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Wiltshire’s wild side – the best wildlife parks and attractions

Posted on 27th March 2017

Wiltshire certainly has a wild side, as it boasts a number of fascination wildlife parks and attractions that you and the whole family can enjoy.

Wildlife parks and attractions in Wiltshire

The wildlife parks are great to visit all year round, no matter what the weather, so if you and your family are heading on a Wiltshire cottage holiday this year then here are some of the top parks and attractions you can visit during your stay.

Wild attractions and parks

Longleat Safari and Adventure Park 

Longleat Safari Park

One of the UK’s best and most iconic safari parks, Longleat is located in the heart of Wiltshire. 

This safari drive through takes you closer to wild animals than ever before as you pass through a lion paddock, hunt down the resident wolf pack, see the enormity of the white rhino and elephant and get an up-close look at friendly deer and cheeky monkeys.

You can also feed giraffes and meet zebras as well as go on a jungle cruise on the lake to visit Gorilla Island, watch playful sea lions and hand feed lorikeets. If you want even more animal encounters then the bat cave and Ray Bay are well worth a visit too.

Children can spend hours exploring Longleat’s Adventure Castle as different areas of the playground have been designed for different age groups. There’s a giant ball pool, softball cannons, a splash pad, a lion heart castle and an interactive art wall to name just a few.

You can also explore the famous house and work your way through the hedge maze. 

Forest Falconry

Forest Falconry

There’s just something spectacular about seeing stunning birds of prey spread their wings and glide through the air.

At Forest Falconry, near Landford in Wiltshire, you can explore 12 acres of woodland and meet 50 species of birds of prey, including eagles, owls, hawks and falcons. During your visit you will help train and fly these majestic birds.

Bush Farm Bison Centre

Bison can be seen at Bush Farm Bison Centre

It is pretty special to see bison in the UK and at Bush Farm Bison Centre you can learn all about this mammoth animal and get within touching distance of them.

The farm is tucked away in the woods at the southern tip of West Knoyle, but it offers a great day out for you and the family as there are other animals like raccoons, elk, rhea, chipmunks, praire dogs and guanaco you can see.

There are lots of lakes on the site that you can walk to and a 30-acre ancient woodland you can explore as well as a museum room and a gallery. The gallery is full of Native American artefacts such as buffalo robes and paintings.

Monkey World

Orangutan

Opened in 1987 as a refuge for confiscated chimpanzees that were stolen from the wild, Monkey World now homes the largest group of chimpanzees outside of Africa with more than 250 primates of 20 different species living at the centre.

You can walk around the beautiful woodland and watch the primates playing in their families just like you would in the wild.

You will be blown away by the orangutan crèche, which is the only one in Europe and offers a home to orangutans from around the world.

The centre combines conservation with education as it runs half-hourly talks about man’s closest living relatives. There are also picnic sites, cafes and a large children’s play area boasting slides, swings and climbing frames.

Roves Farm

You can see farm animals at Roves Farm

If you want to see a traditional British farm with a twist, then Roves Farm is a must-visit.

The attraction is a great family day out offering you free tractor rides around the 166-hectare site, and a large variety of farm animals like sheep, cattle, pigs, goats, donkeys and Shetland ponies. You can also handle chicks, rabbits and guinea pigs in the pet’s corner.

The attraction is great to visit all-year round as it is home to indoor attractions like an indoor heated play barn and kids craft sessions as well as outdoor attractions like an outdoor play area, den building activities, walks and animal races.

Wild animals you can see in Wiltshire

Wiltshire has a rich diversity of habitats and as a result, you may come across a number of species during your stay in one of our rural Wiltshire holiday cottages.

Birds

Skylark

There are a number of different birds that you can see across Wiltshire’s farmlands.

Common sightings include grey partridge, yellow wagtails, quails and tree sparrows, but if you decide to go for a walk in the evening you could see a barn owl on the lookout for some food.

If you are staying in Salisbury then the Salisbury Plains are home to a variety of birds including endangered species like the skylark, linnet and stone curlew.

Butterflies

There are 40 species of butterfly in Wiltshire

According to the Wiltshire and Swindon Biological Records Centre butterfly fauna in the county is one of the richest in the UK as over 40 species of butterfly have been known to breed in Wiltshire.

There are even species that are only found in the county such as the silver-spotted skipper, silver-studded blue, grayling and pearl-bordered fritillary.

Mammals

Red deer live in Wiltshire’s forests

There is a large population of different mammals living in Wiltshire.

Some are seen all across the country as well-known mammals like hedgehogs, badgers, moles and foxes are commonly seen all over Wiltshire.

However, the county is also home to a number of protected mammals such as the dormouse and the brown hare.

There are even 13 different species of bats and they can be found at old working mines such as Box Mines.

