Muddy kids visit: Tamar Otter Sanctuary
One of the good things about 16 people camping in your garden over half term, is that they can take the mudlets off your hands while you are waist high in Muddy Awards votes.
The clans pitched up early and headed to The Tamar Otter Sanctuary, just outside of Launceston. ‘Follow the brown signs’ I said, ‘and let me know if its Muddy – they’ve been nominated for an award!’
My spies report very good things; this is one for every animal crazy kid. To say I was a bit jealous that they were off hand-feeding deer while I slogged at Muddy HQ with only one measly G&T to keep me company is an understatement.
This is what they thought….
Set in 21 acres of exceptionally well kept outdoor space and forest – and I mean exceptionally spanking Disney-clean well kept – the sanctuary is home to more than a few naughty otters. This is a hands-on in-your-face animal experience: expect as many free roaming animals as children – rabbits, peacocks and peahens, guinea fowl, wallabies and munctjac deer all quite relaxed and quite at home. Sadly the Bluebells were past their best (aren’t we all dear?) – a week or two earlier they would have been beautiful. All areas are accessible to disabled visitors which means no one misses out.
The site is family owned, and funded by the income received by visitors. The devoted staff clearly have the best interests of the animals at the centre of everything they do. The handlers were very knowledgeable and approachable. The birds of prey host involved the children allowing them to hold various birds. Everyone in the crowd had chance to meet close up. His dedication was quite humbling – he admitted he hadn’t taken a holiday in years as just two weeks apart breaks the trust between handler and bird (somebody give that guy an award – now!).
They aim to rehabilitate injured otters, releasing indigenous species back to the wild. Those that can’t be released are handled and friendly and enjoy a life of luxury at the sanctuary.
At the otter talk, each group of otters were fed and the young handler explained the group hierarchies. The male group were hilarious and just like human boys – they play, tumble, fight, stink, and rock gang mentality. I feel your pain Mrs Otter. I bet they leave wet towels on the floor too. Very entertaining.
The otters are fed twice a day so check the website for feeding times to time your visit. Feeling peckish yourself? There’s a cafe on site, reasonably priced, especially as everything was made to order. The muddy group had quiche and salad, cheese scones with grapes and cheddar and home made chutney, soup du jour and fresh bread. Oh and cake. Nosh for three adults and a pint sized mudlet was around £24.
I have a ‘thing’ about public loos, so I asked my spies to check out the toilets. They were immaculate, and plenty of hand washing points and hand anti-bac sprays with reminder posters around the site too.
At this point, Muddy senior was so impressed she retro-upgraded her senior citizen day ticket to seasonal – they were more than happy to accommodate – and she’s been back since already.
After loads of cake, my moles on the ground walked around the site again, this time seeing harvest mice, chip monks, and parrots. Feed was available to buy from the honesty box and entering the woods.
The wooded area was utterly magical. This is a chance to live out your Snow White fantasies (please say its not just me???). Free range chickens and friendly fallow deer, and family of wood peckers will all give you a nod. There were picnic spots in the woods, easy access path as well as a more adventurous route for those looking to tire out the kiddypoos.
No day trip out is complete without a visit to the gift shop am I right? This was pitched perfectly – not loads of tat, but pocket money prices (£3-15) – good for those of you like me that insist ‘you can buy a pencil’ but walk out having purchased a suit of armour and agreeing to sponsor a pod of Dophins for a year (c’mon I know I’m not the only one).
The gang only left because we’d lit the BBQ back at the ranch – they spent a good five hours on site and still didn’t get round everything. Mils best bit: without doubt hand feeding the fallow deer. Apparently it was the best day of her life. Ever.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: animal lovers, getting up close and personal, families of all ages. Parking is a doddle. Other than a steep bit by the shop, the rest of the grounds are level, good for buggies and wheelchairs. Artists – lots of points to sit and draw. Retirees! Now she has her annual pass, Muddy senior will be taking a book to read on a warm day (before she collects the kids from school for me, naturally).
Not for: duh those who like to keep nature firmly at arms length, obviously. All outdoors so not so great if its raining, however the forest provides cover. Not open in winter (see previous point). Its closed from November to the end of March.
£££: Well worth the money. Parking is onsite, and free which is a bonus. A season ticket is super value and pays for itself after just two visits.
Dare to disagree: Have a look your self. Discounts for groups, family tickets (2+3) £25
Tamar Otter Sanctuary, North Petherwin, Lanceston PL15 8GS T: 01566 785646