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I never realised things could get this wild in Doncaster
Yorkshire Wildlife Park (Doncaster)
Member Name: cha97mw
Yorkshire Wildlife Park (Doncaster)
Date: 15/01/13, updated on 15/01/13 (429 review reads)
Advantages: seeing animals pretty close, lots to do and see for the price
Disadvantages: open plan site gets cold and muddy.
The Yorkshire Wildlife Park opened in its current format a few years back. Before this it used to be a working farm known as Brockholes, where some of my school friends went for riding lessons. It has always been to me a bit of an unobvious place in both formats because there is quite a long approach road from the main road off Warning Tongue Lane in Doncaster. Therefore, in spite of regularly driving past the entrance as my grandad lives almost opposite the entrance, I have been guilty of putting off a visit.
However, last September my sons teacher asked me if I would like to join the class on a school trip to the park. Never one to say no, I was glad to join the class on a visit. I had a fabulous day, and as a result, I asked my parents if they would buy us an annual pass to the wildlife park for Christmas and then I could arrange to go back as often as we wanted with my two sons and husband as well. We recently made our first trip back as annual pass holders, so I thought it a good point to review the site as I now also have had chance to take some photos of our time there.
Visiting the Wildlife Park:
The site is quite easy to find, but I notice from other reviewers that if you use Sat nav then you may get taken to the back gate rather than the main entrance. The best postcode to use if using Sat Nav is DN4 6TB. It is best to approach via the A638 which is the main road running through the middle of Doncaster. Here, there are brown tourist signs directing you towards the wildlife park via the Warning Tongue lane entrance.
The park opens at 10:30am at the moment as it is winter hours and closes at 3:30. The two times I have been I have got here just after this time. Once was a school day, the other time was a school holiday day. The car park is ample big enough to get a space and we found there was minimal queueing time to get in through the turnstile. My next visit as a pass holder will be even quicker as I will get to use express entry through the gift shop.
Cost to visit:
The prices are what I consider to be very reasonable for the type of attraction. An adult day ticket is £10.50. A childs ticket is £8.50. Children under 3 are free, and you can get concessions for disabled children and their carers and senior citizens. The annual tickets we just bought were £40 per adult and £35 per child. This was quite steep paying £150 for a family of 4 in one go, but I feel very good value as we will only need to visit 4 times to get our moneys worth. I have now been twice and still don't feel I have seen all there is to see at the park and there are new things being added all the time.
What is there to see?
The pride of this Yorkshire attraction is the three prides of lions that all have these huge enclosures. It is wonderful to see these mighty animals out on the hills made to look like their habitat. The weather of Doncaster must be a bit too cold for them as my two visits I have seen very little action from the lions. A bit of pacing, a bit of play fighting, and weeing on a tree, but I have only been when it has been cold. We did get the whole class of 5-6 year olds to roar at the lions to try and wake them up, but all that got us was a sleepy one eyed look in our direction. We were told by a staff member though that these cats become more active later in the day. It is still magnificent seeing them up close.
The park is constantly acquiring new animals. Just before my October visit with school there were 4 new giraffes added. These were very shy at that visit so it was hard to get them to stay near the people who were trying to see them. However, on my more recent visit we could go inside the giraffe house and see them inside eating within touching distance of us.
There are also leopards and tigers, zebras and camels, wallabies, monkeys, painted dogs, meercats and yellow mongoose, flamingos, giant rabbit, skunk, parrots, and this is just off the top of my head without looking again at the map. You can go and listen to talks at the various enclosures round the park at 15 minute to half hour intervals. There is also a show with some of the animals like the skunk and parrots, although because of the poor English weather the part of the venue where this was done has become waterlogged so the version we saw was less impressive, but gives us good motivation to try again in the summer months when we can see the full show in its glory.
What makes the experience so much better is that you can actually go in some of the enclosures and get a lot closer to the animals. The lemur enclosure is interesting to see the different species and try to see them in the trees. They are an active bunch particularly at feeding time. The childrens absolute favourite was the wallabies. Here the wallabies are so tame that they actually let you touch them. I saw some children hand feeding them. I don't think this is particularly recommeded and I didn't allow my children to do this, but they did enjoy going in and having a stroke and watching them bouncing around. They asked to go in here twice on our most recent visit.
There are cafes and kiosks on site selling food and ice cream. On our visit only the main jungle cafe and the coffee shop were open. The others would only open in better weather I imagine. We didn't eat or drink at the cafe. Both times we have been, I took a packed lunch, and there are ample picnic tables located just inside the park entrance. I'm not sure how busy this would get during summer.
There are toilet blocks at both ends of the site which were clean and tidy and well stocked.
The children had great fun playing on the outdoor play park which was a large wooden structure featuring ropes to swing on, structures to climb on and a big wooden fort. There is also a play barn which opened round about September/October last year which features a small soft play area for really small kids, then 3 very large and scary looking slides. One of my sons loved these and would have stayed there all day. My younger son found this quite intimidating and wouldn't use it. However, all the kids in there seemed to be on an adrenaline high so I would say they were in general a lot of fun. In the next month or two they are hoping to complete another great big play barn which is more of a soft play centre. This should be open by half term in February we were told, and we are looking forward to trying this out.
Things to help plan your trip:
You get round most of the park on proper paths so it is suitable for buggies and wheelchairs, but I would just say that as it is quite an exposed site, I would recommend dressing in layers warmly and wearing decent footwear as it was pretty muddy in places. I found it quite cold as there was a lot of open space. However, when we went inside, it was useful for my son to be in layers so he could strip off as he got really hot running up the steps to the huge slides.
I think this is a five star attraction, which will only get better and better. Staff are very knowledgable about the animals, who are all obviously well cared for. You get to see such a lot of animals in the park, and there is more than enough to fill a whole day trip and more there. In my two full day trips, I have pretty much had a quick look at everything, but I will be able to take full advantage and listen to more of the talks as we go on other visits with our annual pass.
I think the price you pay is really good value. We have been to Zoos before, and seen the same sort of animals and paid at least double the entry price. The facilities are clean and well maintained, and as I just saw an advert in the local paper advertising for 100 new staff, I am pretty confident that this is going to get bigger and better as it becomes more established.
The site is big enough to not feel too over crowded, though it was quite busy judging by the number of children on the slides. It is a great place to do things at your own pace yet still feel you have done quite a lot. I also love the thought that this exists in a small part of Doncaster and is contributing to the global fight to stop some of the species being exhibited and homed here from becoming extinct.
I can't wait to go back again and listen to some more talks about these lovely animals and see them again.
Summary: An African safari at a pretty cheap price.
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