About Pensthorpe Natural Park
Pensthorpe Natural Park in Norfolk is 700 acres of wetland habitat, conservation projects, gardens and playgrounds. It is a fascinating blend of nature and family fun. We went to Pennisthorpe Park as a September treat without really knowing what to expect. Mr TWT loves gardens, the 2-year-old enjoys playgrounds, and I like birds, so it seemed to have something for everyone. We were not disappointed with our choice. The park can be split into four primary attractions, the wildlife reserve, the gardens, playgrounds and the animals.
The Wildlife Reserve takes up most of the acreage at Pensthorpe Natural Park. Paths and trails wind their way around a series of lakes, through woodland and other natural features. A few bird hides and lookout points are dotted about for wildlife watchers. The park has gone to some effort to ensure that adults and children alike are kept thoroughly entertained on their journey. They do this with the aid of art and games for all to enjoy.
If you turn left to walk around the park in a clockwise direction, you will soon begin to encounter the sculpture trail. A series of nature-themed art pieces blend in seamlessly with their surroundings. The kids loved trying to spot them as we walked along. Some are obvious, some need a keener eye and some you will have to look twice to make sure they are not real plants and animals. If you are interested in finding out more about the sculptures, Pensthorpe Park has a list of the artists on their website.
Every now and then on your stroll through the nature reserve, you will come across special activities for the kids. Small things that you can pause and take part in before continuing on your walk. Things like hopscotch and Pooh sticks.
The sort of thing you can find in this book:
Pensthorpe Park Gardens
Millennium Garden, Wildlife Habitat Gardens and Infinity Garden
If you turn right after the Mill Pond, you will find yourself in a series of planned gardens. The planting here has been arranged to create attractive areas. When we visited in late September, there was still plenty of colours to draw the eye. There has also been thought put into producing gorgeous wildlife gardens with planting designed to encourage native insects and other beasties.
Wave Line Garden
The wave garden contains several of the sculptures from the sculpture trail and is a fascinating piece of garden sculpture itself. The hedges form waves, creating an unusual and exciting space to walk around.
Indoor Play – Hootz House
Hootz House is one of the more attractive indoor soft plays that I have visited. They have gone for a natural wood aesthetic. There is still plenty to keep the kids entertained in this deceptively large space including an area for small children which my 2-year-old refused to use. Hootz House also has some seating and a minimalist cafe (we had to make a run to the main eatery for the best coffee).
Entrance to Hootz House is an additional fee.
Outdoor Play – Wild Rootz
Unfortunately, it has been wet on our two visits to Pensthorpe Park, but it does also have a good-sized outdoor play area. Hopefully, on our next visit, my children will be able to experience this fabulous slide.
Away from Wild Rootz, you will find a smaller, more accessible playground and picnic area.
Pensthorpe Park Animals
Pensthorpe Park takes part in breeding programmes and other conservation projects. They have a few animal enclosures interwoven with the garden section of the park. This includes red squirrels and flamingos, among others. Here are some to look out for:
Once you pass the entrance shop at Pensthorpe Park, you will find yourself in an indoor seating observation area which looks out across the Mill Pond. The Mill Pond itself is home to all manner of species of waterfowl. You can walk all around the pond, and if you buy a bag of food, you will be pursued by these friendly birds. For my kids, this was the best part of our trip to Pensthorpe Park.
Bird food is available in the shop at the entrance. They sell it in bags of water safe food and land food so make sure to get a paper bag of each and don’t mix them up.
Pensthope Park has several enclosures for water rails, but our family favourite is always the flamingos.
Pensthorpe Park also has an extensive shop and an excellent sized cafe with indoor and outdoor seating. Both of these are accessible without paying to enter the park and are very much in the ‘National Trust’ style.