Last week I was feeling rather ill and sorry for myself – after a whole Friday spent laying listlessly in bed I desperately needed to do something that would cheer me up. When Saturday arrived it was cold, but with brilliant sunshine – the perfect Autumn morning. And although I still felt rather under the weather, I couldn’t waste the day – we decided to pay a visit to the British Wildlife Centre.
The British Wildlife Centre is privately owned land that is home to many different species of British Wildlife including (but not limited to) red squirrels, foxes, badgers, otters, birds of prey and more. The majority of profits are put back in to the centre and the feeding and upkeep of the animals as well as breeding programmes and conservation. One really great thing about the BWC is that it has a focus on teaching ‘conservation through education’ and regularly holds school/exclusive visits – for that reason the centre is closed through the weekday during school term time.
We had visited the British Wildlife Centre three years earlier and both had fond memories of the place, particularly the tree-top walk and the beautiful red squirrels.
The enclosures at the BWC are well-considered and built to replicate the animals natural environments incorporating ponds, foliage and tunnels under the ground.
At the fox enclosure we met a skulk of foxes – all rescues besides one dog who had been born there. The resident vixen, Flo, was a glossy, friendly fox who came up to the wire fence to sniff at my hand and paw hopefully at my bag. We were lucky to time our arrival at the fox enclosure with a keeper talk and were treated to an informative speech on foxes in the wild and their opportunistic nature. Flo had everyone squealing in delight as she wove between the keepers legs and pawed playfully at the keeper, desperate for treats.
From the fox enclosure we headed to the tree top walk to snap some photographs of the red squirrels. The leaves had begun to turn a gorgeous yellow, and muntjac deers roamed the ground beneath the walkways, soaking up the Autumn sunshine.
Sadly though we didn’t see a single red squirrel! Previously we had seen many of them but this time we didn’t catch so much as a glimpse of a bushy red tail. We did pop back a few times in the hopes that maybe they were snoozing high in the tree tops, but unfortunately we were out of luck on this occasion.
Although we were unable to spot any of the red variety, we were treated to a cute little grey squirrel sunbathing in The Hedgerow.
The Hedgerow is a large barn filled with enclosures, some of which back out in to the open and in to little aviaries. It’s home to some beautiful wild rabbits, field mice building complex little nests and tanks full of beady-eyed wood mice. There’s also plenty of tunnels that run around the edges and ceiling of the barn, and rats have free-roam of these. I must admit, it was a little disconcerting to look up and see wild rats scurry above our heads but it certainly was fascinating to see them go about their little lives, oblivious to us watching them.
We wandered around the centre in the sunshine, peering in to pens and enclosures, desperate to catch glimpses of elusive polecats, minks and pine martens. In one enclosure we watched adorable Scottish wildcats stalking invisible prey and looking every inch like over-grown house pets.
In the Nocturnal House we observed badgers slumbering in their setts and bats hanging quietly from branches. We also stopped by the aviaries to watch the barn owls, snowy owls, and kestrels taking a well-earned rest before their flying displays.
A short walk from the aviaries we found ourselves at the otter enclosure; a vast, clean pond with plenty of lush green foliage and reeds encircling it. We were lucky enough to catch the otters out of the water, sunbathing and playing on the damp grass.
The otters were a real highlight for everyone, their cheeky little faces and inquisitive, playful nature charming the crowds.
From the otter enclosure we strolled down to the Wetland Boardwalk- a series of wooden walkways weaving through carp-filled ponds and strategically-placed bird hides. The Wetland Boardwalk was buzzing with life – from the brilliant blue dragonflies darting between the reeds to the birds peering furtively from the bushes and overhanging tree branches.
We finished up our visit with a keeper talk on the hedgehogs. Gareth and I both adore hedgehogs (we even have our own pet hedgie, Nibbles!) so were keen to get up close to these wild little critters. The talk was held in The Dell with two resident hedgehogs who had been brought in as rescues- we were delighted when the keepers walked through the audience with the snuffling bundles once the talk had finished.
We both had a really wonderful day at the British Wildlife Centre and will definitely be returning in the not-so-distant future (to hopefully catch a glimpse of those elusive red squirrels!)