Wednesday, 23 July 2014

A day out at Prinknash Abbey Bird & Deer Park

So we decided to have another day out, on a Tuesday :-)

Thanks to Wayne's flexible working hours, we are able to enjoy the summer weather when it's merciful and make up the work effort at another time (when it's raining).

My mum is here at the moment and it was her birthday over the weekend, so as a little treat for her and the rest of us, we headed to Prinknash Abbey Bird & Deer Park to see what all the hype is about (see

The first thing we noticed when we arrived is that the car park was not particularly close to the entrance to the park and our massive pram (we had packed a big picnic) was almost out of control on the very steep, winding road which led us to the way in (but Sacha was safe in my arms). The usual entrance itself is in the middle of some building work so there was a temporary way in which had some big steps and was not the most convenient for a pram (but it was okay). A very helpful and friendly lady sold us two adult tickets, one child and one senior, for £25.40 (Sacha sneaked in for free) which seemed a very reasonable amount, compared to over £50 we had paid at the Bristol Zoo last week. The lady did also refer to our pram as 'the tank' which made us all laugh!

And so we headed in. We were immediately greeted by all manner of birds - well, it is a bird park - including chickens, geese, ducks, peacocks, doves, and some others which were inside cages (budgies, cockatoos, and various 'babies' e.g. chicks and ducklings). We had bought three bags of bird food and Ana was giving it out liberally to all the animals which approached her. At times there were so many birds around her feet, some of them of considerable size (like the geese) that she was getting a little bit panicked. Even though the birds are fed by so many visitors they can't possibly be hungry (I think!), they do still go into a real feeding frenzy and it's worth remembering that if you are planning to have a very young toddler feed them (Ana was fine on the whole, but Sacha would have been overwhelmed).

We did also see some of the bigger animals, such as the deer, the miniature donkeys and the goats. In a sectioned off area we also saw a reindeer with such enormous antlers that it actually looked inconvenient to have a such a massive contraption on one's head (but I'm not a reindeer and I guess he might feel differently about it!)

It is possible that there was more to see but to be perfectly honest, after about an hour, we decided to leave and take our picnic elsewhere.

Here is why.

The website describes it as quite a magical place, of "glorious natural wildlife", "picturesque surroundings" and "tranquil picnics", all of this illustrated by some very appealing pictures indeed. However, what we noticed in real life, unfortunately, was an overall lack of effort. Almost all of the wires in the park (and there are lots and lots of different types of wires everywhere, separating different species) had sharp bits sticking out and a fair bit of rust. This is a clear hazard for children. The ponds didn't seem looked after, they were muddy, overgrown with pond life, the goat food dispenser swallowed our money and dispensed no goat food, the overall look of the place was just - a bit unkempt. Add to this the absolutely copious amount of bird waste at every step and you end up with a park that, actually, isn't that amazing (in my humble opinion) and definitely not one where you'd like to enjoy your food. While there were some picnic tables and you wouldn't necessarily have to sit on the ground, still the overall impression is one of not the most hygienic place for an al fresco feast. At every step you are reminded to wash your hands after handling animals (and rightly so) and there are many basins provided for this purpose, but after seeing this reminder again and again your appetite goes a bit. And as for 'tranquil picnics' described on the website, just be aware that many of the birds, and especially the peacocks, make tremendous noise! It is not what I would call a tranquil place in the slightest. The nature is pretty but living on the doorstep of the Cotswolds we are spoilt for beautiful nature anyway.

On the whole, we left a bit disappointed. While it was interesting to feed and pat three young fallow deer, the general impression we were left with is that a lot more could be done with this place and, while not expensive, it is also not developed to its full potential. 

We eventually had our picnic in Imperial Gardens back in Cheltenham which seemed like a more straight forward place for that, especially once Sacha started doing his Elton John impression...

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