I am 50+ and can honestly say we were by far the minority. Before anyone screams ageism. Lets say it is no fun being run down by very senior citizens in electric wheel chairs as they race for breakfast or dinner.
The whole site seems to be a Mecca for the very elderly, there is nothing wrong with that, but Warner's do not show this type of clientèle in there brochures. The brochures show young vibrant 50 some-things having a good time.
In reality, they couldn't be any further from the truth.
As for the rooms, we stayed in the original building, we paid a lot for this experience, was it worth it? No, the rooms smelt musty, they were dusty, very much so under the bed and the wardrobe, the windows were filthy on the outside.
In whole it all seemed tired and past it, a bit like most of the people who were staying there.
Food was ok, nothing special, drinks pricey as with the midday lunch and day trips.
There is no animal wild life park, that closed a couple of years ago, we were told it was to expensive to run so the gave the animals away to various zoo's up and down the country.
Swimming pool area was dirty as with changing rooms.
Gardens looked awful and one of the building was cordoned off due to bits falling off and roof caving in, this was a shambles.
Just seems that Warner's want to screw every penny out of you during your stay. We did not experience value for money.
They play the part very well of staying in historic hotels, to make you feel that you want to be part of the history, truth is you don't, you are just a paying cash cow guest.
Would not recommend, for the cost of this 3 day break, we could of gone abroad for nearly two weeks in a four star all inclusive hotel with flights.
I did originally give two stars but after thinking about it, considering the price paid for this break, the state of the room etc, I dropped it to one.
When Warner Holidays bought Cricket St Thomas they scrapped the bright and spongy Mr Blobby fixtures and opened a hotel. Last year they announced they were to scrap the much loved Wildlife Park after thirty years, turning the attraction into a 'Lakes & Gardens' destination with an 'Adults Only' hotel. I'm guessing the owners hate kids, as my visit earlier this month was as far away from Blobbyland as physically possible.
My 2009 visit was immensely fun. A friend and I saw all the animals and cooed over them like we were six, ate a picnic lunch and generally had a good time.
My 2010 visit was totally the opposite. OK, it was dreary weather and it rained a few times, but I'm not attributing my bad experience to that alone. I arrived to a near empty car park and followed a family in, who were asked by the shy staff at the entrance whether they knew 'we aren't a wildlife park anymore', despite the obvious road signs displaying the opposite. The family were surprised but still went in. I saw them later, the two children looking incredibly bored.
The attractions at Cricket are only really interesting on a National Trust/Kew Gardens level, ie, mainly for older visitors. Children can climb into the Holey Tree and ride the (now free) train, but with the empty, silent fields, there is little to look at. Even some of the enclosures and fences remain, like something after a nuclear holocaust. The only animals still there are lemurs and meerkats, the latter I had watched running around in '09, now shivering in the rain looking lonely. It was a sad and sorry sight.
The shops and food outlets at Cricket have been emthasized for its 'restoration' (of what, I can't make out) relaunch, but being so poncy expensive, it hardly seems an attractive place to visit.
The hotel guests were the only ones who seemed to be enjoying themselves, playing bowls on the lawn. Really I think the park should be an exclusive place for hotel visitors, as the public part feels like Warner Holidays feel obliged to run the park. Thinking of what a 'wild' place it had once been marketed as, my visit left me cold and nostalgic.
In conclusion, I can only tell you DO NOT take your kids to Cricket St Thomas. It is a dull place for children, expensive and far away from many other attractions, so you'll feel cheated out of a day out. I can only point you to Longleat, a similar yet warmer place where you can see lions and have far much more fun.
This is no longer truly a wildlife park and it has, in fact been devastated over the past winter and spring. While prices are reduced the relative value is much reduced. Most large animals are gone, the few flamingos left are confined within a small fenced off area, Lemur Wood remains and the train track has been improved but a ride on the train is soul destroying to anyone who knew it in 2009. On August 1st 2010 there were no more than a dozen or so cars in the Car Park which used to be packed. Dogs are now welcome at £1 each but they are better off outside the park. The Black Swan pub and the snack bars are gone only to be reduced by a far more expensive Italian Restaurant. The new look park gets one star from me for the train and Lemur Wood. My best advice is to avoid the place at all costs.
Towards the end of the summer holidays we were running out of things to do and getting slightly desperate, so we decided on a day trip to Cricket St Thomas Wildlife Park which is located near Chard in Somerset. We have visited the park before, about six years ago, and from memory I think that I was a little unimpressed but we thought that we would give it a second chance. I unfortunately doubt I will be giving it a third chance.
