Marwell Zoo - reviewed for What To Do With The Kids
By Claire, Amelia (8) and Charlie (5) Paye
One of the joys of having children is having the excuse to go to a zoo. Marwell Zoo is brilliantly designed for an enjoyable family day out. The wide range of animals are in cages with enough room to roam, whilst still being fairly easy to spot. There are quite a few indoor viewing areas for those rainy days when both the animals and their human equivalents need to take shelter. There is even an indoor picnicking area. The penguins and giraffes were particularly popular as you can get very close to them, but the meerkats really stole the show, with Aleksander Orlov regularly popping up on sentry duty.
On the practical side, Marwell has been designed with young children in mind. There are toddler seats and wash basins in the toilets, and several play areas attached to cafés (or vice versa) for when the excitement of seeing cheetahs, snow leopards and tigers wears thin. Having spent some time peering in at the animals, I particularly enjoyed some time to observe that most fascinating animal of all, the child, in its natural setting, an adventure play park. There is also a road train to make it easier for little legs to make it up to the top end of the park.
Marwell Zoo is designed around Marwell Hall. I had a brilliant view of the Hall from one of the numerous benches to be found inside a play area. One of the highlights of my day was watching a male ostrich doing an elaborate dance in front of Marwell Hall to impress a female. The lady ignored him at which point he got cross and ran off to pick a fight with a group of Aroan antelope who were minding their own business. They didn’t take the bait and just ran away, leaving him looking foolish. Not so different from any Friday night down the town.
There are several talks throughout the day and while we visited, in the summer, there was a brilliant dinosaur theme with animatronic dinosaurs scattered throughout the park. Marwell Wildlife, the charity behind Marwell Zoo, is a charity dedicated to conservation and education so although the entrance ticket is fairly steep, you not only have an excellent day out, you are also supporting wildlife around the world. There is an excellent website providing indepth information about the work of the charity and the animals in the zoo: www.marwell.org.uk . In line with their conservation approach, there are no paper maps and I did feel I would have liked to have something to refer to, but several people used apps and there were interactive maps scattered throughout the park.
Even though we visited on a dry day in summer, nowhere felt too crowded. My overall impression was of a well-laid out zoo with obvious care for their animals, both human and otherwise. And it’s not far from Paultons Park for that Hampshire mini break.