Have you ever visited somewhere and wondered how on earth you’ve never been there before? I’ve seen signs for Marwell Zoo so many times but always when we’ve been on the way to somewhere else, and have never had the time to stop. Finally I put that to rights, and I’m so glad I did. Earlier this week we had the most wonderful day out enjoying Marwell Zoo and the Great Bricks Safari too, with the very best of friends.
You know you’ve had a good day out when you are in the queue before opening time and don’t leave until just before closing time. It can sometimes be tricky to meet the needs of my 7 year old son and my oldest friend’s 11-year-old daughter. The children get on well, but as they’re getting older they don’t always appreciate the same activities. Enjoying Marwell Zoo and the Great Bricks Safari worked for everyone. We all love nature and looking at beautiful wild animals, throw in a Lego Safari and the opportunity to build your own Lego and the recipe for a good day was set.
Marwell Zoo is only 8 miles away from Winchester in Hampshire and is well signposted. There’s a large free car park on arrival, and once past the entrance kiosks there are toilets and a coffee shop close by.
On the day we were at Marwell Zoo the rail train was out of action which I thought might have caused a meltdown with my train mad son, but when he spotted the road train he was soon placated.
The road train has pick up/drop off spots around the zoo, all of which have a timetable, or you can take the whole route, which takes about one hour.
We decided to explore on foot first. With our Lego Brick Safari spotter’s guides to hand we headed off to explore, enjoying Marwell Zoo and the Great Bricks Safari, catching up and having fun as we went. I had downloaded the free Marwell Zoo app before we left home, and then promptly forgot to use it. You know me and technology. But it’s worth knowing it’s available. It’s a really walkable site, with picnic spots, plenty of play grounds and toilets available.
Having the Great Bricks Safari gave us a trail to follow around the zoo, and some were harder to spot than others, giving the children a challenge. Each Lego animal had an information plaque with build details, they really do look rather wonderful. The meerkats have a trick to share too, but I won’t ruin the surprise. There are 27 different Lego animals to discover on the trail and these are just a few of our favourites.
The Great Brick Safari is running at Marwell Zoo until 1st October and definitely adds another element to the day. The animals are really rather wonderful and left us all in awe of the skilled builders who constructed them. From 11-4 during this time you can also have fun in the Great Brick Building Zone area, where you can help in a record-breaking attempt to build a massive Lego snake, have fun in the Lego building pit, count penguins and build your own mini figures (these are chargeable at £3 each if you want to take away).
My son adores giraffes so they were top of his must see list of animals. We saw that the giraffe feeding and talk was taking place at 11.30 so made sure we were there in time. It had been drizzling a bit and the giraffes were hiding in their house.
But a bit of attention and a nice fresh branch of leaves to chew on and they soon came out to play. They were the highlight of my son’s day. We had to go back to see them a few times throughout the day, and the land train came in very handy to get us there quickly. They were so accessible, both in the giraffe house and along the external walkway.
The weather forecast for the day was ominous to say the least, so instead of bringing a picnic we all opted for a meal in the Cafe Graze. They serve a selection of hot and cold meals as well as the traditional kids lunch boxes. It was going to be a long day once we’d factored in travelling so we opted for a hot lunch. There were numerous options as well as kids options but my son opted to have the adult sized breaded fish with me, him with beans, me with peas. Very tasty it was too.
We found a drinks and snack bar close to one of the play areas, which gave my friend and I a chance to catch up while the kids let off some steam. There are a range of play areas around the grounds suitable for children of all ages. They were all very well presented and very imaginative.
Enjoying Marwell Zoo and the Great Bricks Safari we got to see a variety of animals, from tiny baby lizards, leaf cutter ants on a feed run, with great live action camera action, to ostrich, white rhino and pygmy hippos.
Marwell Zoo doesn’t have lions and elephants, but at no point were we left regretting that they weren’t there. We missed the penguin feeding time but still got to spend time just watching these eternal favourites.
We really did have a full day out spotting so many wonderful creatures along the way. I’d made a mental note of animals we hadn’t spotted earlier in the day, and we made a point of going back later on to try again.
We found that by the end of the day we’d got to see pretty much all of the animals up close. Even one of the red pandas came out to say hello. It’s my top tip really, stay all day and revisit animals that might have been hiding previously.
Enjoying Marwell Zoo and the Great Bricks Safari may not include seeing lions of the non Lego variety, but there are plenty of other big cats there to keep feline fans like my son and I happy. We revisited all of their enclosures at different points in the day and stood mesmerised by their beauty.
The snow leopards were nowhere to be seen on our first visit, but right at the end of the day, there they were and for my son, it was a very special moment. He’d never seen them before. So many memories were made that day.
I could have stayed watching the Amur tigers and leopards all day, and I could just imagine spending a day at Marwell Zoo with my photography class. We’d be in our element. It’s the perfect place for a family day out. My son was asking when we’d be coming back before I’d even left the car park. That says it all really. It looks like I might have to change his nickname from Monkey to Meerkat too.
We will definitely be back, I’ve always thought that zoos are great places to explore at any time of year and Marwell Zoo has so much to offer. It feels open and welcoming and we felt that you really could get up close to the animals. Our visit surpassed our expectations and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to visit. Big mistake and one I’ll be making up for in the months ahead.
For information on pricing, membership and more about the animals pop over to the Marwell Zoo website. If you can arrange a visit to see the Great Brick Safari too, you won’t regret it and it’s all part of the admission price.
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