If you are a regular reader you will know that we are lucky enough to spend a lot of our time during the school holidays in beautiful North Norfolk. This year was the first time we visited Pensthorpe Natural Park, which is such a hidden gem set in Wensum Valley near Fakenham.
Pensthorpe is a huge 700 acre reserve, which was proudly the former home of BBC Springwatch. Boasting an abundance of wildlife it provides a haven for native and migratory birds as well as carrying out important conservation work.
When you arrive, the setting is just breathtaking, you can literally feel the stress lifting from your shoulders. There are over 4 miles of trails and gardens to explore around the park, including natural wetlands, woodlands and the beautifully kept Millenium Garden. There are also bird hides dotted about which makes this the perfect location for ramblers, twitchers, photographers or for those that just want to relax and take in their surroundings.
Much to my surprise it is also an amazing destination to take a young family to. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if there would be enough to do for my very energetic children, and thought they would get bored wandering around the reserve, but how wrong was I!
Feeding the Birds
What child doesn’t like feeding the ducks? You can buy packs of food in the shop at the entrance, and lots of the ducks, geese and other waterfowl were extremely friendly and would come and take food out of our hands.
During the summer and school holidays there are extra actvities such as pond dipping, all included in the price. Oliver absolutely loved doing this (so did Grandad!). We had a net and tray an indentifying guide. We caught water boatman, freshwater hoglouse, snails and even little fish!
Stamp Trail and Nature’s WILD Tribe
There is a stamp trail for the kids to follow, based around the Moon Water lake. The kids have to find the stamps for their sheet and at the end of the day can exchange it for a badge. There were also several other activities dotted along the trail and park as part of Nature’s WILD Tribe event that was taking place during the Summer holidays. There was leapfrog (which to be honest didn’t go so well), den building, a maze, giant noughts and crosses (or should I say leaves and ladybirds) and sensory barefoot walk to name but a few of the activities. Honestly we didn’t get time to do them all, but the kids really enjoyed them.
Space to Run
As I said before the setting is beautiful, and there is so much space for the kids to run and explore. Even though we went in the height of the Summer holidays it sometimes felt like you had the whole place to yourself.
Flamingos and Cranes
As well as the native wildlife, they also have a flock of flamingos (Isla’s favourite ever animal) and several types of Cranes. One of the cranes was showing off and giving us a dance, which Oliver thought was hilarious!
By far the kids highlight was the massive Wild Rootz outdoor play area. Beautifully done and maintained, it had towers to climb, bridges, assault course, zip wires and the best slide ever! according to Oliver.
There was also a large sand area, and mud kitchen, and running through both areas was a small stream for paddling in.
There was also some craft actvities for the kids to do, and they all made twig and pipecleaner caterpillars, all included in the price.
Coming a close second to Wild Rootz for the kids highlight of the day was the Hootz House. An award winning indoor play area.
Now I am not a fan of indoor play areas, but I have to say that I really liked it. It’s all included in the admission price, but during busy times like school holidays you get a 1 1/2 hour time slot. This means it never gets overcrowded. There is somehwere to buy refrshments and a viewing gallery upstairs with tables and chairs for parents to take a well earned break.
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All in all we had a fabulous day, but honestly we didn’t see over half the park as we just couldn’t fit it all in, and little legs (and big legs for that matter) were starting to get a bit tired.
The whole setting is beautiful, and really looked after. The effort they have gone into to make the setting engaging for the children is fab. Not only with the stamp collecting and activities on the trails, but the information boards and various other things dotted around like bird boxes, bat boxes and hedgehog houses. It really does help children get closer to and learn about nature, as well as having an amazing fun day out.
My parents came with me, and they also loved it. I think it’s somewhere where they would go on their own, to wander around and enjoy the peace and tranquility of the place (not so peaceful when the kids are with us).
They have loads of events throughout the year, and I definetly think we will be going again when we are back next in Norfolk.
For more information about events, opening times and admission prices go to the Pensthorpe Natural Park website.
Have you been to Pensthorpe Natural Park? If not, do you think it’s somewhere you would go? If you have been I’d love to hear what you thought of it.
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