Pages

[GIFTED] Day Out at Wild Place Project - Bear Wood

two young children in puddle suits and wellies walking along a wooden treetop walkway

Wild Place Project is one of our absolute favourite places to visit, so when we heard they were opening up a brand new exhibit this summer, we couldn't wait to check it out! Their newest attraction is called 'Bear Wood'. It's a totally unique wildlife conservation project and, thanks to the lovely people at Socialight, we were among the first visitors to experience it.


two children in puddle suits walking past a sign at wild place project

Put simply, Bear Wood is nothing like any other wildlife enclosure we've ever seen before. In fact, it's less of an enclosure and more of an experience! Ours began as we entered through a 'time chamber' which transported us back to the year 8000 BC when the woodland was home to brown bears, lynxes, grey wolves and wolverines. All of these species have been brought back to live at Wild Place Project and you can see them up close as you travel through time during your visit. I deliberately haven't included any photos of the time chamber because it's the sort of thing you really have to see for yourself, but trust me when I say that it was seriously impressive!

We stepped out of the chamber and onto a stunning raised walkway which takes you on a journey through the woodland. It's built entirely from wood which really adds to the natural feel of the space and gave the boys a safe, open area to explore. The highest parts are around 4 metres tall but you lose all sense of perspective once you're up amongst the trees because the whole place is absolutely HUGE! It's hard to give a sense of the sheer scale of it all in photos but you really do feel as if you're out in the wild, exploring the bears' natural habitat.

two children in puddle suits admiring the view from a treetop platform at wild place project

There are little viewing windows dotted around the walkway at child height, which I thought were a really nice touch. The boys loved peering through these and trying to spot animals below them. At the ages of 5 and 2, their attention spans aren't great but they surprised me by spending a fair bit of time watching and waiting here. You have to concentrate quite hard and, because the animals have so much space, there's no way of knowing if or when you're going to see them at all, which made for some really rewarding moments when we finally did!

two children in puddle suits looking for bears through a large glass window at wild place project

If the breathtaking views from the walkway weren't enough, you can also go into a bear viewing den which has floor to ceiling glass windows and allows you to get right up close to the animals. We saw two bears chasing each other through the woodland from this spot but I noticed there were marks all over the glass, meaning that they had been over over to say hello at some point!

We were really lucky on our visit and managed to see all four of the bears that live in Bear Wood. As well as the two chasing each other, we also spotted one having a swim in a lake, which was just magical as he was completely oblivious to the people watching from a distance. The other one took us by surprise as we turned a corner and spotted her up a tree, right in front of us! Both boys gasped at the sight of her and were so excited to see a real life bear up close. This excitement soon turned to cautiousness though and Finley told me he was worried she might jump down onto the walkway (to be honest, I was also starting to wonder how far bears can jump!) so we stepped back and watched from a distance until they felt brave enough to go and say hello.

a large brown bear in a tree in bear wood at wild place project

two boys in puddle suits smiling in front of a bear sitting in a tree

Sadly we didn't spot any other animals in the woodland but the boys were just happy to have seen the bears. We probably could've spent longer waiting to find more but the boys' attention spans just weren't up to it by this point!

If you're not sure what to look for or just want to know more about the different species that live in Bear Wood then it's handy to know that there are a team of expert rangers on hand to point out where the animals might be hiding and answer any questions.

There was so much to learn and everywhere we looked there were facts to find, trails to follow and interactive features to play with. These were visually stunning and all cleverly built into the walkway. I was really struck by how they were designed to blend into the surroundings without disturbing the animals. The educational elements of Bear Wood are great for all ages - Finley liked reading the animal facts and learning about how trees work, while Jacob enjoyed pressing buttons, pulling levers, identifying sounds and gazing at flashing lights!

two boys in puddle suits and wellies playing with an interactive game at wild place project

a boy smiling whilst standing inside a large map installation

Of course Bear Wood isn't just for children! I learnt so much about the history of British woodland (for example, did you know that only 2% of it has survived being cut down?) and got a harsh reality check in the process. The exhibit is designed to inspire every visitor to do their bit to care for the wildlife and woodland around them and preserve what's left for generations to come. There was a lot of information about what can be done to help and I came away feeling really inspired.

The last stops on our journey through Bear Wood were the two natural play areas tucked away in the woodland. Again, these were built seamlessly into the surroundings and hidden from the animals' view. It takes roughly 45 minutes to go through the exhibit so a bit of play time really helped to break up the walking and gave the boys a chance to let off some steam. Jacob especially liked identifying the creatures carved into the logs whilst Finley climbed over, under and around each one!

two boys wearing puddle suits and sitting on logs in the woodland at wild place project

At the very end of the walkway we came across a block of very smart, clean toilets and changing facilities (which was handy because both boys needed to use them!) These were the only ones in the whole of Bear Wood though, so if you're visiting with children then you might want to take a trip to the loos in another part of Wild Place Project before you go in.

We also spotted a 'Bearries & Nuts' kiosk serving snacks and smoothies by the exit, which makes for the perfect place to refuel. The boys were keen to keep exploring though so instead of stopping here, we wandered a bit further and enjoyed drinks at the 'Base Camp Pizzeria' near the entrance to Bear Wood. This place was amazing - it overlooked the cheetah enclosure and was all under canvas, lit up by twinkling lights. They serve freshly made stone baked pizzas (vegan and gluten free options are available), snacks and cold drinks (including beers and ciders - yes please!) here too. It's worth noting that both of these places have limited opening times though, so I'd recommend checking the website before you visit.

Another thing to note before your visit is that nearly all of Bear Wood is buggy and wheelchair friendly. The only parts that aren't are the treehouse and the bear viewing den, which can only be accessed via stairs. If you're planning to explore other parts of Wild Place Project then I'd suggest bringing a baby carrier rather than a buggy if you can as there are some areas that can get quite muddy and bumpy.

Speaking of mud, you've probably noticed from our photos that the boys wore puddle suits and wellies during our visit. Typically the weather was forecast to be wet all day and although we were lucky enough to avoid the showers, I probably would've dressed them like this regardless. There's a lot of puddle jumping, tree climbing and exploring to be done at Wild Place so I usually go prepared for them to get messy!

Every day out we've ever had at Wild Place has been completely unique and this one was no exception. I'm not exaggerating when I say that this particular visit was one of the best days out I've ever had with the boys! Bear Wood kept them constantly entertained from start to finish and gave them the perfect environment to learn and explore without limits.

We were so impressed with the whole exhibit and can't wait to see how the bears grow and adjust to their new surroundings. The boys have already been asking when they can see the bears again so we'll be sure to keep coming back to see how they're getting on!

a toddler boy smiling and wearing a puddle suit and bear ears on his head

Wild Place Project is a fun, family attraction just off J17 of the M5. At the time of writing, ticket prices (including Gift Aid) are as follows:
Adult (age 15+) - £11.25
Child (age 2-14 years inclusive) - £9.00
Child (under 2) - Free
Carer - Free
To save money by booking your tickets in advance or to simply find out more about Wild Place Project, head to their website: www.wildplace.org.uk 

Disclaimer: Our tickets to Wild Place Project were kindly gifted to us by Socialight, in exchange for social media coverage and an honest blog review. We paid for our travel and all associated costs. All views expressed within this post and across social media are our own. 

No comments:

Post a comment