~*~ Location ~*~
Cricket St Thomas Wildlife Park is located on the A30, three miles away from Chard. It is signposted from the M5 and also the A303, so it is fairly easy to find. A large sign on the roadside indicates when you have arrived, and you have to drive down a long driveway to get to the car park. There is plenty of space to park free of charge. TA20 4DB for your Sat Nav.
~*~ Entry prices and opening times ~*~
During the peak season adults are charged £8.75, Senior citizens cost £7.50 and children are £6.50. It is possible to get a family ticket for £27.50 which admits two adults and three children. Costs are reduced during low season and in the winter, and it is also possible to max up Clubcard vouchers to gain entry which is probably the most effective way of accessing the park.
The park opens at 10am, and the last entry is at 4pm in the summer (closing at 6pm) and 3pm in the winter (closing at 4.30pm). It is open every day except for Christmas day.
~*~ The park ~*~
The park is spread over a massive area, so be prepared to walk a long way. It is fairly hilly, and there are a lot of steps, but we saw plenty of people with wheelchairs and pushchairs as alternative flatter routes are offered in most places. It is very picturesque, and man made features like waterfalls, tunnels and sculptures add to the beauty. As everything is outside, I would not recommend going here when it is raining.
When we bought our entry tickets, we were also asked if we wanted to buy train tickets - these cost £1 per person, and are one way; the park is laid out in a large circle, and idea is that you walk along one side then catch the train down the other, the train leaves every half an hour, and by lunchtime, it was quite busy and people were jostling for a place - if you don't buy your ticket on entry, but do decide to take the train, it is possible to buy tickets from a vending machine at the "station" (£1 coin required)
There are toilets spread out throughout the park, but there are only one or two cubicles in each place so bring on the cross legged queues! Whilst they were all clean, they all seemed a bit shabby and could have done with a lick of paint. I wasn't looking out for baby changing areas, but looking back, I do not remember there being any.
~*~ The animals ~*~
There are apparently 34 types of mammal, 21 varieties of birds, and three types of reptiles at the park, and whilst this may sound a lot, it didn't feel as though there was that much there. There is often only one or two of the species, and as with a lot of wildlife parks, they were often not visible. It is possible to get quite close to some of the animals, but a lot of them were quite far away from the pathway which makes visibility virtually impossible. The main exception is Lemur Wood, which you walk through and the Lemurs roam freely - if you are lucky, they come very close as they are very tame, but sometimes they sit in their house, making it difficult to see them. I thought that the viewing areas could have been bigger, and I'm sure that if it was really busy, we would have seen even less.
The enclosures were generally of a decent size, but even so, the animals did not seem to be thriving and a lot of them didn't move for several hours (we know this as we went round twice - I'll explain later!) even though it was not a particularly hot day. The enclosures were clean and well maintained, but there did not appear as though there was anything in them to keep the animals entertained - I am not expecting to find Wii's or televisions, but I'm sure that a few more climbing frames and scratching posts wouldn't go amiss!
One area that did distress me was the breeding area where the eggs are hatched that have been laid by the birds in the park. This is in a dark any dusty concrete barn, and in the corner there was a very large rabbit. Being a rabbit owner myself, I am aware that they need a lot of space, especially one of this size, but his enclosure was only a few square meters and there was barely any natural light. I looked for a keeper to question his surroundings, but I couldn't find anyone...which brings me onto my next point.
~*~ Where have all the staff gone? ~*~
During our time here, considering the size of the park, we were surprised that we hardly came across any staff. There were two on the entry desk, who also ran the shop, one train driver, one person in the shop in the centre of the park and two people serving in the foodhall. We did not go into the Black Swan pub, but considering the queue, I can only guess that staff were also sparse here. I know that times are hard, and companies are trying to keep all costs down, but when a lack of staff affects the quality of the service, its time to employ more.....
~*~ Lunchtime! ~*~
You are more than welcome to bring your own picnic to the park, and there are plenty of areas to eat it - both undercover and out on the grass, but as I can never be bothered to pack a picnic, we decided in the morning that we would eat in the park. At lunchtime we found ourselves in the foodhall so we found a table and joined the queue. There were only two people in front of me, but twenty minutes later, we were still standing in the queue due to a severe lack of staff: I felt desperately sorry for the young girls who were doing their best cooking and serving, but as the queue grew behind me they were getting increasingly exasperated: as were the people in the queue.
The only food on offer here were over priced crisps and cakes, chips (£1.50) and pasties/ sausage rolls (£1.95). The chips were nice enough, and you got plenty of them, but more choice here would have been welcome.
You could also get traditional food in the pub in the centre of the park, but as I said, it was very busy and all of the seats were full but the food that did come out looked nice.
