Woodlands family theme park near Dartmouth
Shhhh, there’s a secret hidden in the forest…
This was our second visit to Woodlands. Having really enjoyed it last year, we decided to return, but what we didn’t expect was to find a secluded treasure in the forest that we’d not seen before. Turn right before the swing carousel and you soon happen across a little oasis of calm, a zen garden filled with hand-built aviaries housing a wonderful variety of birds of prey complete with spa music, wind chimes and trickling water features.
Here, Geoff the falconer, has created a relaxation retreat for raptors, off the beaten track. The birds weren’t flying when we visited due to a technical fault with the display equipment, but it didn’t matter one jot. We had a much more intimate experience with the birds: Mia and Felix both got to hold owls, kestrels and a poor old harris hawk that was suffering from an arthritic wing and could no longer fly but craved human attention.
The falconer showed so much passion and care for his birds, carefully explaining their habits and behaviour. Arthur 2 the raven did tricks for us to demonstrate his intelligence (which is superior to a chimpanzee!). The information boards were fascinating, I knew about the myth of the ravens at the Tower of London but not that King Arthur was reputedly turned into a raven by Merlin hence ravens are forbidden to be killed in Devon and Cornwall just in case it is the regent trapped in animagus form.
The snowy owls are nesting at the moment and Mr Hedwig did a sterling job of protecting Mrs Hedwig as she sat on her nest. It was the most enchanting experience I’ve ever had at a bird of prey centre that’s for sure, and it’s not even designed to be the main attraction of Woodlands! (Of course we can’t guarantee that you will have such treatment yourselves, but show your enthusiasm for the birds and learning and you just may. It is a special place to visit even if you don’t get to hold the birds.)
Although the definite highlight of the weekend was the falconry centre, we enjoyed the rest of the park just as much as before. The water rides and toboggan appealed to Mia and Felix alike. Despite me thinking he would be too old for it at nearly 7 Felix delighted in going round and round while bouncing up and down on the dune buggy ride again and again. Mia particularly loved the drop slide having conquered her fear. Mark and I enjoyed the vast indoor soft play (not because of the soft play you understand but because of the coffee and chance to read the weekend papers in peace).
Woodlands theme park is ideal for children of pre-school and primary school age. I love that it really is set in the woods. It doesn’t feel too busy because noise and sight of other park-goers is absorbed by the trees which really are stunning. You wander through moss-covered trunks, can marvel at the wildflowers and wildlife, while never being too far from a playground or ride. Senior schoolers might find it a little lame compared to some other theme parks with more daredevil rides, but I really liked the relaxed, un-pressured atmosphere and there wasn’t much queuing at all which was a definite plus.
We visited Woodlands on 24th June 2017. For information about visiting see https://www.woodlandspark.com. They have some cool goings on during the summer holidays including FizzPop science shows every Friday and Titan the robot on 15th August.
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