Newest Review: ... entrance to the park and any money made here also contributes to the running of the park. The park itself receives no funding from ou... more
A Nice Place...For The Animals
Mistley Place Park (Essex)
Member Name: kat1234
Mistley Place Park (Essex)
Advantages: Lots of animals, a working animal sanctuary
Disadvantages: little rundown and dirty, not a lot to do
We're always looking for different places to visit, especially relatively cheap ones so when a friend of mine questioned if I had ever visited Mistley Place Park I was intrigued to learn a little more about it. I was quite surprised that I was unaware of it's existence, being just down the road from us but was able to find out the necessary information and we decided that we would pay it a little visit.
LOCATION AND ADMISSION
The park is located in Mistley, which is just outside Colchester in Essex. It is easy to find using a sat nav but is not incredibly well signposted and the entrance features a rather abrupt turn after the sign post, so be cautious!
The park is open every day (except Monday) from 10am until 5pm. It is open on Bank Holiday Mondays from 10am until 5.30pm. These times change during the winter months due to the change in daylight hours so it is worth checking before visiting. Children under 3 can enter the park for free, children up to 16 are £3, adults £4 and senior citizens £3.50. Entry fee is either taken at the kiosk at the entrance to the park or in the adjacent coffee shop.
The park is essentially an animal rescue centre - providing a sanctuary for abandoned animals whilst also looking to re-home them where possible. The park is set in 25 acres of natural parkland. The park is made up of mainly fields but there is also a woodland and lake area. At the front of the park there are various hutches and cages
There is a small car park which can fit a fair number of cars in (I should imagine there is always ample parking) and here there is also a tearoom. The tearoom can be visited without entrance to the park and any money made here also contributes to the running of the park. The park itself receives no funding from outside organisations and is totally reliant on the income from the tearoom, park and donations.
The animals homed in the park are subject to change at any time, depending on what has been taken in. There can be up to 2000 animal homed at any one time but when I visited, I would estimate that figure to be much less - around 500-600 - but still a lot to see.
Animals that were there when we visited included pigs, goats, dogs, ponies, peacocks, chickens, guinea pigs, ducks and rabbits. Some of these are kept in cages and some are allowed to roam free.
When we first arrived at the park, we did not really know what we needed to do to gain entry. There was no signpost nor admission schedule and nobody was manning the kiosk. I should not think that this would be an issue if you visited in the peak summer season, but it was a little unwelcoming and off-putting on first arrival. After asking and paying at the tea room we were given an orange sticker with the date written on to wear to show that we had paid, but nobody really seemed to check this.
There were a good variety of animals to see and all seemed very happy. A lot were able to roam freely and often followed at your feet. I should imagine that this is an experience that many young children would love as they are able to get up close to so many animals. However, this was not so ideal for us with a pushchair and relatively young child. The park in general is not particularly pushchair friendly and we would definitely only visit again once we have fully walking children!
The dogs were also let out and about to exercise which meant that the main field was shut off to visitors for 40-50 minutes. You could stand and watch the dogs or visit other areas of the park in the mean time but, as the main field leads to a lot of the other animals, this meant we were walking around the parts that we had already seen.
The cages where the birds were kept looked pretty old and past their best but, that said, the birds that were in them seemed happy and were lovely to see. The whole area in general was pretty run down and in obvious need of further funding to get the place into a better condition - there were several broken fences around the park.
One area we did really enjoy was the walk around the lake. Yes it was muddy but more than easy to negotiate the path with a pushchair. There were lots of ducks on the lake that we enjoyed feeding with some bread that we had bought. Our visit lasted about 90 minutes, and this included an ice lolly from the tea rooms. I would struggle to spend any longer looking around as there is only so much to see - it is definitely a morning or afternoon trip rather than a full day.
The park is very obviously a working animal sanctuary first and foremost and, as such, things that you generally associate with visitor attractions are not apparent. For example, there are no obvious toilets (presumably these are located in the tea rooms - we did not visit them) and the park is absolutely littered with feathers and animal faeces. This is fine as it is, after all, an animal sanctuary but worth noting if you intend to visit with young (and curious!) children. We felt a little like we were in the way at times and that, if the sanctuary could afford to run without the funds bought in by visitors, there would be no hesitation in shutting the doors for good. I fully appreciate the job this does as an animal sanctuary but also believe that if you are going to open to the public as an attraction and charge an entrance fee, a certain amount of thought should be given to visitor-friendliness. For example, it would not cost much to put a few activities in for the children like simple signposts with information or a 'can you spot the....' activity.
That said, the experience of getting so close to animals is not something that you can get just anywhere and we saw a lot of happy young children during our visit. The good work done at the sanctuary is there for all to see when you realise just how many animals it looks after and how happy they are (particularly the dogs). With that in mind, I do not mind paying the entrance fee of £4 per adult. Had this not been going towards such a good cause, however, I would question whether I really got value for money as I do not believe there to be enough to see and do to warrant this price.
In summary, the work that this sanctuary does is amazing. As a visitor attraction it is not. I would look to support the sanctuary by visiting the tea room (the prices are very reasonable) or looking into making a donation rather than visit here again. It does really depend on what you look for in a trip out and personal taste and expectation. If I didn't have children, I probably wouldn't have been so worried by the uneven ground/litter/faeces, so I can appreciate that other people may enjoy it here more than we did.
Summary: A good sanctuary for animals but not a good day out
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