There was also a small tearoom, but as the decking outside was in the process of being painted (just an open paint tin, and a wet paint sign present; no painter!) we gave it a wide birth, muttering something about it being a daft time of year/day to carry out such a task!
~*~ So, did we have a nice day? ~*~
We had an OK day, and that is probably being generous! We kept checking our map to make sure that we hadn't missed anything because we had walked all of the way round in an hour, and used our train tickets for the five minute train ride (I feel strongly that the cost of the this could have been absorbed into the entrance price). We stopped for lunch, and then walked around a second time to try to get full value for money and we managed to stretch our visit out for three and a half hours - I have been known to spend longer in Ikea and not charged £27.50 for the privilege!
There are a couple of small play areas but our children have outgrown them (aged 10 and 7) so apart from walking, there really wasn't that much to entertain them. The park is pleasant, but I do not feel that the entry price is completely justified, and I don't think that it is good value for money at all. I doubt that I will be going back but if you are stuck with a spare afternoon, use your Clubcard vouchers to gain entry as it is a pleasant walk if nothing else.
Once we made it through the overpriced shop full of tacky zoo goods, leaving the park took almost as much time as our visit! The exit road was miles long, and we felt as though we were never going to get to the end, so don't go here if you are running short of petrol! I really hope that this place survives the recession, as it is a useful tourist draw for the surrounding towns, but unless it pulls its socks up, it may well be doomed.
We took advantage of the Tescos clubcard deals offer a few months ago and exchanged £5 worth of clubcard vouchers for £20 worth of vouchers to use at Cricket St Thomas wildlife park. We finally got round to using them yesterday, myself and my partner took my niece for the day.
We arrived at about 11am, the park was fairly easy to find and although our sat nav told us we had reached our destination, it was obvious we hadn't however we just carried on through Cricket St Thomas for a couple of minutes and soon found the park which was very easy to see from the main road. When you get there you go down a private road through a vast amount of land until you reach the carpark. This is fairly large with room for a number of cars and you pick where you wish to park yourself, you have a choice of either parking on gravel or grass. The car park is right next to the park entrance itself and this is easy to locate.
You enter the park through one half of the gift shop. When we arrived there wasn't anybody else waiting and we were seen to very quickly. The woman took our deals tokens and deducted it from the total and then offered us to buy train tickets alongside our normal entry passes. My niece decided it would be a good idea to go on the train so we bought these too which were reasonably priced at £1 each. You are also given a map of the park which shows where everything is and also gives suggested routes and a printout of what is happening today eg. keeper talks.
The first things we saw were the reindeers who had a nice large enclosure and looked very happy. Every child seemed to be amazed by these and quite a few, including my niece were questioning whether or not they belonged to Santa! Next to the reindeer enclosure there is a pathway leading up to the avaries and down the bottom there is a small childrens playpark and a cafe. In the cafe they had a deal where if you buy a meal you get a free Cricket St Thomas teddy which was a good offer or the chance to have your photo taken and enhanced in with a picture of an animal eg.have you sat next to a tiger! I think this was £10 per picture.
Next we saw the camels, although to begin with we could only see one, she was right up next to the glass and we had a really good look at her. However, after leaving the viewing point you could see a lot more in the field and there must have been around 5 or 6 in total. They were great to see and very entertaining. Their enclosure was of a very large size and they had plenty of room to roam. Next to the camels were the Emu's who provided great entertainment for some time. Because there were a number of viewing points it meant that aslong as you looked hard enough you could get a good view of them. Luckily, on our visit they were right next to the fence and my niece had a fantastic time watching them try to eat the fence!
We then cut across the grass because my niece wanted to go on a blow up activity centre. This cost £1 but they were given a good amount of time on it, around 10 minutes. We then saw the hawk show which was very interesting as the keeper gave a long talk about them and it allowed us to see one up close. This talk happens 2 or 3 times throughout the day so it is easy to see it.
We then progressed on with the pathway and saw the Hunting Dogs. These were asleep down the bottom of the enclosure but we still got a fairly good look at them. Next to these were the Meerkats which of course provided light hearted relief for everyone! I was suprised to see how big their enclosure was as it was around double the size of any I had seen before.
Next to this was a field which contained orstich, zebras and tapirs. We couldn't see the tapirs but got a good view of the ostrich and zebras. Opposite this there is a small house containing the marmosets. Although the marmosets are small you can get a good view of them due to a number of viewing windows.
Opposite this is a large enclosure which houses a cheetah, rhea and lechwe. We couldn't see the other animals but we could see the cheetah well which was good to see, we could also hear it calling which was a great experience. Later when we walked back past two people we actually feeding it through the fence which was good to see up close.
