I was asked to write a review about Pensthorpe Nature Reserve for Norwich Mumbler, particularly as I have three children, aged 1, 8 and 11 this month. So what’s it like for children with a variety of ages and is it worth the ticket entrance? Here’s my opinion with a few top tips included.
Pensthorpe nature reserve is an incredible place full of things to see and do for everyone.
It’s a 4o minute drive from Norwich and parking is free in a field very close to the entrance. If you’ve never tried Pensthorpe before, I thoroughly recommend it as it’s a full day out. Don’t let the ticket prices put you off, it’s £11.95 for an adult and £10.05 for a child, but there is so much to do, it’s worth saving up for this trip. Your ticket money price also goes towards conservation, education and looking after this remarkable reserve, so money well spent.
Firstly, the animals.
With a nature reserve, there’s plenty to see, the most incredible variety of ducks, geese, swans and herons, and if you go at this time of year, lots of little ducklings to spot. There’s a red squirrel enclosure; the most fabulous red I’ve ever seen and then the flamingo area which you can walk to and enjoy watching these fabulous pink creatures. My daughter also loved the amount of butterflies she saw and the bright blue dragonflies (there’s definitely a colour theme here!)
Top tip: the playgrounds will instantly attract children and they are brilliant, but make sure you see the animals, they’re worth a visit.
Trails and Activities
There are so many beautiful trails and woodland walks with pathways scattered everywhere. Children can take part in the stamp trail, spotting different creatures and learning about conservation along the way. To keep them interested, there are activities on the route including giant pick up sticks and musical woodland items. Children can take part in planned activities. My daughter enjoyed pond dipping and there are talks about the conservation work, the red squirrels and the flamingos. The Pensthorpe explorer vehicle takes you behind the scenes to places that the general public can’t get to, it’s led by a warden but comes at an extra cost of £5 per adult and £4 per child.
Top tip: there really is so much to see and do, it’s quite easy to get involved in one trail and the time just runs away! Have a look at the map and chat before you start to see which elements of the reserve you want to visit.
The art sculpture trail is incredible to look at. Dotted around the site there are sculptures set in natural habitats, they are very beautiful. Even Nathaniel (age 1) enjoyed looking at and touching the sculptured deer.
Top tip: there are some wow moments here with the art trail. Keep the children entertained by using the trail guide so they can spot the art themselves.
Wildrootz: Outdoor play area
This is where – for the children – Pensthorpe is a definite hit. You won’t find a playground like this, unless perhaps you go to Bewilderwood. The outdoor area WildRootz is built to bring adventure play and nature together. Everything here has a beautiful wooden natural design to it, from swing chairs to giant slides, dens to climb around, a huge balancing beam and wooden musical features to jump on, touch and play. There’s a very long but shallow waterway trickling through the middle of the playground and a lovely sandy pit area with excellent digging machines.
Top tip: take a change of clothes for the children and get stuck in. It’s a lot of fun! Warning – you could spend the whole day in this area.
Hootz House: Indoor play area
A fantastic indoor play area with great slides, climbing and a large space. There’s also a separate soft play area for under5s only. which Nathaniel loved! The cafe inside sells hot and cold food and you can sit upstairs and watch your children play (depending on their age!)
Top tip: make sure your children wear socks! For the indoor play, you must wear socks. If you forget, they’re on sale next to the cafe.
Food, toilets and shop:
For the outdoor playground, there’s a hatchery serving coffee, drinks and ice creams. Inside, there is a cafe serving hot and cold food with seating, a buggy park and lockers. Good disabled access, toilets and a lift. It’s also a comfortable place for breastfeeding or relaxing if you need a break. There’s also a courtyard cafe which serves food all day and afternoon teas. The shop is on the way out, a classic design and very tempting with a huge variety of toys and games on offer along with beautiful clothes, scarves, hats and household items for the adults.
Top tip: we packed a picnic with enough snacks to keep going through the day – it’s a way to save money for us – but the older two were quite insistent on the slushy’s and Marc (Dad) was insistent on the coffee.
We really enjoyed the day at Pensthorpe, it’s a great day out with enough entertainment and interest to keep children busy (and adults) no matter what their age.
Child: £10.05, under 3s FREE.
Annual membership, Adult £60, child £55 under 3s Free.
Please note: I was given a family day pass for the purpose of writing a review, but no amount of awesome play and beautiful flamingos would make me write anything other than my honest opinion.