A Visit to Wingham Wildlife Park

A-Z of Animals

Much of the learning that we do is interest led, i.e. based around something which our boy is already showing an interest in. Last year we started an ‘A-Z of Animals’ study unit based on an old Sooty video with the same title, which has been a recurring favourite for years. We started with A for Ant, then B for Beaver and so on, and when Penguin’s motivation around this unit started to dwindle I was happy to take a break from it for a while. At that point we’d got to E for Elephant, and we recently returned and completed our study of elephants, and went onto F for Flamingoes. This led us to search out where in our region we could go to see some of those flamboyant pink birds in real life, and we found that the best (and closest) place for us would be Wingham Wildlife Park – so there we went!

Wingham Wildlife Park in Kent (UK) has a great selection of animals from all over the world, as well as a ‘Dinosaur Zoo’ and good play areas for the kids. We went there at the end of summer 2018, mainly in the search for flamingoes, and had a great day out - Sensational Learning with Penguin

Changing Places!

Wingham is situated east of Canterbury (in Kent), and it took us about an hour to get there, so after entering the park we headed straight to the toilets to get that out the way. And I was surprised and delighted to see that they have a ‘Changing Places’ toilet! In case you’re not familiar with what this is, it’s an accessible toilet which has a ceiling hoist an an adult sized changing bench in it. We don’t need one of these ourselves, but there are many youngsters and adults who are autistic just like our Penguin, who do need these facilities. And of course many others with physical disabilities too, both young and old. Many parents have to put there child (who’s too big for a baby changing table) down on the floor of public bathrooms to change them, and that is just not right. Our boy was in nappies much longer than the average kid, so I too have that experience of changing him on a floor, or in the car boot, with people walking past wondering what’s going on… So Changing Places toilets are an issue close to my heart, and there needs to be more of them! A big happy shout out to Wingham Wildlife Park for having one of these!

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From Flamingoes to… Flamingoes!

There are loads of different animals to see at Wingham. We decided to start with the flamingoes first of all, as they were our main reason for this visit. We were very happy to find that they were in an enclosure which visitors could walk into, so we could get a proper close up look at them.

Often when we visit a new place, Penguin will pretty much run through it, to acquaint himself with the unfamiliar surroundings. But he was surprisingly happy to stop and look at the flamingoes for quite a long time, and seemed captivated by them.

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I think the signs about the animals were great at Wingham, with a good amount of informative and interesting facts. They’ve also got a few educational resources on their website, such as tasks you can give your kids to complete during your visit.

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After leaving the flamingoes, we checked out the pelicans, as well as some other birds (some of which Penguin were quite cautious of, as he finds chicken and some other smallish birds really frightening). We went on past enclosures with goats, wallabies, donkeys, porcupine and a reindeer (not together!), and then got to a lake, which unsurprisingly was a big hit with our water-loving Penguin. There were storks and different types of ducks, and lots of big carp (we’ll get back to those later!), as well as windows looking into the neighboring racoons.

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From one waterbased area to another: The penguin enclosure!

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The penguins were lovely to watch, and our own Penguin seemed to like them too. But I found myself wondering about how fulfilled these birds are with their life in captivity. I guess it’s the same for all animals in these kind of parks (as for a lot of pets), but some of them make me think of it more than others, I guess… In my head, I see images of penguins diving into the ocean and swimming fast, like flying arrows through the deep and almost endless water. So, while I’m happy to be able to see them in real life like this, I also feel a bit of sadness about what they might be missing.

I had similarly mixed feelings about seeing the different kinds of big cats in their enclosures. There were lions, a puma, and a stunningly beautiful jaguar (I’m afraid my photo doesn’t do it justice). The tigers had a very large and in my eyes attractive area to themselves, and it would have been fantastic if the other cats could have had as much space, too.

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By the time we’d got this far, Penguin was starting to seem a bit uncomfortable, and we decided it was time to have a little snack break and eat some of the scones we’d brought with us. However, just as we were sitting down to eat, Penguin spotted the large outdoor play area and wanted to head there straight away.