There is then a courtyard which contains a pub, gift shop and indoor play area. The indoor play area was quite small but my niece enjoyed it. There is also a small arcade area with a pool table and shooting games (obviously for the daddys whilst the kids are playing!). There is also an ice cream place which serves very nice ice cream! The courtyard also contains the parrots and mongooses.
Continuing on there is another play area and a monkey island. The monkeys although far away were easy to see. There is also a train station here (next to the flamingos) which can take you to the other side of the park. Please note the tickets are one way only. Next to the flamingos are the wallabies and more Rhea.
You then cross the lake and can walk through the goats which my niece enjoyed tremendously! On this side you can also see members of the deer family. You then come to my personal favourite part of the day which was the Amur Leopards. We first could just see the one which was led in prime position on the platform but then walking further down the enclosure we saw that one was led on a log right next to the fence. She was great to watch and my niece soon realised that whenever she said 'silly' the leopard would turn her head! The other train station is located near here.
You can then see the Coatis and swans. There is a coffee bar which overlooks the lake and you are then back near the reindeer at the beginning! The gift shop, although quite small contains a lot of things all at varying prices eg. a small teddy was around £4.99, a pencil 99p, a small notebook 99p and sand animals between £1.99 and £2.99.
Admission prices for 2009 vary due to whether or not you are visiting in peak times, you can find this information out on the website. Currently prices are:
Family (2 adults+3 children):£27.50
The park is currently open from 10am until 6pm.
We had a nice day out at Cricket St. Thomas, although it is quite small and there are not a lot of different species of animals here it is a good day out and well worth the money. The keeper talks are interesting so do look out for those and we found all staff to be polite, helpful and keen to answer any questions you may have. We spent around 4 hours at Cricket St. Thomas and did everything that was there so you can expect to spend half a day there unless you want to spend time having a picnic and having a second look around. We found the park didn't get particularly busy and we were never having to wait to have a look at things which probably cut the visiting time down dramatically. I was really impressed with all of the animals enclosure sizes and didn't feel that any may have been unhappy there. Overall, I believed it to be a very good day out with quite a bit to do, we will be going back next year!
For more information please visit http://www.wild.org.uk/
A great day out for all the family.Not too far from where I live,so it is not so far for me to go.But even if you do live miles away,it is well worth the trip.It is not overpriced like alot of wildlife parks.But then it is not overly big either.So don't expect a massive park.
Still plenty to do though and I have visited here more then 10 times over the last couple of years.They have a nice eating area before entering the area where the monkeys are.It is an open walk through the monkey enclosure,so you get to stand close to them and get a good look.The children will love it.
The walks are really nice and there is a train ride too that will take you all around the park.Pic nic areas are nice.
The downfall to this site is that there are not massive amounts of animals on the park,but then for what you pay,it is worth the visit.
My wildlife-worshipping son opted for a day at Cricket St Thomas Wildlife park for his 9th birthday, in July this year. It was our 3rd visit, so we knew what to expect. Cricket St Thomas is near Chard and not particularly convenient to get to by public transport (not recommended), but was a pleasant hour's car journey for us, traveling from Exeter.
As I am not keen on the ball pool and screaming variety of children's entertainment, I feel very lucky to have a child who feels the same way. At Cricket St Thomas the emphasis is on the animals, in a lush green setting, and not on all singing all dancing entertainment. An added advantage is that currently the Park accepts Tesco Deals vouchers (although the £1 each fare for the miniature train has to be paid in cash). Peak prices are £8.75 for adults and £6.50 for children this year, but this drops outside school holidays. Using Tesco points made this a bargain day out!
The Park is set out in such a way that a circular route can be taken through it, it doesn't matter which way you head once you get there. We tend to set off in the direction of the Lemur Wood, but not enter it (wanting to save the best for last) - instead we look at the caged animals nearby and then catch the miniature train to the other end of the Park. On the train there is a voice over tape providing information on the animals that can be seen in the fields around the river, including deer and wallabys.
Once at Flamingo Junction, it is a short walk to the Black Swan pub, an ideal place to stop for either a picnic or a meal, whilst entertained by the prairie dogs and monkeys nearby. (This is one of the things I really like about this Park, it has a proper pub, the sort of place you might go for lunch if you were in the 'real world'. Why do most theme parks assume that completely normal people suddenly want to sit on plastic chairs in a noisy canteen just because they are visiting a park with children? Maybe it is just me, but I don't like the Macdonalds style of catering!)
