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Wildlife and theme parks
This is, allegedly, the only place in the world where you can visit a colony of nesting Mute Swans. (Trust me, they are not mute). A Benedictine monastery was established at Abbotsbury in the 11th century and the monks began farming swans - which often featured at medieval banquets. The monks have long gone, but the swans are still there (different ones, obviously). If you visit Abbotsbury Swannery these days, you'll find about 600 swans, all free to roam. The colony is established adjacent to a shallow lagoon, the Fleet, which lies behind Chesil Beach. It's a unique location.
Small community nature reserve, formed from part of the garden once owned by author and academic Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963). It is said the woods and pond helped inspire his books that featured the imaginary land of Narnia. The nature reserve is adjacent to Lewis' home for more than 30 years, The Kilns.
The seat of the Duncombe family since 1711, when the house was built by Thomas Duncombe (born Thomas Browne). His descendent, Charles Duncombe, was created Lord Feversham in 1826. The house is not open to the public, but 450 acres of parkland, gardens and nature reserve are. There is also a bird of prey centre on site.
It is hard to categorise the Forbidden Corner. It is part theme park, part maze - a 4 acre garden with follies to explore - battlements, a temple of the underworld, a huge glass pyramid, extraordinary statues, paths, passages and tricks. Suitable for older children (might be frightening for younger ones) and adults. You may get wet...The Forbidden Corner was originally built as a private folly but has subsequently opened to the public and wins awards. Some people love it, others are unmoved.
NB - There is limited entry and booking is required.
One of probably hundreds of open farms in the UK, primarily aimed at children. Greenlands has all the farm animals you would expect, plus some you wouldn't, such as deer, a chameleon, an owl, a snake and alpacas. There are a couple of great slides, plus a good indoor play area, as well as various shops and a cafe - and picnic tables.
The Highland Wildlife Park is a zoo situated in the beauty of the Cairngorm National Park. Originally, the park used to only contain species that were native to, or which had once been native to, the Highlands. This scope has widened, presumably in an effort to increase visitor numbers. So as well as wolves, wildcats and arctic foxes, you can now see tigers and red pandas. There is a large drive-through reserve area, plus a woodland walk and events take place throughout the year. Try to get there for feeding time.
Managed by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland. Irritating website!
Orford Ness is Europe's largest shingle spit, approximately 10 miles long running between the River Alde and the North Sea in Suffolk. It is an internationally important area of shingle habitat, home to a huge variety of wildlife, much of it fragile and precious. It was also used for secret military testing and experimentation, including for aircraft, radio, radar, ballistics and atomic weapons, since the First World War until after the Cold War. Limited access is available via National Trust Ferry from Orford.
One of Britain's largest colonies of common and grey seals is at Blakeney Pont, a 4 mile spit that sticks out into the North Sea. It is a national nature reserve, and a favourite spot for birds, native and foreign, as well as seals. Various companies run boat trips to see the seals. The trips last about an hour and tend to depart from Morston Quay.
The link below will take you to one operator - but there are others - no recommendation is implied.
What used to be South Lakes Wildlife Park opened to the public on a fairly wind-swept location in 1994 and has more than 1,000 animals in its care, including large cats and mammals, primates, reptiles and birds. Some animals roam wild - so you can walk among kangaroos and emus. There are aerial walkways over some enclosures, giving astonishing views. The zoo boasts a proud track record in conservation. Unfortunately, it has a chequered safety history, including several animal escapes, a fire in which 30 lemurs died and the death of a keeper, mauled by a Sumatran tiger, in 2013.
NOTICE - As of 6 March 2017, the future of this attraction looks uncertain. Check the zoo's website for up to date information.