If you are walking along Wiltshire’s rivers then keep your eye open for otters and water voles, while a stroll through a wooded area could see you come across roe and red deer and grey squirrel.

 

Nature-friendly stepping stones to restore chalk grasslands

Posted on 16th February 2017

Grasslands are among Europe’s most threatened ecosystems and have an enormous impact on everything from habit diversity to atmospheric conditions. The RSPB had an initiative to restore 200 hectares of chalk grasslands in the Winterbourne Downs reserve, and recently a final 26 hectares of rich grassland area has been converted, reaching the RSPB target.

Summer Wild Flowers

The Winterbourne Downs reserve has seen gradual changes in the last ten years as the RSPB have made improvements to the habitat for both flora and fauna. However, recently, the adaptations have been occurring in close proximity with the addition of a chalk scrape and two new dew ponds.

It is hoped that the chalk scrape will provide nesting habitat for stone curlew and lapwings that prefer open nesting grounds with low levels of vegetation. The dew ponds are set to mimic those previously created to hold water for livestock, but as agriculture alters, these dew ponds are becoming scarce. Not only are these set to attract native birds that have been losing habitat, but also to encourage insects. A butterfly bank has been created, south-facing and with a small inland cliff that will also support mining bees.

With the extensive alterations, the RSPB is already noting the different species seen across the Winterbourne Downs reserve. If you are staying in a Wiltshire holiday cottage and looking for an outdoor experience, visit the Winterbourne Downs reserve and have a look at the efforts they are making, especially during the spring and summer months, when the wildflowers are at their best and the wildlife at its busiest.

The reserve is between the villages of Newton Tony and Allison, a few miles east of Salisbury, and is easily accessible by car and public transport.

Image Credit: K B Photography (Shutterstock)

Wiltshire adventurer awarded a Knighthood by the Queen

Posted on 09th January 2017

Wiltshire adventurer David Hempleman-Adams has recently been endowed with national prestige after he was awarded a knighthood in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List. Having been made a Night Commander of the Victorian Order, Sir David was recognised by the Queen for his services to the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme, which he has been a trustee of for 10 years.

David Hempleman Adams

Image Credit: Stuart V Conway(BBC)

Born in Moredon, Swindon, Hempleman-Adams forged his adventurous career at just 14 years old, completing the bronze Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. Since, he has summited Mount Everest twice, led over 30 expeditions to the Arctic and completed a historic solo balloon flight to the North Pole.

Although he has achieved so much in his 60 years, local figure Sir David cites his initial trip to the Brecon Beacons with the Duke of Edinburgh award as being his “lightbulb moment”. It was this experience that fostered his passion for exploration that would lead him to this position. Not only has Sir David travelled to some of the most challenging environments in the world, he also became the first person to complete the “adventurer’s grand slam” of climbing every continent’s highest mountain, a feat reserved for only the finest expeditioners.

Currently residing in Box, Wiltshire, Sir David told reporters that he was “astonished” to have been given a knighthood, and suggests that igniting the interest in discovering the world is a feat achieved by the local groups involved in the Duke of Edinburgh Award. He said:

“When I climbed Everest I was skilled and experienced, and the same with the Poles – it was just another day in the office – whereas that first time I went down across the Brecon Beacons I was very scared.”

“It is an extraordinary scheme and I owe my life to it, really.”

Hempelman-Adams has long been a person of note in the Wiltshire areas, having maintained close ties to the county throughout his career. In fact, during his 1993 ascent of Everest, Sir David wrote, “I would kill for fish and chips and a pint of (local ale) Arkell’s”. It is quite extraordinary that his incredible journey began in Wiltshire, and that it holds such fondness in the life of someone who has experienced some of the most fascinating countries in the world. So, next time you’re relaxing on a Wiltshire cottage holiday, remember to get outside and experience the fantastic local landscapes that led Sir David to where he is now.

Experience every shade of autumn on a walk through Savernake forest

Posted on 05th November 2016

As much as you might miss the sunshine of the summer, no one can deny that the British autumn season can be truly spectacular. A rainbow of colours are unleashed on hedgerows and forests around the country around this time of year, but few compare to the splendour of Savernake Forest in Wiltshire. November is the perfect time to visit the Savernake Forest, as the trees are just beginning to change into their glorious autumnal colours. If you’re planning a Wiltshire cottage holiday for an autumn getaway, a trip to this ancient forest is a must.

Walking in Savernake Forest is to walk through geological history. As Wiltshire Walks explains: “Savernake (or ‘Safernoc’ as mentioned in a Charter of 934), is well over 1000 years old, and is the only privately-owned forest in England. It is 4500 acres in size, although in the mid-18th century Savernake extended to some 40,000 acres.” Within this vast acreage of woodland, many of the ancient Oak trees are over 600 years old. One, named Big Belly Oak, is thought to be as old as the forest itself – up to 1100 years standing!