It was a really good playground, in my opinion, and Penguin enjoyed it there. As he’s non-verbal and also doesn’t have great awareness of social cues and norms, personal space etc, I’m always a little bit apprahensive about how he’ll manage when interacting with other kids (and how they’ll react to him). I was happy to see that this time it all went really well. He waited (suprisingly patiently!) for his turn to go across a wobbly bridge, and he stepped to one side when he sensed that a couple of kids were keen to get past him.

I should probably add that one of us parents always stay close so that we can help/intervene if needed, while at the same time standing back as much as possible to avoid causing learned helplessness.

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Next to the playground, there was a ’Dinosaur Zoo’, with lots of different dinosaurs, many of which had mechanical movements and were accompanied by dino sounds. Penguin was moderately impressed, but very much enjoyed the sandpit for ’excavating bones’, which was a great sensory pleasure for him.

Speaking of sensory pleasures, he also loved these spiky plants which were mainly found in the ’rainforest’ themed section of the park:

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In that same area, there were some cheeky little monkeys called Black Crested Mangabeys which Penguin seemed to strike up a special connection with.

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We also saw several other types of monkeys and apes, as well as bears, otters, ponies and more… And when we’d gone around pretty much the whole area once, we decided to pop back to a few of our favourites (following Penguin’s lead), starting with the carp fishes in the lake. This time we bought some fish food from the dispenser there (for a 50p coin if I remember correctly) and it was great to watch the water bubble with life as all the carp and quite a few of the ducks gathered to chase some of those tasty pellets.

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We then payed a second visit to the penguins, and I got our Penguin (who at that point was a bit hyper and unfocused) to stop and focus by asking him to help me take a couple of pictures. It can be quite a useful strategy, and here’s one of the resulting photos:

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To round our visit off, we made our way back to the fancy flamingoes. I would say that not only were they the main reason for our visit this time, but also one of the main highlights for us. Fascinating birds indeed, and so enjoyable to watch them pottering about peacefully in the water, occasionally interrupted by a bit of squabbling.

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Time to go!

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We stopped by the meerkats before making our way to the exit, via the toilets and a very busy souvenir shop (which we just worked our way through without stopping, as it was all getting a bit much for Penguin at this point, and to be fair us parents were knackered too). We went home exhausted but happy.

I’m not writing this as a review as such, but if I were to compare Wingham to other wildlife parks we’ve visited, I’d say that it’s a very good one though quite compact. They’ve certainly fitted a lot into the space they’ve got, and they appear to be expanding and adding bits on as well (with the dinosaurs and the ‘Rainforest SOS’ areas being recent additions). In comparison to the nearby Howletts and Port Lympne (both run by the Aspinall foundation), Wingham is more of a traditional zoo while the Aspinall parks have a clear conservation profile. At Howletts and Port Lympne, most of the animals are roaming around in very large enclosures, which I think is great for them, though you might find it slightly annoying sometimes as a visitor as the animals can be staying in the distance or hiding completely.

All in all, we’re likely to revisit (as and when our ‘A-Z of animals’ requires it), and if you’re planning a trip there too, I strongly recommend you have a good look around their very informative website before your visit. Please note that if you’re disabled or a carer you need to show proof (see website for details!) or you’ll have to pay the full standard entrance fee. I hope that if you do go, you’ll enjoy it too!

Finally, here’s a short video of some of the animals we saw on our visit!

