Last week we visited a place called Wildwood for the first time! It’s a really nice wildlife park, run by the Wildwood Trust charity, which mainly focuses on British wildlife past and present. We saw deer, bears, wolves, snakes, owls and other birds, spiders, rodents, bison, an otter, badger, fox, beaver, elk and many other animals!
The park is located in Kent, north of Canterbury and south of Herne Bay, in an area partly covered by ancient forests. The animal park is set in this natural forest landscape, which means that you are surrounded by nature as you walk through the park, and the trees provide plenty of shade which is lovely on a warm summer’s day.
Whenever we go out to explore, and especially if it’s a place that’s new to us, we tend to let Penguin take the lead. Allowing him to set the pace for checking out a new place helps him to feel more in control of the situation and minimises stress and anxiety (which can otherwise be an issue, linked to him being autistic). Sometimes he gets unsure about where to go next, and then it helps to suggest a direction, but generally the more he can roam free, the happier he (and we) will be.
At Wildwood, there are a couple of play areas near the entrance (a smaller one for younger children, and a bigger on for the rest of us), and that’s where Penguin headed first. He did freeze for a bit when he realised they kept chicken right next to one end of the playground (he really doesn’t like chicken!), but he coped okay and we had good fun climbing up into some towers and exploring the zipline (he wouldn’t go on it himself but enjoyed watching it, walking along with it etc.).
We then set off around the park to see all the animals. For the most part, Penguin likes to keep moving and fast, and it can be a little tricky to find the right balance between allowing him to keep moving (which keeps him happy) and still stopping for long enough at the different enclosures to get a good look at the animals.
One of the first animals to really catch Penguin’s attention as we went around Wildwood was the otter. It probably helped that there was (obvioulsy) water involved, as Penguin loves watching water. Also, the otter seemed quite sociable, swimming up to us and popping his head up to say hello. So we stayed there for a bit, watching the otter swimming and diving, disappearing and reappearing.
Throughout the park there were plenty of informative signs about all the different animals, conservation work etc, and with quite a lot of fun facts too. So we can really recommend Wildwood as a great place for exploring and learning, especially about the wildlife of Britain. It’s probably a good idea to check out the feeding times as well, as I think you may then get a better look at some of the more reclusive animals. We rarely watch feeds though, as we usually run on ‘Penguin time’.
About halfway through the park, we found a nice spot with a picnic table to sit down to have some snacks, next to the elk and deer enclosures. There are a good few benches and tables dotted around throughout the park, so plenty of picnic spots if you bring your own food and drink. If not, there’s a café next to the play areas near the entrance.
One of the major highlights of our visit at Wildwood was the bear enclosure, where you can go up on a platform to get a good view of the bears, and then go across a kind of rope bridge above the enclosure, which we found very exciting! We were surprised that Penguin was so comfortable about walking across the bridge as it was moving about, and he’s not always been so confident about similar things. (I’m now thinking that it could perhaps be worth attempting a tree-top adventure of some kind…!) In fact, he enjoyed it so much that I think he would have been happy to go straight back up and do it a second time, if we’d suggested it.
After watching the bears for a while, and having a quick chat with one of the staff there, we walked through an area with wolves on one side and then lynx on the other side, and then got to a part of the park dedicated to bees! It was super informative, with lots of facts about bees and in what ways they’re useful, how they’re kept, different types of beehives, bee products, how they ‘dance’, what plants you can grow in your garden to help them, etc. I thought it was brilliant, even if Penguin didn’t seem quite as fascinated as I was!
As we made our way through the last part of the park, we enjoyed seeing a beaver in it’s pond, and checking out a little house with creepy crawlies in it, as well as one with rats. As we approached the exit, we had to get past the chicken by the playground, and although Penguin was clearly very frightened, he made it past without too much difficulty. Phew!
All in all, we had a lovely day out at Wildwood! We found the place relaxing and enjoyable, and it was also a good opportunity to practice finding the names of different animals in our AAC app, in a natural context. The ticket prices are good value in my opinion, and if you live nearby and are likely to visit several times a year, they have membership offers which may be of interest to check out. They also do special offers for visitors who arrive by other means than car! Take a look at their website for more info before your visit: https://wildwoodtrust.org/ .
If you have a disability, there’s an access statement available here (pdf, opens in new window). There are regular disabled toilets available but no ‘Changing Places’ toilet, however it says in there access statement that they can make basic adult changing facilities available if you give them a ring before visiting.
Thank you for reading all about our day out at Wildwood Trust animal park! Have you visited it before, or is this the first time you’ve heard of it? Maybe you have something similar in your area too, if you’re not in our end of the world? We’re always interested in hearing from you in the comments! x