At last we can get out and about with the family. Many animal parks and attractions have had a hard time, closed during lockdown, with no visitors to bring in much-needed funds. Let’s make the most of summer and give them all the support we can!
Folly’s Farm – Home of Rest For Donkeys & Ponies
Potten End, Berkhamsted
This non-profit organisation runs entirely on voluntary help and contributions. Most of the donkeys have been rescued from mistreatment and abuse, or from people who didn’t know how to look after them. It should be open to visitors by the time you read this, and there is now a small onsite shop selling bric-a-brac and donkey merchandise.
Bucks Goat Centre
Stoke Mandeville, Aylesbury
For a relaxed trip out, pop over to The Bucks Goat Centre. This petting farm has some lovely friendly animals for the kids to meet, in a peaceful environment. Buy a bag of feed for the goats, pigs, alpacas and llamas. For something special, why not book an animal experience or encounter – you could spend time with a goat, alpaca or even Barnaby the stunning Silver Fox. There is a small play area and trampoline, cafe, picnic area, and a big garden to enjoy.
Mead Open Farm
Billington, near Leighton Buzzard
There’s 30 acres to explore at Bedfordshire’s first open farm. There’s lots of animals to meet, including cows, pigs, sheep, ponies, goats, rabbits and more. And don’t forget to say hello to the alpacas. Along with the animal exhibits there are plenty of other activities that make for a fun day out. Jumping Pillows, Digger Village and Shaggy’s Cove Sand & Water Play offer lots of outdoor play opportunities. Hopefully the high ropes courses and climbing tower, along with the indoor play area, will be open as soon as restrictions allow.
Natural History Museum
Alongside the usual fascinating exhibits, this summer the museum is offering a chance to discover more about animal mummies in a special exhibition. Animal mummies were given as gifts to the Egyptian gods, and with modern technology, the museum’s scientists have been able to find out more about them. Discover the untold stories that scans and X-rays have unfolded. See the sealed 2,400-year-old wooden cat coffin, and find out why a mummified crocodile has stones in its tummy! Note that pre-booked time slots must be allocated online before arrival.
Tiggywinkles – The Wildlife Hospital Trust
Stoke Mandeville, Aylesbury
This specialist hospital is dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating all species of British wildlife. The public can book for a session at the visitor centre, where you may see baby birds, mammals and even badgers, brought in to be nursed back to health by the vets at this fabulous charity. In normal times, guided tours are also offered – keep an eye on the website for updates. Become a member and not only will you be supporting the charity, but you can visit for free.
The Horse Trust
Speen, near Princes Risborough
The oldest horse charity in the world plans to open its doors in July, ready for the summer holidays. The Home of Rest for Horses offers retirement and respite for working horses and ponies, as well as donkeys. Many of the animals you’ll see have served in the Police or armed forces, or with charities that use horses to help people.
Two Oaks Pony Sanctuary
This is a pony and horse rescue and rehabilitation home. However, you might find pigs, cats, chicken, lambs and more on the site! The sanctuary is likely to stay closed to visitors until the end of July, and there may also be an Open Day in September. Follow their Facebook page to keep up to date with opening details.
The zoo, which celebrates its 90th birthday this year, has cleverly introduced a fabulous new outdoor play adventure area to allow little ones to let off some steam. Hullabazoo outdoor play includes bridges, swings, climbing frames, sit on crocodiles, tunnels, boats, mini safari jeeps and more. Be aware that there may be time slots and pre booking in place.
The summer holidays will also see an invasion of dinosaurs – life-size animatronic prehistoric creatures will be sure to thrill any dino-mad kids. Come face-to-face with long-necked Brachiosaurus, three-horned Triceratops and the most terrifying of all, Tyrannosaurus rex – are you brave enough?
Woburn Safari Park
Lions and tigers and bears – oh my! Take a safari without leaving the country on this road trip that will see you encountering rhino, lions, tigers, Canadian Timber Wolves, mischievous Barbary macaque monkeys and North American Black Bears. You might even see the Amur tigers taking a bath! New to the safari over lockdown are the first pair of bear cubs to be born at the park since 2016 – look out for Koda and his sister Georgia with their mum Phoenix. There’s plenty more to see on the Foot Safari including red pandas, sea lions, and penguins. Plus great play areas, a high rope trail, miniature railway and pedal-powered swan and dragon boats.
Woodside Animal Farm
Slip End, Luton
There are all kinds of cuddly animals to find at Woodside, including bunnies and ducklings. But you might also encounter giant lizards and a 6ft boa constrictor! Woodside is well-known for its hands-on animal activities so is a great choice if you have a child who really loves getting up close and personal with some cute critters. As we went to press, the farm was hoping to have its animal petting and feeding activities up and running by May, depending on government restrictions, and the indoor play barn open in June. There are plenty more activities including the woodland activity trail for little ones and the cable runway for older children.
Willows Activity Farm
London Colney, St Albans
This is the place to go for fans of the CBeebies series Peter Rabbit. See Peter and his friends in daily shows and then let little ones loose on the Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground, with lots of opportunities for imaginative play including the Jeremy Fisher Music Pond. There’s plenty more to enjoy, including cow milking demonstrations, lamb bottle feeding and sheep racing.
And There’s More…
- Crocodiles of the World, Brize Norton, Oxon
- Standalone Farm, Letchworth
- Herrings Green Activity Farm & Bird of Prey Centre, Wilstead, near Bedford
Please note, at present, most attractions require pre-booking to allow them to control visitor numbers. As things are liable to change during the pandemic, please check on the attraction’s website before you travel.