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Renovation Bay-Bee

Lucy At Home UK parenting blogger

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54 thoughts on “A Visit to Wingham Wildlife Park

    1. Aaw, thank you, I’m so glad you like the post and photos! I’d love to have a proper camera again though, as we’ve only got the ipad (or phone) for now. And yes, the need for Changing Places is certainly a cause worthy of highlighting 👍 xx

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  1. Sounds like a lovely day out and some great facilities with the changing places toilet and things for kids to do around the park. Love you technique for regaining focus by getting Penguin to take photos. Sounds like some of the animals had small enclosures which does make me sad. Most of the wildlife parks I’ve been too are expanding enclosure size. Love flamingos though, such striking colours close up. Thanks for sharing on #CountryKids

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!
      I think all wildlife parks are constantly making improvements, as people are increasingly aware and concerned about animal welfare, so the parks have to make sure the animals are happy or people will stop coming there. But I guess it’s a gradual process, and as always a question of priorities and resources. X

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  2. I have never seen a Flamingo in real life and I loved how your video showed them moving their heads like that, I had no idea they did that. I loved the penguins too, gosh they are cute! Also thanks for joining in with #ABloggingGoodTime

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love the idea of doing an A to Z of animals project – what a great way to learn about them. Flamingoes are such beautiful birds and I love seeing them. I know what you mean about feeling sad when seeing animals in captivity – even when they have a good amount of space, it is still restricted compared to what they would have in the wild. I often wonder what animals make of our climate, especially those that come from much hotter countries. Wingham Wildlife Park looks like a great place to visit and it sounds like there is plenty to do and see there. I love the photo that Penguin took of the penguins. So glad to read that Wingham Wildlife Park has a Changing Places toilet – this is something that is very close to my heart too. We never needed that level of facility with Jessica but we did need the extra space of a disabled cubicle. Thank you for sharing your day out with #CountryKids

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Louise! Yes, I think some of the animals might feel cold on the worst days of winter… When we went to Port Lympne on a really chilly winter’s day, the meerkats were all cuddling up together under a read heat lamp. Many animals from Africa and Asia will experience harsh cold in the wild as well though, so most of them are probably okay with it? Would be interesting to know if they get depressed from lack of light, as humans sometimes do…?
      Thank you for mentioning Penguin’s photo, I’ll let him know you loved it!
      And yes, proper toilets are SO important, it’s very sad when a basic need like going to the toilet makes some experiences impossible, due to lack of proper facilities xx

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It is wonderful that they have taken into consideration the needs of their customers and I like the sound of doing an animal alphabet. My girls watched the youtube clip you made too and asked to repeat it three times. I asked eldest to tell me the names of the animals she saw while I enjoyed the footage and music.#CountryKids

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! Aaw that’s really wonderful to hear, that our little video was a hit with you and the kids ❤️ Great idea to ask your eldest to name the animals! I think the porcupines could be the trickiest of them? xx

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  5. What a lovely place to spend the day. The animals all seem content and well looked after and I love Penguins photo of the penguins.
    It’s lovely to hear that they have a Changing Places toilet so that more people can enjoy a visit. Thanks for sharing your lovely video with us too!

    And also for sharing with #MMBC. x

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve visited a lot of zoos and animal parks in the UK but hadn’t even heard of this one, so I will definitely be popping in when I’m next in the area. Looks like a lovely day out. #KCACOLS

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  7. I just love wildlife parks. So much to see. The animals are amazing. I was able to ride an elephant when I was in my 20’s at a wildlife park. It was incredible. #adventurecalling

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  8. I haven’t taken my own children to a wildlife park in over a year, I think we’re due. Great pictures of the animals! I often have mixed feelings about zoo’s and parks that have animals in captivity too. In a way it is educational and a treat for us to be able to see them and learn about them but their natural instincts call them to do something else besides go in circles in a habitat. We see this kind of issue happening with Orcas and it is why Sea World can’t breed them anymore. They’re so intelligent that it seems to actually drive them crazy to be in captivity. #Adventurecalling

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, that’s the tricky thing about zoos, isn’t it? I think my feelings will always be mixed, even though we enjoy them as family days out. The larger the enclosures, the less guilty I feel about it though.
      Thank you for your thoughtful comment, and I’m very pleased you liked our photos! X

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  9. I loved looking at all the lovely pictures you took during your visit. Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next time

    Liked by 1 person

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