Made ‘famous’ by the BBC programme Springwatch, the park is essentially a massive and lovely garden. You can at times, find an impressive group of geese following you around and the kids were both fascinated and concerned!
Seed can be purchased from the shop to feed them, as you should never feed them bread or bits from picnics. You can walk around about 250 acres of the 700 acres reserve. There are a number of trails you can take through wetlands, woodlands, wildflower meadows and riverside paths. These paths take you to the main features, such as the red squirrels, flamingos, various geese, duck and crane species.
Walking around the gardens we saw lots of dragonflies, butterflies, and we ‘think’ we saw a kingfisher. The children loved the geese and cranes and I loved the gardens designed by Piet Oudolf (Dutch gardener of some renown).
Of course we all loved the flamingos …
The Pensthorpe Estate has been a haven for wildlife for over 30 years and has been active to protect endangered British species such as the red squirrel, otters and a range of water birds. The current owners are part of the Jordan family – of flour, nuts and mill fame – and they took over in 2003.
The park draws in some 80,000 visitors annually. Pensthorpe is full of diverse wildlife habitats, such as nectar-rich meadows, ponds, lakes and woodland. It has been described as an ‘organic patchwork quilt’. The 1-acre Millennium Garden (designed by Piet Oudolf) is superb with a landscape of perennials and grasses including pink echinacea, Allium sphaerocephalon, Verbena bonariensis, Japanese anemone and pink Astilbe chinensis ‘Purpurlanze’.
Pensthorpe is also well-known as a wellbeing centre, as the owner is interested in the restorative powers of nature and gardens.
For a small additional fee, you can book your seat on the Pensthorpe Explorer. This is an audio guided tour by Land Rover to see the remaining and unspoilt natural meadows and forest habitat. This is like a true safari as the guide will point things out that you might otherwise have missed.
Wetland Discovery Centre
A Wetland Discovery Centre has recently been opened, with the aim of educating visitors about the importance of wetlands. Wetlands are found all around the world, yet half have been destroyed over the last 100 years. The new centre aims to show the diversity of life found in this rich habitat – and a lot of it is very hands on. This includes pond dipping – and everyone (of all ages) loves pond dipping!
Some highlights to look out for during your visit:
- Pond dipping
- Red Squirrel talk
- Craft activity
- Nest box talk
- Bird talk/feed
- Sculpture trail
There are also numerous bird hides throughout the reserve overlooking different habitats.
The park has been designed for all age groups so there is lots for children to do. The Hootz interactive Discovery Trail encourages the children to learn about the habitats the animals live in. Completing the worksheet allows them to claim a special edition collector’s badge.
Hootz House is an indoor play area with lots of slides and climbing apparatus for the younger children. There is also a café and viewing area for the parents. Remember to take socks though as you will need them.
WildRootz is the natural outdoor adventure playpark. Here you can build a den, go on the ‘Worm’ helter skelter slide, and use the zip wire.
There’s lots more too, such as hydraulic ramps, swings and climbing frames.
Food and Drink
A time comes when you need a cool drink and some sustenance. The Courtyard Café is ideal for this with cold drinks, coffee, snacks and hot meals. The cheese scones are substantial and superlative. There are also some good deals too. For example, a drink and cake for £4 from 2:45pm, two fish/scampi and chips for £20 on Fridays and two burger meals £15. They also do a range of cream teas, wines and lovely toasted sandwiches. Oh, and if you are there before 11am the breakfast is fantastic!
There is also a substantial picnic area, if you don’t mind being pestered by the geese!
We thoroughly enjoyed our day at Pensthorpe. Bring your binoculars if you have some and wear sturdy shoes as you’ll do lots of walking. It’s a fascinating, fun and educational day out.