After lunch, there is a gentle walk back to where you started, taking in the grounds of the adjacent hotel, as well as animals such as camels, ostriches, more monkeys and a leopard. I'm not giving too much info on all the animals, mostly as I don't want to spoil it for those who like to be surprised! For those who don't, there is lots more informaton on the website: www.cstwp.co.uk
Finally, the jewel in the crown, at least for us - the lemurs. Cricket St Thomas has four different types of lemurs, in a wood dedicated to them. The ring tailed are by far the friendliest, with the others being harder (sometimes impossible) to spot. On our first visit we crept reverently into the wood (it is enclosed) , whispering to each other our hopes of glimpsing a lemur. We were then confronted by a family of ring tailed lemurs who leapt from the trees and cavorted on the railings next to us, unashamedly posing for photographs! They are clearly not worried by their human visitors, however signs outside the wood warn that lemurs have no defense against human illnesses and could die if they pick up our germs. Signs inside warn visitors not to touch or feed them. Sadly, we saw several people ignoring this, which really upset my sensitive son as he became very worried for their safety! To be fair, it was difficult to avoid being touched by the ring tailed lemurs, and took enormous restraint not to grab one and cuddle it (they are so adorable looking!) but if they are really at risk perhaps the area should be attended by staff.
We consoled ourselves later in the shop, with the purchase of one of a wide range of good quality cuddly lemurs.
The lemurs and several other animals have feeding times and talks, and there are guided tours of the park on offer too. This is a place you can spend several hours very easily and I would recommend it to anyone who would appreciate the animals in a relaxed setting and doesn't need to be entertained by bells and whistles.
It was my husband and my wedding anniversary in March and this year he surpassed himself, not only did he remember but he booked a few days off! Determined not to waste any of the time I began trawling the internet for things to do. My son is a huge animal fan, so wildife parks were my first choice, we do have a local zoo of which we are members but we wanted somewhere little different, among my options was Cricket St Thomas, it was the closest to us but the prices seemed reasonable so thats where I choose to go.
A little history-
The park is part of the Cricket St Thomas Estate and was built in 1967. Formally owned by the Taylor Family the manor house is now owned by Warner Holidays and is a hotel, it was the setting for 70's sitcom "To the manor born" it is set in the valley in Purlington Brook and the estate is first recorded in 1086 in the Doomsday book. The estate was once owned by Francis James Fry the chocolate manufacturer.
There is a short drive from the entrance of the estate, where you will pass the Przewalski horse enclosure(an endangered species of wild horse) to the visitor entrance to the park. Out front is a small car park which is free to use.
The visitor entrance consists mainly of a gift shop and counter for you to purchase your tickets. You enter the park via a door opposite to the one in which you entered the visitor entrance. You are taken straight into the park and its enclosures.
First up is a nature conservation area, Tamarins, Macaques and a childrens farm which includes Reindeer. There is no set route around the park and are several directions to choose from, there are maps dotted around the park but they seemed quite far in between so it is handy to pick up the guide book from the visitor entrance(£1.95)
The guidebook itself includes a map, lots of info on the individual animals, games and puzzles as well as info on the parks conservation and history. It is a good souvenir to be able to take home and the price is very reasonable.
There are several places to eat or shop within the park but many of these are seasonal opening. The visitor entrance gift shop and Black Swan family pub are the only venues to open all year. The courtyard gift shop, kenco coffee house, courtyard jacket potato house and walkway snack kiosk only open during peak season. The Black swan pub offers traditional pub food and drink(£1.80 for a cola and 60p for a bag of crisps) while the visitor entrance gift shop sells the traditional gift shop souvenirs- keyrings, tea towels, guide books, pencils, rulers, ceramics, toys, sweets, cameras, batterys, umbrellas.................naturally the prices are a little high with a simple cotton tea towel costing £3.99 and a childs umbrella setting you back £5.99.
There is a miniture railway that runs around the park taking visitors through enclosures, allowing them to see the animals alot closer up.
Animals in the park include-
African hunting dogs
.................. .....and many more
as well as all these animals there are breeding aviarys, a selection of bird life and endangered reptiles including the Leopard Tortoise.
Of course I cannot forget the ever popular Lemur Wood, which comes with guided tour and talks. The Lemur Wood is home to 4 endangered species of lemur. It attracts large quantities of visitors every year and is the parks most popular attraction. The wood allows the animals to behave as they would in their natural habitat, not only roaming the forest floor but climbing high in the trees canopy.
The grounds itself is stunning with lakes, small waterfalls and spawling green land dotted with an occasional statue. All the enclosures have plaques detailing the animal within and giving lots of info.
For those travelling with children there are several play areas(one indoor) toilets and baby changing facilities(only at the courtyard toilets) viewing platforms, places to sit and rest as well as a first aid post and even a craft shop.
