Author: Greg Rees
Hoo Farm is a real hoot…. Hoo Farm Animal Kingdom is a small, family-run zoo located on the outskirts of Telford, Shropshire, at Preston on the Weald Moors. It offers a fantastic, fun day out for all the family, but with a strong message about conservation.
Review of Hoo Farm Animal Kingdom
Nestling in 32 acres of woodland and paddocks in the heart of rural Shropshire, it’s a panoramic spot in itself. But when you factor in over 400 animals covering 120 different species – some very exotic and some endangered too – it’s an absolute no brainer for a nature loving youngster. It didn’t disappoint!
We even saw some new and rare species of Freddie’s favourite owls, which have always fascinated him since he was a toddler. Whilst the Brown Wood Owl was sleepiness personified the Great Horned Owl was hilarious and seemed to be gurning at us!
Freddie (aged seven) and I dived straight in on arrival, heading for the Rivers, Rainforests & Deserts section nearest the entrance for a gander at all things scaly and slithery. Reptiles are another animal group that captivates him, but with the three largest snakes on the planet in the Reticulated Python, Green Anaconda and Burmese Python resident, I’m glad they’re safely behind glass.
The North American Snapping Turtle is a sight to behold and the Spectacled Caiman might be a smaller croc, but it’s still got an impressive set of gnashers. It was also great to be able to finally see a Gila Monster, which is one of only two known venomous lizard species. A video on the Piranha species also held our attention as they are clearly not the frenzied people assassins that Hollywood has made them out to be.
Next up was the Lemur Forest with the Madagascan Ring-tailed versions the star of the show – you can even walk amongst them on designated days. They seem to love the camera and played up for the gathering children no end.
But this pretty woodland area is also home to some other unusual animals like Romanian Water Buffalo, large South American rodents called Capybara and the world’s biggest bird, the Ostrich. We particularly like the Coati from Central America with its super cute nose and tail, which is a member of the Raccoon family.
Still following the tree line, we ambled next into Wallaby Wood and a look at the Bennett’s Wallabies from Australia. If you’re particularly lucky, they may come and take some food out of your hand (a special variety sold separately in the shop) and we even glimpsed a few of their young called joeys.
However, this area also features the likes of Warthog, impressive groups of Red Deer and Fallow Deer and the Emu-like Greater Rhea which is classed as near threatened – you can even feed some of these species at their allotted times too. This area is also home to the Hoo Farm Badger Hide where you can take part in pre-arranged badger watching sessions.
Last, but not least, the Animals of the World section is home to Shropshire’s Big Cats and in particular Servals (the second fastest cat in the world after cheetahs at around 45mph) and Caracals with their long, tufted ears which are strong enough to bring down a zebra. There are also Fishing Cats and the Scottish Wildcat to marvel at – and Rusty Spotted Cats are arriving this summer.
We also fell in love with the cuddly ‘bearcat’ Binturong, which hails from the Philippines and Indonesia but is now sadly classed as vulnerable in the wild, as is the Asian Clawed Otter which is the smallest otter species in the world.
Meerkats are always a joy and fun to watch, plus it was intriguing to see the likes of the Arctic Fox, Indian Crested Porcupine, Black & White Ruffed Lemurs, Raccoon Dogs, the Zorilla Polecat and African Civets, which although nocturnal were happily wandering around in the sunshine.
One area we couldn’t take in is Parrots of the Caribbean, which is closed momentarily for refurbishment, but features over 20 different species of parrots, including Macaws, Cockatoos, Galah and Amazons. It’s also home to rare giant Spurred Tortoise and a recent arrival of Marmoset monkeys, which we’re told are right little characters.
Plus, for younger little ones, there is also a more traditional farmyard animals area with goats, sheep and pigs that you can feed – and in February it’s magical lambing season so you can even catch them being born.
There is so much to see and experience at Hoo Farm Animal Kingdom, so allow yourself a good 3-4 hours for a proper look round. There is a host of activities and talks going on daily and just on our visit you could meet the Meerkat, Tortoise and Owl, as well as feed the Deer, Ostrich and Pigs.
Another favourite is the Hoo Farm Sheep Steeplechase, complete with teddy bear jockeys, and live commentary but this year it’s only running from July to September.
Membership is available and so is animal adoption, plus up-close-and–personal Exotic Animal Experiences operate too – and you can even be a keeper for a day.
Hoo Farm caters for wet weather as well with an indoor soft play area and games room, as well as an adventure playground; plus action downtime with the likes of pedal go karts, plus battery powered tractors and quad bikes (extra charge).
There’s a well-stocked gift too and the food on offer is decent quality and sensibly priced – burgers, hot dogs, jacket potatoes, plus sandwiches and pastries, hot and cold drinks, etc – although they do have the option of an indoor and outdoor picnic area for your own food.
Adults (16+) £10.95 on gate and children (2-15 inclusive) £9.95 on the gate. Seniors £9.45 and family of any 5 people £45, although online booking savings are available.
From February up until 8th September, open every day 10am-5pm, but from 9th September to 29th November closed Mondays. Then from 30th November to 24th December open daily again, 10am-5pm, although closes 3pm on Christmas Eve.
Disclaimer: Greg and his son received complimentary entry to Hoo Farm Animal Kingdom for the purpose of this review. All words and opinions are his own.
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