Marwell Wildlife is celebrating 40 years as a wildlife park this year. Situated in the grounds of Marwell Hall, Marwell Wildlife has become a destination known for it’s open spaces and conservation. It has a massive draw for families and you can pack a whole lot into one day out.
Marwell is a spacious zoo so if you’ve visited Bristol or London you’ll find it more spread out although not on the same scale as Chester. The main routes through the zoo are via the wide tarmac road shared with the tractor land-train. The entire route is lined with enclosures and there are paths and walkways taking you closer to the animals.
They have a varied collection of animals, from Rothschild giraffes to Humboldt penguins. Their big cats include: cheetahs, amur leopards, amur tigers and snow leopards. They have a huge range of hooved animals including gazelles, bongos, okapi, oryx and zebras. Add to this lemurs, white rhinos, monkeys, pigmy hippos and flamingoes to name but a few and you have a day filed with exciting encounters.
The Low Down
Food: there are several concessions around the park. Open all year are the gift shop cafe near the entrance and Cafe Graze near the tigers. During peak season (normally school holidays in my experience) there is an outdoor cafe in encounter village and Jude’s Ice cream by the rhinos (by far and away the best ice cream ever). Often during the holidays extra spots open up near the play areas. If you want to have lunch at Cafe Graze get there between 11:30 and 12 or after 1 as it becomes very busy from 12 – 1 especially on a cold day. I’m not keen on their sandwiches but their hot food selection is always tasty. If you have a picnic there are several picnic spots with tables but we like to go to the lawn behind Marwell Hall and play on the roly-poly hill.
Getting around: This is a great zoo for walking and pushchairs but the lure of the tractor-train is hard to resist. If you’re going on a busy day, jumping in the train and getting off at the opposite end of the park can give you a relatively quiet experience. Another trick is to turn right in front of the gift shop and go around ‘backwards’ At busy times the land-train can often fill up so it’s not a given that you can get a space especially if you have a pushchair as the trailer fills up quickly. There is no charge for the land-train but the miniature rail which will take you around the park on a circular through the enclosures has a small charge.
Play spaces: there are three main play spaces. One near the entrance behind the penguin enclosure, one just beyond the tigers and one at the farthest point of the zoo in Encounter Village. Each has different elements for a range of ages although young toddlers may find most of it a bit much. Dotted throughout the park are other playful spots to stop and enjoy.
Times to visit: I prefer to get there as it opens in the morning or (as I’m a pass holder) for the last few hours of the day. Plan which animals you’d like to see using their interactive map and stop at the information hut by the entrance to find out when the keep talks and special events are running. During the year they also have special events such as late night opening in the summer, Halloween activities in autumn half term and their Christmas event which we visited last year.
Annual Pass: if you live within easy reach of Marwell I’d heartily recommend the pass. It is great value for money and a superb day out all year round. We have been pass holders for the last five years and got great use from them. If you are a pass holder buy one of their bottomless hot drink cups – worth their weight in hot chocolate!
Marwell is more than a day out; it’s an opportunity to learn and support their conservation and breeding work. Find out more and plan your visit at Marwell Wildlife.