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Porfell Wildlife Park and Sanctuary (Cornwall)

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Address: Porfell / Trecangate / Lanreath / Liskeard / PL14 4RE / Tel: (01503) 220211

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      28.04.2011 13:24
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      Porfell Animal Land is a wildlife park and animal sanctuary a few miles beyond Liskeard in Cornwall. You take the A390 and turn off in East Taphouse, following the brown wildlife park signs. It's fairly well-signed, but it seems quite a way from the main road and as I drive there I always get worried I've missed it! The last section is a proper country lane with grass in the middle, so I really start to doubt myself then, but fortunately the large Porfell Animal Land sign comes into view just as I'm about to backtrack!

      It has a decent sized car-park: it wasn't a busy day for the park, and there was plenty of parking space. The kiosk/shop for entry is at the end. I took myself and three children on the most recent visit, which cost me £27. The park is in a rural semi-wooded setting, that is rather pretty.

      We took in a picnic as it was about lunch-time when we arrived. There is a small cafe in a converted barn that sells cream teas, sandwiches and pasties, and has some tables inside. The cafe has an old-fashioned cottagey feel: it isn't the smartest, but is clean and tidy. The prices are reasonable, not overly inflated like other parks. I bought a bottle of water for about a pound.

      If you bring your own food you can eat in the picnic area outside or in the barn if it's not such a nice day. There are a good number of picnic tables. The one we sat at felt a bit wobbly when I first sat down! All the while we sat, there were peacocks and peahens crossing the area, as well as chickens. At Porfell, you're allowed to feed some of the animals and can buy suitable feed for 50p a bag at the entrance and cafe. We'd bought some corn for the birds and some pellets for the four-legged beasties, so we tried out some of the corn on the wandering poultry to the children's delight. The peacocks were notably unimpressed, having haughtier things than food on their minds (or actually naughtier, given the rustling in the hedges), but the chickens seemed pleased.

      After eating our fill, the children went to play on the play equipment in the picnic area, which consists of a climbing hut with slide and swings. There is also a large animal puzzle on a board and a large wooden screen with a picture of kangaroos on it, that you can poke your head through for photo opportunities. These are in need of some fresh paint, but the children didn't care.

      I packed up and the receptionist was quite happy to let me go back to the car to dump everything heavy back in there, so we could start our tour properly.

      The map we were given on entry was a simple photocopied sheet, with the enclosures numbered and a key to explain which animals were where. It also had information about the day's talk, which was 'Encounters with Owls'. On the back of the sheet was a quiz as well. Although this wasn't as glossy or professional looking as the map we'd been given at Dartmoor Zoological Park recently, I felt it gave better value. The children were also given card passports for the new attraction of the Maasai village.

      We started to walk around the enclosures, firstly stopping at an aviary where two parrots were cuddled together. One was fast asleep with its head out of sight, which made the children laugh (somewhat morbidly) at the idea of a headless bird. Then it suddenly popped its head up, looking most offended, which made them laugh even harder. Each enclosure has a board with information about the animals on it.

      The marmosets and lemurs were very active and caused cries of "cuuuute!" We ended up going around in a circle, seeing the coati, raccoons and mongoose, some aviaries and then back through via the marmosets and lemurs again. Retracing our steps we found capybara and deer. The deer are very tame and used to being fed, so came right up to the wire and we could feed them pellets. This was possibly the highlight of the day: they were extraordinarily gentle with little fingers and made some amazing noises as they milled around.

      From here we walked down into a more wooded area, where we found the border hut for the African adventure part of the visit. There was no guard, presumably as it wasn't a very busy day, so we stamped our passports ourselves and headed through the gates. There is a zebra-striped jeep to get into, complete with kettles & pots on a wire inside, and we all climbed aboard and imagined jolting through the countryside. There was also a tent to go in, before continuing our way past a savage chipboard lion! There's a field of ostrich to the right and the recreation of a African farm to the left. There's also a 'hotel'. From there, we went to the Maasai village, past porcupines, and surrounded by a field of eland and zebra. The Maasai village has several huts, one recreating real living conditions and the others with information screens about African living and animals.

      When we had looked around, we took the woodland walk through 'bluebell woods'. This was very pretty and to keep the children's interest had clue points for the nature trail (on the back of the map): these were numbered boards along the paths, with information or animals under the flaps. The children had great fun competing to spot the next one first, and reading out what they found.

      Next stop was the children's farm, with guinea pigs, rabbits, a donkey and goats. It had some quiz boards with the answers under wooden flaps, which the children were enthusiastic about answering.

      We got back to the main yard just in time to catch the tail-end of the talk on owls, featuring a European Eagle owl named Bryer and barn owls. I don't think the owls were feeling very co-operative about flying, as Bryer is still being trained but it was fascinating. The woman giving the talk seemed knowledgeable and genuinely caring & enthusiastic about the birds and the park generally. As part of the encounter, the audience were able to stroke the owls at the end, which was great.

      After a brief visit to the small reptile house under the cafe, we decided we were nearly ready to go. We thought we would just feed what was left of the pellets to the deer again, so walked back through lemurland. Here we met a peacock in the middle of a display and evidently feeling fruity. It was an unfortunate place to meet the bird, as it was in fairly enclosed space between enclosures, and he wasn't giving way. When I walked past he got a bit shirty and looked like he was going to attack me! It gave the children a good laugh 'though to see me jump past! Presumably he'll be in a better mood out of breeding season.

      As is our wont, we finished the visit with an icecream and a look at the gift shop on the way out: the children picking out a small soft toy tortoise and two lemur-shaped grabbers as their treats, which came to about £8 (my usual £2 per child budget getting extended a tad). Souvenirs available included Porfell Animal Land fridge magnets and the usual sort of things.

      We came away having had a very nice time. The children were happy and engaged throughout, and I came away feeling we'd learned a bit about Africa, the animals at the park and British wildlife. The only complaint I really have is that there were some nettles along the side of some enclosures, which of course the guest child stung himself on (it's never your own when you take more children out!)


      *** Final Thoughts ***

      The Boy said "The best bit was feeding the deer! And the parrot that did a raspberry."
      The Girl said "I liked the coatis and raccoons best - oh, and feeding the sheep! It was funny when the peacock attacked you!"

      I think access for the disabled is reasonably good, with decent paths throughout Porfell Animal Land (although there are some inclines to tackle). The toilets are clean if in need of modernisation. Over all, the facilities at Porfell are basic rather than glossy & up-to-date, but the experience there is always pleasant. I think it's well-priced. I feel that with limited resources, the park gives the best value it possibly can.

      I don't think I'd spend a full day there, but it's a great trip for an afternoon or morning. I'd recommend a visit to anyone holidaying/living in the area, especially families with children who love animals.


      *** Anything else? (Final final thought!) ***

      Porfell is an animal sanctuary and takes in exotic species in need of rehoming: they never go out to acquire new animals, but look after unwanted animals from other zoos/animal parks and breeders. More information about the park is available on its website.



      *** Opening times & entry fees (from their website): ***

      Opening times:

      From the 12th - 27th February (half term holiday) After the 27th February we are only open on weekends until 1st April.

      From 1st April - 1st of November - open daily from 10am - 6pm.

      We are closed from the 1st of November until February half term.


      Admission:

      Adults: £9.00.
      Childen: £6.00 ( 3 -15 years old inclusive).
      Senior Citizens/Concessions/Carers: £7.50.

      Family ticket: 2 Adults and 2 Children: £27.
      Under 3's are Free.

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