Carol said we were going to have an outing today and had said it was going to be a surprise but it turned out to be to Twycross Zoo. We had originally decided that we'd go for a swim at D.W. Fitness and then decided against it as if we'd gone there at 8 o'clock we'd then be late getting out of Milton Keynes on our way to Twycross, which opened at 10. It was a reasonably good day weather-wise so it seemed a shame to not make the most of it and go out. We filled the car up with petrol where we usually go, the Shell station in Grafton Street and then drove out of Milton Keynes and on to the A5 near the stadium and went north through Towcester and not onto the M1 as we are still unsure that the Motorway isn't free of roadworks. The A5 is a far more pleasant drive as you see more scenery that you pass through and it seems a good deal less stressful than driving on the Motorway. Also, we have several places we like to visit, a couple of rather pleasant garden centres and shopping villages which have a certain quirkiness that we like and these places have cafes and coffee shops which make our visits all the more enjoyable. Also, they are good stopping places when you need what the Americans term a 'comfort break' or 'a bathroom break.' We also occasionally use the Aldi supermarket in Towcester for a change when we do our weekly supermarket shop. A good hour and twenty minutes or so after leaving Milton Keynes we arrived in the carpark at Twycross Zoo. found a parking space and walked in to the zoo after buying our entry tickets. I was surprised how compact it is, compared to, say, Whipsnade, which we have visited on several occasions and had membership for several years, which meant that, once paid, you can visit as many times as you wish throughout the year of your membership without having to pay the entry fee each time, in much the same way as membership of the National Trust allows free entry to their properties for a year. We only gave up the ZSL (Zoological Society of London) membership when it became far too expensive (around £159 for a couple.) We managed to see so many animals that we have always wanted to see, such as gibbons and gorillas as well as urban utans, which we have seen in many television natural history programmes over the years, as well as giraffes and elephants.
There's a great deal of building-work going on in Twycross Zoo at present. They are building new facilities, such as animal enclosures. It would appear that they are making these enclosures less like the old-fashioned idea of a 'zoo' where the animals were kept in cages with bars and not large enough to allow the animals to roam or fly around. The new elephant enclosure is more naturalistic and you walk through a sort of Asian inspired walk-way until you get to the elephants in a fenced-off area, giving more of a 'natural' environment which mimics as near as possible how they would lived in the wild. You can go into a butterfly 'walk-through' exhibit, kept at a high temperature, and the butterflies fly free inside and some come and settle on you! Quite amazing.
We had lunch in the fish bar, and it took around 20 minutes in a queue before we got served, but considering the number of people visiting today it's no wonder it was so busy, many of the visitors families with children. It is a very family-friendly place with plenty of things for small children to see and do. Perhaps the fact that it such a compact site is an advantage as you don't have to walk miles between exhibits as you would at other zoos, such as Whipsnade, where you seem to spend ages moving between the different animal enclosures.
Apparently Twycross Zoo is the only place in the United Kingdom where you can see all four times of great ape. We saw Bornean orang utan, although only briefly as they soon disappeared into their houses when we appeared! Was it something we said? The other great apes there are West Lowland gorillas, and we saw a Silverback male, a really large creature, whom you would never want to meat on a dark night! We saw a family of bonobos, similar to chimpanzees, and it was great to see them playing, almost like a human family they way they interacted with each other. Also, chimpanzees, always seeming to be ready to have a game of some sort and some hiding away in their nests, so we didn't see them particularly well. Just one of the hazards of visiting any zoo I suppose. The weather can influence whether they come out to be seen. If it's cold, they hide away, and likewise, if it's too hot they stay in the shade.
We also saw some huge Aldabran tortoises. Actually the first time I've seen them in real-life and not just in some natural history programme on television.
One of the best displays has to be the brand new Lorikeet Landing. These brightly-coloured little birds, similar to parakeets, are in an enclosure which you can go in and the birds are free-flying. You can purchase a bag of seeds and feed the birds. They dart about all over the place and some come and sit on you if you feed them the seeds. They are so brightly coloured they look as if they've come out of one of those children's television shows such as "The Midnight Garden," or "Teletubbies." We also went into the Lemur enclosure, very similar to what they have at Whipsnade, again, where you can see the lemurs up very close and personal, but on the occasion we were there we saw only one lemur! They didn't seem in the least bit keen to interact with us at all, but no doubt they were hiding somewhere in the long grass or some hiding place and watching us closely!
We spent a good four hours at Twycross Zoo. There were quite a few areas that we didn't have time to visit, so it seems we will have to make a further visit, perhaps later in the summer when (hopefully) all the building work has been completed. Fortunately they have managed to make the building work that is going on as inobtrusive as possible. We can't wait to see how the new enclosures look when they open and have their animals living in them. and when it was time to leave we visited the shop to have a browse and then drove home, back south down the A5. We stopped off in Towcester to visit Tesco's as we needed to get milk and a few other items and drove on home towards Milton Keynes.
As soon as we got home we discovered that the fridge/freezer wasn't working correctly. Infact the freezer section had stopped working all together and the contents were rapidly thawing out. Which might explain why the milk was off early this morning when I came to make tea as I usually do early. We have managed to order a new fridge/freezer from Very, the on-line and catalogue retailer from which we have purchased quite a number of items and it should be here on Monday. It means we will have to discard quite a lot of the food which is defrosting as it obviously can't be re-frozen. It's just as well we didn't buy more frozen food in Tesco as it would be wasted.