautiful surroundings and even better than that you have to walk around the park so you can get some exercise while you go. I think it is a great place and I would not hesitate in visiting again in the future.
Thanks for reading.
The Chestnut Centre otter and owl sanctuary has otters, owls, wild cats, foxes and other animals.