United Kingdom | England | Hampshire and Isle of Wight
April 2, 2009
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Marwell Zoo Park, Hampshire

With the Kids

Feeding Time at the Zoo.
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With the cracking weather of early March came a profound wish to get outdoors. Waking one sunny Saturday, Alison and I agreed the day was too good to waste and we hastily improvised an en famille visit to Marwell Zoo Park as the plan of campaign.

Since 1972 Marwell has been a pioneer of the good zoo movement, dedicated to animal welfare and conservation. None of this has stopped it being a great day out, though, with most of the zoo favourites on display (lions and elephants excluded - but plenty of tigers, leopards, giraffes and 200 odd other species scattered around). In place of old-fashioned cages, most of the animals are housed in large paddocks and the whole zoo is set in 100 acres of parkland surrounding a venerable (and reputedly haunted) stately pile - Marwell Hall. The size of the zoo grounds makes the visit a walk as much as anything else - unless you opt to cheat on the road-train or puffing steam miniature railway.

When we arrived, Ben needed a good run around to shake out the kinks from the journey. But after that we set to visiting animals as we spotted them with no particular plan. Some held Ben transfixed - penguins worked well; others were quickly passed by - once you've seen one sort of antelope you've pretty much seen them all. Top of the pile were the truly enormous giraffes, while Ben deemed the tigers too scary to approach.

Lunchtime saw Sam call a halt as he demanded milk. The rest of us picnicked in the sunshine, running down to the fence every time the train tooted by. Despite it being March, queues were long enough to make bringing our own food definitely the right call. (It's also worth buying advance admission tickets online - available up to 09:30 on the day. This avoids the entrance queues, which took us 40 minutes to navigate, as online ticket-holders get their own fast-track entrance line.)

In the afternoon we continued our tour, breaking off so that Ben could spend an hour in the junior adventure playground. With just a couple of hours to closing we hurried around our last remaining 'must-dos': the booming gibbons, cavorting lemurs and mysterious but ultimately unexciting fossa. However, there's far more than a day's worth. So unless you're up for a route-march it makes sense to decide on some highlights rather than trying to see it all.

By the time we made it back to the car, Ben was happy but half-dead from exhaustion, while Sam was fast asleep. Within five minutes of setting off for home Ben had joined Sam and we didn't hear another peep from either all night. Result.

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