Newest Review: ... there was also the option of an activity sheet for younger children. Having visited lots of times before we know our way around but ther... more
We're going to the zoo, zoo, zoo....
Marwell Wildlife Park (Winchester, Hants)
Member Name: Bunnyhop2
Marwell Wildlife Park (Winchester, Hants)
Advantages: A wide variety of animals
Disadvantages: Too many animals not in enclosures or out of sight
Before starting our family Marwell Wildlife near Winchester, Hampshire (formally known as Marwell Zoo) used to be somewhere we visited at least once a year. As it had been a few years since our last visit I was really looking forward to our first family trip there. We arranged to meet up with my sister, her husband and my nephew (12) and niece (8). The weather forecast was looking good for the Saturday in August we had chosen to go and so after lots of singing 'we're going to the zoo' to the twins and practicing animal noises we were ready to go.
On the Friday before we were going we booked our tickets at Marwell.org.uk. It is really easy to book your tickets online and you get a 5% discount.
When purchasing your tickets you have a choice of prices one with and one without a donation. If you pay the with donation price Marwell are able to claim gift aid if you are a UK taxpayer. As our twins are under 3 they were free so we just purchased 2 adult tickets with donation @ £18 each. My sister paid £60 for the 4 of them including a donation. A full list of entrance prices can be found on their website http://www.marwell.org.uk/planning_your_day/times_ prices.asp?css=1
Another advantage of booking online is you get to go through the fast track entrance avoiding any queues. We had to print the tickets off at home and just hand them in at the entrance, nice and simple and far better than queuing.
Marwell opens at 10am all year except Christmas day and we arranged to meet with my sister in the car park at half 10. We were travelling from different directions but both had good journeys and had no problems meeting in the large car park.
Once in the zoo
At the entrance we were given a map of the zoo, details of the talks happening at different animal enclosures and there was also the option of an activity sheet for younger children.
Having visited lots of times before we know our way around but there is a suggested route on the map provided if it is your first time. It suggests you allow 4 hours but I feel you would be rushing to cover the park in this time and want to take a break for lunch.
We always set off in a clockwise direction and the first enclosure we reach is the Penguins. These are one of my favourites and you are able to see them both above and below the water. Our twins enjoyed pointing to them through the glass and there was plenty of viewing room even though the park was busy. We quickly found that the girls couldn't see much from their pushchair so we had them out, one walking on reins and the other who has a delay with her walking was carried. The double pushchair was then put to good use carrying the picnics.
This was new since our last visit and is home to 3 Cheetahs, we managed to see one but it is a nice enclosure for them but quite steep to walk up with a pushchair. Opposite to this enclosure were the Flamingos who seemed to be lacking in numbers compared to previous visits. To make it appear as if there were more birds mirrors have been placed in the enclosure.
Heart of Africa
This is usually one of my favourite parts but we were all disappointed by the number of empty enclosures we walked past with no explanations as to where the animals were. After 15 minutes walking through the 'Heart of Africa' we still hadn't managed to find the Giraffes, on the way out there was a sign saying that if you hadn't seen them to try near the Cafe Graze. This was also new to us so we carried on hoping thst we would find them at some point.
We got to the Meerkats at 12pm which was when the talk was and the staff member doing the talk was great. She was very knowledgeable about them and introduced us to them all. My nephew really likes Meerkats and particularly enjoyed this.
Time for lunch
As we had bought a picnic we just did a quick toilet stop at the Cafe Graze on the way to finding a picnic spot. The toilets were clean and well stocked with toilet paper. The cafe itself appeared to have a good selection of food with hot mains, snacks and a kids menu. It also sells a good range of drinks. It was very busy and I was pleased we'd bought our picnic with us. On the way out we spotted the Giraffes way off down a field. I was disappointed that the girls didn't get to appreciate how tall they were as they were too far away.
All the picnic tables were busy but we had blankets and found a nice sheltered spot under trees next to the Tigers. We were probably being eyed up as lunch but we got to see a tiger close up which was nice after the previous disappointments.
Aridlands, Desert Carnivores, Przewaiski's horses, Zebra & Coati
After lunch we headed round the top of the park taking in the above. This also involves walking past a large children's adventure playground with lots for younger children to do.
Cold blooded corner and Encounter village
My nephew was keen to see the reptiles and as it was a hot day it was lovely and cool in here. The encounter village changed from being a farmyard into an Australian bush walk several years ago. This was a big improvement and we enjoyed walking through the Wallabies and birds. There is a Bush Tucker Bites eating area here and another children#s play area.
There is an island where the Macaque live, we saw a couple but were mainly inside as it was a hot afternoon. So yet more missing animals!
Getting into here with a double buggy was a bit of a challenge as it is a very steep slope, too steep to attempt with a wheelchair I would have thought. Some of the Lemurs were off being fed by a group who had paid for this. Did feel we had paid to see them too but it wasn't all of them as there is large collection of different Lemurs at Marwell.
Marwell Hall is located near here and is a Grade 1 listed building. It is available for corporate events and function, full details can be found on their website.
Time for ice cream
We reached an ice cream kiosk so decided to have a break, this turned out to be longer than we planned due to only one person serving on a busy afternoon. The ice cream was locally produced and lovely!
As it wasn't possible to take the double pushchair in here I waited outside, it is also very hot and I was quite warm enough. Tropical world is home to a wide range of plants, crocodiles and leaf cutter ants which are fascinating to watch.
Sadly they were in hiding when we were here so we didn't get to see them. I love seeing them so once again was disappointed and so quickly visited the Pygmy hippo and Anteaters on our way to the exit.
We didn't go on either but Marwell has both a road train which is free and railway train which you can ride on for a different view of the park for £2.
A must visit for myself and my niece, lots of lovely toy animals and gifts to choose from.
Would I recommend?
Yes but I didn't enjoy the visit as much as I have in the past and this view was shared by the other members of our group. Marwell has a wide range of animals but too many were 'missing' for the amount we had paid. Marwell is a lovely well kept wildlife park but I think we'll leave it a couple of years before visiting again and maybe go on a cooler day.
Summary: Disappointing visit to what was one of my favourite local attractions.