To experience the Wiltshire autumn season in all its glory, here is our guide to walking in the Savernake Forest in colours.

Burnt orange leaves

Burnt Orange Leaved Trees

Image credit: Judy Dean (VisualHunt)

The many sessile oak trees in the Savernake Forest mean that an abundance of fiery orange hues are unleashed during the autumn months. According to The Woodland Trust, “The Big Belly Oak is one of the most famous trees in the country; the 11+ metre girthed Sessile Oak can be found in the Royal Hunting Forest of Savernake in Wiltshire and has allegedly been around since the time of William The Conqueror.” This grand tree stands proudly in the forest, gaining hundreds of visitors each year. There is no better place to see those iconic orange hues than on the oaks at Savernake.

Golden Beech trees

Golden Beech Trees

Image credit: Brian Robert Marshall (Creative Commons via Geograph)

Beech trees are another British species that are traditionally associated with autumn due to the shades they take on during these transitional months. From November, you can expect to see the forest’s many beech trees assume a soft, golden hue, giving a warm glow to all that they surround as the morning sun shines through their leaves. A plethora of ancient chestnut trees in the woodland add bright sunshine hues to the scene.

Intense reds

Red Maple Leaves

Image credit: Rottnapples (VisualHunt)

Scattered among the golden tones of orange and yellow, several flaming red trees and bushes add intensity to the scenery in Savernake Forest. From the rust-coloured pedunculate oaks to the blood-maroon shades of the stunning maples and the sycamores with their eye-catching assortment of greens, yellows, oranges and the deepest reds, the forest appears almost ablaze in the autumn months. The presence of red deer, which can occasionally be spotted by discerning walkers, adds to this effect. Savernake Estate says, “All main deer species are present in Savernake Forest, including Red, Roe, and ever-increasing numbers of Muntjac, though the biggest numbers are made up by the most native of all British Deer – the Fallow.”

Beautiful browns

Brown Wild Mushrooms

Image credit: Clearwater1967 (VisualHunt)

As the leaves fall to the ground and lie there to nourish the soil, subtle shades of brown line the pathways you will walk along during your visit to Savernake Forest. This, taken in alongside the curious shapes of the monumental tree limbs of ancient trees such as ‘Cathedral Oak’ and ‘The King of Limbs’ brings the natural shades of brown in the Forest together as the perfect backdrop to the vivid colours of the remaining leaves. At ground level, look out for unique varieties of mushrooms and fungi which range from cream to brown and even bright oranges.

Luscious Greens

Green Foliage

Image credit: ToucheD (DeviantArt)

Of course, among the warm-hued larch tree species, Savernake Forest is home to a variety of deciduous trees that keep their leaves throughout the autumn and winter, bringing refreshing green colours to any landscape. A few pines feature in the skyline as well as oak varieties which largely maintain their green hues, along with ferns and grass species that hint continuously towards the coming spring.

To experience the kaleidoscope of colours that is Savernake Forest, take a look at the routes suggested on Wiltshire Walks for advice on all of the best paths to follow to find these flame-coloured trees. There is no better way to spend a crisp morning than leaving the warmth of your Wiltshire holiday cottage and heading out into the warm shades of this ancient forest.

Tour of churches and pubs make for great combination in Wiltshire

Posted on 15th September 2016

Thanks to a campaign by Visit Wiltshire, the “Saints and Sinners” trail is inspiring people to visit the county.

Ruins of St Leonards Church, Sutton Veny

The tourism organisation has paired historic churches in Wiltshire with a number of great local pubs. Many of the churches and pubs alike are steeped in history and go back centuries.

“It might be at the end of a country lane that churches like this might be as well known as other places,” Visit Wiltshire’s Florence Wallace told ITV. “And therefore by highlighting those we can hopefully make sure people stop and see the beautiful historic importance of places like this.”

The entire tour can be downloaded here.

All Saints’ Church in Alton Priors is on the tour. With Norman features, this simple medieval church has fantastic views of the Alton Barnes White Horse. The tour also includes the 14th century church of St Mary’s, Old Dilton.

After looking at the various churches, participants on the trail can visit a paired pub or two. Local pub owners who are included in the tour love the idea of being connected to the famous churches.

“We have people going through to Dorset, through to Devon, through to Cornwall but increasingly people are becoming aware of the fact that Wiltshire has something within itself that is as interesting as anywhere else around can offer”, said Charles Luxton, who owns The Beckford Arms in Tisbury.

His pub has been paired with St Leonard’s Church – a partial ruin of a church – in Sutton Veny. In all, there are four historic churches and four great country pubs on the tour. For those enjoying a cottage holiday in Wiltshire, it is the perfect way to explore the region.

Image Credit: Trish Steel (geograph.org.uk)