Positives and Negatives-
Well there are the obvious positive points, the park is part of a long running conservation project, you get to see and help protect some highly endangered species of animal, it can be a great learning experience. It is also in beautiful surroundings and is wonderful on a warm day. Less obvious ones inlude the fact that they accept credit cards and offer cash back(this saves you driving to the nearest town after realising you've forgot to take money with you) The gift shop is equiped with appropriate wet weather and warm weather gear.
Negative points include the fact that the terrain is varied, there are very steep inclines making it difficult for pushchair, prams and wheel chairs as well as the elderly and infirm. The ground changes from flat asphalt to gravel and wood making it tricky to push buggys etc over. In bad weather there is limited protection from then rain, the ground also becomes quite slippy. Some areas are closed off by large gates, while you are allowed through the gates they can be quite heavy and large, again making it difficult for pushchairs and wheelchairs.
The park is open everyday throughout the year excluding christmas day.
The prices vary depending on the time of the year. Below shows the prices for Peak season, off season and winter-
Adults £8:75, £7:75, £6:00
Kids 3 to 14 years £6:50, £5:50, £4:25
Kids 2 and Under FREE
Senior Citizens £7:50, £6:50, £5:00
Family Ticket,(2 Adults & 3 Kids) £27.50, £25:00, £20:00
The park opens at 10 and closes at 6, in winter it closes at 4.30 with last entry at 4 o'clock.
If you are not simply happy touring the park you are also able to hold your wedding or conferences in the Cricket St Thomas Hotel. There is a leisure club and beauty salon also within the Hotel. For more info on the hotel and its facilites you can contact them on 01460 301 11
School trips can be arranged by contacting the park which has created a key stage 1&2 pack which is suitable for use while visiting the park
Animals adoptions/sponsorship is available and you can also be a zoo keeper for the day at the cost of £120 per person. More details are available from the park or its website.
You can find the parks website at http://www.cstwp.co.uk.
You can find info on the park and its animals via the site, it has pages about it conservation work, latest news and even a basic map. The prices, season times, directions and even a weather forecast are all accessable on the site. It is quite easy to navigate by using the bar at the top of the page however you always need to select "back" on your browser to return to the home page. There are lots of pictures of the parks inhabitants on the site and it is quite pleasant in overall look.
How to get there-
Probably the best way to get there is by using the M5, get off at junction 25(near Taunton) heading east towards Chard from there it is quite easy to find as it is sign posted. However the parks website does have a link to an excellent map system to help you find your way from wherever you are. We used this and had very few problems getting there(any probelms were caused by my other half taking wrong turns depite having the right direction written down!) There is a train station in the local village/town of Crewkerne but it is probably too far from the park to make it worth while.
We visited the park in march and unfortunately didnt have the best weather. The lady working at the visitors entrance was very friendly although did tell us we were completely mad for going out on such a bad day, this we already knew but having travelled from Bristol we werent about to be beaten by bad weather. Naturally as the weather was bad alot of the animals were in their shelters.
Unfortunatley as we went in whats classed as the winter season most of the eating areas were closed and the railway was out of operation due to a techinical fault. We avoided the lemur wood, not wanting to try and navigate it wih our buggies. We also, fortunately, had no need to try out the first aid post but im sure it's well equiped and the staff well trained.
We battled our way through the wind and rain to the far side of the park and, after seeing very few animals, decided to take shelter in the Black Swan pub, again the staff were very friendly, not surprising as we were the only people they'd seen all day. The pub itself was nice, it was very traditional in feel with a stone fireplace which, unfortunately for us, had a display of flowers in it, there was a small tv in the corner playing music videos. Once we felt a bit braver we left the pub and carried on with our adventure.
Both my husband and I were pushing a buggy and found it very difficult to access some areas of the park, especially as the rain had made the ground slightly treacherous in places. We fought our way back across the park this time spotting a few animals, most noticably the African Hunting dogs and Amur Leopard. These 2 encounters made the whole day worth it, I could forget how cold and damp I was as i'd got to see these animals.
My 2 year old son had a wonderful time(of course he did, he was pushed around in his buggy under blankets and a brolly!) he was delighted at having seen a different variety of animals to those we see at Bristol Zoo, he loved the flamingo and the zebra but the leopard was a clear favourite all round. Despite all the rain and wind we had a good day out and once we were back home could recall seeing more animals than we'd realised while there.
