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  • Writer's pictureMike Douglas

Visiting the Wildlife Park

Updated: May 6

Last week we visited New Forest Wildlife Park, which is in the New Forest just past Southampton.

This was the first time I’d been to the Wildlife Park so I wasn’t sure what to expect. We’d visited Staunton Farm a couple of weeks before, which was lovely, but Henry really didn’t seem that interested in anything other than the lights in the barn. So I wasn’t sure what he’d think/ enjoy or if we would find this becoming a very quick visit.

On arrival we found the toilets, gift shop and initial children’s play space. These along with the Otter enclosures (which are near the entrance) were pretty busy. This I think was in part because we had arrived at the family popular time of about 10.45am on a Saturday. Once we moved a little more into the Wildlife Park it was more spaced out.

There were a couple of paths that were tricky with the pushchair, but 95% of the time it was perfectly fine and a very accessible space.

I really enjoyed spending family time together at an outdoor venue. Recently I’ve noticed that we have been spending most of our time indoors (either at home, someone else’s home or the shops), with us only going outside to get into or out of the car. A part of that is its winter/ spring, but more so just the busyness of life has meant I feel like I’m either working, completing a chore/ commitment or am too tired to do anything. Because of this we are making an effort to plan a few half or full days out ahead of time, because otherwise it will not happen. This was one of those planned days.

Walking around the Wildlife Park there were a few play spaces for children. While Henry is too young for that at the moment, it was great to see a space we could come back to and he would get more out of it in future visits; as he gets older.

We sat down for lunch near one of the play spaces where there were a good number of benches. We ate our very nice packed lunch (prepared by Laura) and got an ice lolly from the kiosk. This area felt reasonably removed from the animal enclosures. Which was great as I’m not keen on eating near animals, in an almost taunting manner, when they can’t/ shouldn’t have the food you have.

Through a combination of happenstance and purposefully staying in places, we listened to two animal talks as they were fed; the deer and the wolves. We also heard some of the information about otters when we’d arrived. The two talks were really interesting, well delivered and informative. Both talks were engaging for a wide age range of audiences with a good number of people listening to them. I’d really recommend trying to catch any of the keeper talks if you can.

Before we arrived at the Wildlife Park I wasn’t sure what to expect, I was apprehensive it would feel too ‘let’s all crowd around the animal in a cage’, which I have seen at other venues. I really don’t like that almost exhibitioning of animals. And this has put me off visiting some farm/ zoos in the past.

However, as we walked round, saw the different enclosures and heard the staff talking about the animals and their spaces I felt much more comfortable and was pleased by the approach to animal care that was present. This really feels like a relaxed environment for everyone, set within the woodland that already exists.

A lot more could be packed into the space that’s there. But it isn’t, the space is used well and appropriately.

At the wolves enclosure we saw someone with a camera and long lens and it made me really want to come back with my camera. So when we do go back, I have to remember it. I think that’s one of the things I liked about the Wildlife Park, while it’s not huge, there’s plenty there to explore and I’d imagine each time you’d see something slightly different. It maybe you catch another talk, or see a different animal, or the same animal doing something different.

I very much enjoyed our day at the Wildlife Park and am looking forward to going back again in the future. There is also the nearby Longdown Activity Farm just around the corner, which Laura says is amazing, it’s just more for children rather than babies; so we’ll save that one for now.

Recently I’ve become aware there’s way more going on in the New Forest than I knew and a lot of accessible paths for some amazing walks. With the theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week in May being ‘Movement’ it’s a great time to check out your local spaces, places and venues. See what’s out there and or what you can access online to bring the world to you and get moving at home.

Getting out outside is something that is really important for my mental health and wellbeing, so being able to do something as a family outside was lovely. The New Forest really has so many great spots to visit. This is something I'm hoping we continue to do. It's defiantly an experience we all get our own positives from and a few more by going together. Let this Mental Health Awareness Week be a prompt to think about what supports your wellbeing.


Blogger's note: This post does not include sponsored content. We purchased our own tickets to enter. New Forest Wildlife Park did not ask to and have not seen this post before it is published, nor have they instructed me on what to say. The views, experiences, thoughts and insights expressed in this post are my own. The links included are direct web links and are not affiliate links.


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