I could recommend places to go and things to do in the Lake District until the cows come home – Tarn Hows, Windermere (the quiet side of the lake), Esthwaite, Rydal cave, (where the dragon lives) the cathedral cave near Tilberthwaite, Kings Arms in Hawkshead, Drunken Duck, Britainia Inn in Langdale. I could go on… so that’s for another post.
This weekend though, I discovered a new place. The weather is often wet and wild in the Lakes and you need to plan carefully or you’ll end up dragging your kids around a lake in the driving rain – it’s not fun, trust me. So this ‘spring’ weekend we ventured to the Lakeland Wildlife Oasis near Milnthorpe just 8 miles south of Kendal. And what a treat it was.
It calls itself the’ Zoo with Lots to Do’ – and it’s right. It has. As soon as you walk in, each exhibit holds your attention whether it’s studying mouse hair through a microscope or creating puzzles of crustaceans. There is the tropical room – a toasty greenhouse full of plants and creatures who thrive in the kind of heat I’d like to see this summer.
In a completely genius way, they had rigged up a thick rope right around the room, trailing from a plate of Michelin starred ant food (oranges, colourful leaves etc) to a black box of squirming soil, the ants nest. If you’re over 6 foot, be careful when you walk into this hot paradise – the rope is slung a little low and you could get a head full of ants carrying huge pieces of food to their nest. The rope is as busy as the M6 in summer. It’s fascinating watching them.
Butterflies flap about, bats sleep in the rafters and birds roam freely indoors. There are tarantulas and scorpions in containers (thank goodness). And outside, if you catch the weather on a well earned break, you are given the chance to feed the meerkats and watch the sleeping snow leopard kittens, Loki and Luna. They were born last May and are the pride of the zoo. When they are old enough they could even be given the chance to leave and be paired with mates as part of a breeding programme.
They also have some beautiful red squirrel babies, lemurs and maras that roam around the grounds (huge rabbit, kangaroo type things).
The zoo aims to take you though 3,000 million years of evolution following the development of life on Earth – from molecules to monkeys. They aim to promote international breeding programmes and to educate people about endangered animals. You can adopt an animal, such as a harvest mouse, a red squirrel, a snow leopard or a lemur. I quite fancy the harvest mouse.
Each exhibit was explained and each hands on activity could suit any age. My 4 year old loved it.
So, next time you’re in the Lakes, wet and windy or sunny and warm, take a look at the Lakeland Wildlife Oasis. And you could end up foster mum or dad to a baby snow leopard or squirrel. Just don’t take them home.