This is a lovely park to visit, I would recommend waiting until Off and Peak seasons rather than visiting in the Winter season. While the prices are higher there is also more to do. I wouldnt really recommend it to people with babies, young children, elderly or disabled, some of the areas were difficult for me to manage and im a perfectly able 26 year old. The benefits of the rare animals do not out weigh how exhausted they would get and most parents will know how horrible tired children can be or worse tired grumpy daddies taking it out on their children. It is a nice family day out if you've got the time to spend touring the park(3-5 hours is recomeneded) as well as the stamina. I know it sounds like i've pointed out alot of bad points but it really is a lovely park and is worth the effort, just be prepared to feel the burn!
I am leaving my original review here, as a reminder of what WAS at Cricket St Thomas.
Sadly Warners hotel group have now got rid of the animals, and it is now a "Lakes and Gardens Hotel Resort".
I think it is such a shame and will NOT be going back!
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The BBC sit-com To The Manor Born, starring Penelope Keith and Peter Bowles, was filmed at Cricket St Thomas. The lovely valley setting of the grounds is where you will find the Wildlife Park, just south of the A30 between Chard and Crewkerne, in Somerset. It is well sign posted from the main road.
This historic Manor was owned for centuries by barons, then Mr Fry, the chocolate manufacturer bought it in 1897. It passed to two other families before becoming a hotel in 1999 and is now owned by Warners. I will tell you a little more about that later. A free brochure is available in the wildlife gift shop, along with many other leaflets of interest to visitors to the area.
There are three pricing periods for the park, Peak, Off-Peak and Winter. This reflects the fact that like other great attractions, it can become a victim of its own success at peak time.
Here is a guide to 2009 prices, but see website for more details. We have used our Tesco Days Out Vouchers here.
Adults £6.00-£8.75, Children 3-14 years £4.25-£6.00, Senior Citizens £5.00-£7.50.
Under-twos and car park are free at all times. I do not see any discount for disabled. There are family and group discounts.
Opening times are every day except Christmas Day, 10.00am-6pm, or 4.30pm in winter.
We have holidayed in this area often, and have seen many changes to Cricket St Thomas over the years. The Wildlife Park was created in 1967 by the estate's former owners.
The worst thing that ever happened, in my opinion, was that Mr Blobby arrived to live here. His music blared away and could be heard over at least half the park. Thankfully, for both the animals, who had to put up with it, and us, he and his music are now gone.
The park is now involved in conservation in the wild as well as in captivity, co-operating with various agencies.
If you lack stamina it is best not to go on a hot day, as it is hilly. Most of the slopes are relatively gentle so the attractions can be seen with those needing pushchairs or wheelchairs, though it is preferable to have a fit helper.
Trains run along the side of the valley with the most difficult paths, and wheelchairs can be accommodated in the last carriage of the blue train, which was the only one running on the quiet day we went. I also saw another train in the sidings. This had zebra-like stripes on it, and didn't appear to be equipped for wheelchairs. They should both be running at peak times. At peak times they charge 50p per adult, with a reduced rate for children occupying a seat, but at other times it is free.
The park likes to provide large natural enclosure for their animals. This may sometimes mean that the animals are not always easy to spot at first glance, but with patience, we saw all we wanted to.
** Our Day **
This year we visited on 20 September, and spent a happy 5 hours there in the warm, dry weather.
After parking the car, we went through to the entrance to pay our admission fees, and were pleasantly surprised to be charged the winter price.
There is "Your Essential Wildlife Park Souvenir Guide" available here. It is a good souvenir, but as the map in it is adequately reproduced around the park, I wouldn't call it "essential". The people most likely to want a map with them constantly are the disabled, to make sure they take the easiest route. I bought the guide on the way out as a souvenir, because I didn't want the hassle of carrying it around the park.
Since our last visit the entrance has changed, and now took us to a path leading to the widest part of the large lake.
The first animals to greet us were the friendly goats. These goats are behind a fence, so there is no need for any timid visitors to get worried by them. On the other side of the path the electric cars, for which there is an extra charge, were closed. I was pleased, as I think this sort of added attraction spoils the quiet countryside setting.
Next we passed the free children's adventure playground and the Lakeside Food Court. If your family likes adventure playgrounds, look out for more around the park.
This Food Court was also closed, which didn't bother us, as we preferred to take a picnic to enjoy in the late summer sun, on a bench overlooking the pretty valley, where the grazing animals seemed very content. (For those wanting to buy a meal the Black Swan Pub, at the other end of the lake, serves reasonably priced pub grub and has a family room. This is open all the year round and highchairs are available.)
Talking of grazing animals, photographers need to be aware that the emus are not camera shy. Good they may think, unless they get a bit too close to the fence, and they try to eat their camera. Yes, this happened to me, while I was trying to take a picture of this season's new juvenile emus.
