Although I’m known to be a fan of a far-flung holiday destination, some of our favourite times together as a family have been spent closer to home.
In particular, Flea and I are huge fans of the British coastline and we’ve spent many a happy weekend exploring the coasts of England, the Scottish borders and mid-Wales.
Earlier this Spring, Visit Wales invited us to visit Folly Farm in Pembrokeshire to see what sort of fun families can get up to in the area, as part of a new campaign for YouTube. Specifically, would we like to try our hands at being zoo keepers at Folly Farm for a day and be filmed?
A quick look at the Folly Farm website and we were sold – not to mention the fact that it was a perfect opportunity to drop in on the rather lovely Ruth from Let Her Eat Clean for a long overdue catch-up. So off we went to deepest Wales – Folly Farm is situated around an hour past Cardiff, a 5 hour drive from our home in Lancashire.
Dear readers, there are some things you need to know, in the interests of full disclosure.
Oh my God, it rained.
And it was cold.
Good Grief, it was so cold.
Well, it was January.
But it really, truly didn’t matter too much. In between the rain and the cold, the sun shone and the scenery was glorious and Folly Farm is – like all the best British attractions – well set up to keep you entertained during a rainy shower or two. Or three.
In fact, there’s so much to do here you probably won’t fit it all into one day.
We kicked off our day with a visit to see the meerkats (always a must-see on any zoo trip), and then off to see the giraffes. As part of Flea’s zoo keeper experience, Flea was invited to hand-feed the giraffes, serving them pellets and slices of cabbage, which they grabbed with their long, black tongues. Giraffes drool a lot more than you might expect. Just saying.
What’s great about the experience is that the kids get to chat to the keepers while they feed the animals, so Flea learned all about the personalities of the different giraffes, and even why their tongues are black (to avoid sunburn).
Next up, we headed up to the penguin enclosure where Flea got her hands dirty with the head zookeeper, preparing fishes by stuffing them with vitamin tablets. It’s a good job Flea’s not squeamish – this job was pretty gruesome, involving lots of accidentally smooshed fish guts all over the show. Fish prepared, Flea and her zookeeper friend headed out to the penguin enclosure and got busy throwing fish and even hand-feeding one or two braver little penguins. It was great fun and something I’m sure Flea will remember for a long time to come.
There were also lions and monkeys and even a farm animals area, where Flea showed a previously unimagined talent for milking livestock. “It’s easy Mummy, you just have to squeeze their special places!” she announced, gleefully.
Many of the animal enclosures and areas have cover so that if the weather’s not so good, you’re able to keep dry. And there’s plenty of other stuff to do if the rain really pours down – Flea particularly loved the indoor play barn, where we adults grabbed a hot chocolate while Flea flung herself around one of the biggest indoor play areas I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t open when we visited, but the vintage style fairground rides are also mostly undercover, and looked like a lot of fun for younger kids.
It’s hardly surprising that Folly Farm is one of Wales’ top attractions, visited by more than 400,000 people every year – we absolutely loved our day here, which was captured by Visit Wales in a new YouTube commercial in which I scream like a small girl when a giraffe licks me (you can see the evidence for yourself, below). The Zoo Keeper experience that Flea tried costs just £30 per child, and includes a rather snazzy t-shirt to take home – just make sure you bring your own wellies!