*Disclaimer: This post contains cuteness overload, plus a couple of harsh realities*
Work’s been pretty busy of late and that’s meant not as many days out. Last week we did have an epic walk at Ingleton and I had been thinking more of the same for this week’s adventure. The Great Dane, however, had other ideas: an old-school animal day out.
Back in the days when I worked less and played more, we’d often visit farms or animal parks to coo over cute, furry things. So as you can imagine, I wasn’t going to say no.
The Forest of Bowland. Just yes. It’s so beautiful. And so bloody huge! The GPS on our phone took us what was surely the long way round, but the sun was shining and the lambs were gambling, so the little over an hour drive wasn’t too bad.
Driving down through the entrance, the park opens up in front of you, which meant I was already giddy by the time we parked up. It was also pretty quiet: a small school group and another, younger couple were the only other humans around, but then it was a term-time Tuesday.
As the name suggests, Bowland Wild Boar Park is home to plenty of wild boars, snuffling their way around the shubbery of the 65 acre site. They’re not the only things to call this place home, though. Of course there are the regulars of any animal park: goats, chickens, geese and more varieties of sheep than you can shake a wooly lamb’s tail at.
Speaking of lamb’s tails, there are currently 39 hungry little lambs waiting to be fed. There are three regular feeding slots, and as the kids had left around lunch time there were only four of us to play surrogate. We fed the lambs in batches – some not so patient little ones breached the fences and came butting their way through, tails wagging manically. The other couple took turns taking photos of each other as they fed, but I went for a bottle in each hand instead.
Once the lambs were safely away, and I was pleading with The Great Dane to let us have one, Rachael, one of the keepers, asked if we’d like to stroke some chicks “no one is too manly for a chick”. Handfuls of hay on our laps, Rachael hands over the fluffy, yellow bundles to us. They’re roughly one week old, so still quite downy rather than feathery. Mine’s quite adventurous, roaming my lap, climbing my arms, attempting to leap for freedom. I look across at The Great Dane, his is asleep, content at the gentle little strokes he’s receiving.
All the chicks are male. Rescued from a nearby battery farm, male chicks are not needed in the chicken/egg industry and usually meet a gruesome end in a grinder Rachael explains. I’ve seen too many food industry documentaries to know she’s not being dramatic, and so I appreciate the cuddle all the more.
The staff here are lovely – Rachael is joined by Tom, who she covers in slightly older chicks. His protests are betrayed by inquisitive chicks and his smiling face. They talk to us about working at the park and the difficulties of winter, being vegetarian and that we’re not that crazy for not having kids. They tell us what else is on during the day so we can plan the afternoon.
We wander past the goats, who look more like spaniels with their long, brown floppy ears. One of the male rabbits recently got in to the female encampment and had himself a wild time – I’ve never seen so many tiny rabbits, they literally looked like balls of fur with ears stuck on!
There are three wallabies living at Bowland Wild Boar Park, and they’ve got their own little wallaby walk, where you can join them in their enclosure. I’ve only ever done this once before, at Edinburgh Zoo, and it was lovely to be able to do it again. Of course, they’re naturally quite shy, so don’t be too disappointed if they just watch you from a safe distance.
Of course there were alpacas, including a baby who’d been born the previous October.
In addition to the animals, there’s also a cafe and a shop, both selling wild boar. Plus, for family visitors they’ve got tractor and barrel rides, and an adventure playground. There’s plenty of space for a picnic, which I think we’ll do next time, but we’d had a massive late breakfast at home.
There are also a number of walks that wind through the park, including a couple the take you along the River Hodder. Each walk is colour-coded by distance and some overlap, meaning you can do as many as you’d like. We combined the Wild Boar Walk with the Nature Trail, which took us along the river, past the pigs and boars – which was the first time we’d seen any all day. There’s a viewing platform at the top of the site before you head further uphill in to the woods. A little more exploration will take you to a replica Iron Age roundhouse.
We came back just in time for meerkat feeding, which after my birthday day out (I’ll be posting about that soon), I’m an old hand at. By this time there were only the two of us left, and Rachael was filling us in on the difficulty of introducing a new member of the pack. Apparently meerkats are fussy about who they’ll mate with (not exactly how it looked to us) but they won’t interbreed, so they’ve tried to introduce a new female. Apparently Vicks Vaporub on noses and bottoms was a lifesaver!
As we were getting ready to leave, Tom reappeared and asked if we wanted to come watch him feed the raccoons. Umm, daft question. He was really authoritative about their care, needs and about them as a species. They’ve currently got a male and a female, but the pair are about to become parents. We joked about angry, hormonal females – she’s apparently OK once she’s fed (something The Great Dane can identify with!). I couldn’t believe you don’t need a license to keep these beautiful and super-intelligent animals, and that worse, you only need a 6ftx6ft pen to keep two.
Meeko, the male, was brought in after being found trying to get in to someone’s shed in Manchester. He couldn’t climb, paced in a small area and was in a very poor state. He still paces, but is now, fat, fluffy and very cheeky.
Tom explained how their eyesight isn’t great, and they wash their food before eating it. “The water makes their paws more sensitive, meaning they can map each piece of new food”. They mentally note the size and shape for future feeding. Yup. told you they were clever.
Adult tickets cost £7.50
It’s roughly an hour drive from our house, satnav permitting, but type in PR3 2QT and you’ll get there.
Oh and check out the new glamping pods, set to open this summer. Each pod sleeps four and you’ll need to bring all your camping gear, just minus the tent. We had a sneaky look around and they look very cool.