I felt a little sorry for one of the camels, that I nicknamed Droopy. Despite having lots of food to eat, and not looking otherwise mal-nourished, his humps for storing food were very saggy, while the humps of the other camels were pert. Droopy and friends proved extremely photogenic, in my opinion, and all seemed contented.
We continued on a clockwise walk around the large valley lake, and by mistake, must have missed a sign and ended up in the gardens of the Warners Hotel. Although we shouldn't have been there, we probably looked like residents, as we were a similar age to all the mature guests we saw, and similarly dressed. This is an adult only hotel.
As we headed back to the wildlife park, we saw a sign saying "YOU ARE NOW ENTERING THE WILDLIFE PARK. Please ensure you have purchased your hotel guest pass. Thank you." We looked around for further signs, and behind us, on the path we had just come down, amongst overgrown plants, we saw one saying, "PRIVATE, Hotel guests only beyond this point." Oooops!
As we went there accidentally, I might as well let you know that the hotel had very pretty gardens, mostly not overgrown, and a wonderful view over the park.
Then, before us, was a notice attached to a large tree saying, "Don't Feed the Marmoset". I guess they meant the one in the process of stealing someone's picnic.
After he had finished the stolen food, he looked as though he was posing for a photo on the fence, so I approached him slowly. Next thing I know, he is clinging onto the front of my not very strong T-shirt, but after he had got his footing on my under-wired bra, he was a lot more content. Unfortunately, my hubby didn't have a camera to take a photo of me trying to take a photo.
The previous owner of the picnic he had stolen said, "He loves chocolate buttons. I think he was trying to see if you had any."
On we went passing an enclosure where a cheetah was, almost successfully, trying to camouflage himself in the long grass, and gazing at some deer drinking through a discreet, but secure, fencing. I knew it was secure because the deer continued drinking, grazing and then resting in peace.
This review is getting long, and I haven't even got to the best bit yet, so I will quickly tell you that other attractions we enjoyed were the aviaries, incubator room for all sizes of bird eggs, various water loving birds on the lakes, monkeys and the children's farm.
From previous visits we guessed that the best part of the day would be a trip to Lemur Wood. The inhabitants didn't disappoint us. It is important both to visitors, as well as the lemurs, not to take food in with you, especially conspicuous food. Lemurs are a lot bigger than the mischievous marmoset I have already told you about.
Despite the large notices, and signs for anyone who may not be able to read English, we saw one family take their picnic in with fruit clearly visible in the tray underneath a pushchair containing a young child. The child screamed as the lemurs fought over the fruit, especially the bananas. Apart from being very frightened, the child was unhurt, and thankfully the parents soon left the wood at the same time as the keeper came in to feed them.
I got very close to the lemurs that usually wouldn't hurt visitors unless tormented, or they felt threatened. However, common sense, as well as the notices, would make me treat them with respect.
As well as not taking food into the wood, visitors are told that conditions of entry are that the lemurs are not touched, children are kept under close supervision, and the visitors should keep to the paths.
It wasn't just the lemurs that got feed. A wild rabbit and squirrels came to join in the fun as well. There seemed to be plenty to go round.
The only natural home of the lemur is Madagascar, and there they are threatened by deforestation and other human activity. Therefore, breeding groups like those at Cricket are very important to their continued existence.
Of the fifty plus species and sub species, Cricket has four. They are the black and white ruffed, ring tailed, red-fronted and red-belled lemurs.
Lemur Wood is one of the largest captive sanctuaries in the world. Here the lemurs have an environment comparable to their natural habitat. They can behave naturally both on the ground and high up in the trees.
The size of the area occupied by the red-fronted lemurs is no smaller than they have left in the wild. A sobering thought.
All of Cricket's lemurs are kept in natural sized breeding groups and are part of European Breeding Programmes. Cricket's captive breeding is resulting in lemurs being released back into the wild.
Lemurs are primitive primates and their intelligence, curiosity and agility makes them an entertaining attraction. It also makes it difficult to keep them enclosed in a natural way.
The wood has discreet fencing to keep lemurs in and predators out. Human visitors have to go through a double set of doors to get inside. It is, however, not unusual for the most confident ring tailed lemurs to 'escape'. Don't worry, the ones that have learnt to get out, can also get back again. This is especially noticeable near their feeding time.
The keepers often give interesting talks, and answer questions, at lemur feeding time. Ask on your day of visit when this is likely to be.
A lot of people want some sort of lemur related souvenir, as I am not the only one who thinks they are the most entertaining animals in the park. You will probably be relieved to hear that the prices of these souvenirs start from under a fiver, and you can get them from the shop that you have to go through to get out.
We bought some pottery animal egg cups for £1.75 each, as we needed egg cups and these looked cute and easy to clean.