Sunday, 12 June 2011

Noah's Ark - day out review

 
Yesterday we took a family trip to Noah's Ark Zoo Farm in Bristol. It's a great farm and zoo over on the Clifton side, by Ashton Court. I bought the vouchers ages ago via a LivingSocial deal with the intention of using them in the half term break. Unfortunately, the only day all of us could go was the one day it bucketed down, so yesterday it was. Entry is normally £37 for a family 2+2, or £35 for 1 +3. (I paid £18) It's slightly cheaper than Bristol Zoo, though the prices in the cafe and the quality of food there looked miles better.


On the recommedation of a friend, we first visited Noah's Ark a few years ago. Despite good intentions, we haven't been back for about 3 years. It's partly because it's closed on Sun, which tends to be the day I do things like that with the boys. It's privately owned and run, and has a big arable farm as well as the zoo part. There's not a huge variety of animals, but the ones that are there are interesting: white rhino, gibbons, prarie dogs, and giraffes being just a few. They've also got large lion and tiger enclosures which have opened since I was last there.

Arguably the best part about Noah's Ark are all the excellent play areas. From trampolines to climbing frames, a termite mountain (hill with tunnels) to a massive indoor slide and soft play area, plus some of the best zip wires I've had the pleasure to try (love a fast zip wire) the boys were in the ideal place to use the extreme energy levels that only children have.

I haven't mentioned the animals much, but Zoo Farm is an apt description as the animals span both types. There's a tractor ride (big hit with youngest) and informative talks by the keepers at various times during the day.

Pros:
  • Lots of good play areas, both indoors and out
  • interesting mix of animals. Not a lot, but not so many as to be overwhelming. Lots of babies at the moment, which are very sweet.
  • reasonably priced
  • friendly staff
  • plenty of free parking
  • Lots of picnic tables and places by play areas, so kids can play while parents sit
Cons:
  • Some parts a little 'tired' looking, like the purpose built toilet blocks. They're clean though, with plenty of baby changing facilities in both the men's and women's toilets.
  • Small cafe, could get very hot and crowded in summer. Not very nice tea.
  • the mankiest camels I've ever seen.
  • not easily accessible by public transport (1 bus, or train + taxi).
  • question marks raised over animal cruelty, which have since been disproved, but which still leaves a bit of a smell.
I didn't look at the shop, but from memory of our first visit it sells the usual zoo type souveniers. You can also buy bags of animal feed for the goats and sheep.

There was a bit of hoo-ha a while ago, with accusations that the owners were promoting creationism. The information I saw seemed fairly balanced, with a wall of information about Darwin all from the Open University. I doubt many people will pay much attention to it, anyway (it's on the walls in the barn with the slides, if you're interested).

There has also been some controversy over the tigers, links to a circus and living conditions, but I haven't been able to find out much more about that. I read they had 3 tigers, but we only saw 1 on the day. There are 2 male lions. There are good viewing platforms at both ends.

I definitely recommend it as a family friendly attraction. Though there are indoor play areas, it's definitely one for dry days to be able to appreciate the whole zoo and farm. It's a good alternative to nearby Bristol Zoo. Both offer different experiences which my children have enjoyed.

Noah's Ark Zoo Farm, Clevedon Road, Wraxall, Bristol, BS48 1PG
Tel: 01275 852606