Pensthorpe Norfolk - Something for Everyone
Published date: February 2019
Pensthorpe Natural Park is one of Norfolk’s finest attractions and is located 45 minutes from Norwich on the A1067 Fakenham to Norwich road. It is home to many species of mammals, birds, invertebrates and plants and its diverse range of habitats creates a stunning rich landscape which Pensthorpe Conservation Trust manages. With indoor and outdoor adventure play areas, educational facilities, talks and guided tours, bird hides, a café and gift shop, it’s a great place to visit, whatever your age.
Home of the BBC’s Springwatch in 2008, 2009 and 2010, Pensthorpe played host to the familiar faces of Bill Oddie, Kate Humble and Chris Packham and Norfolk’s wildlife took centre stage on prime-time TV.
Pensthorpe has a variety of habitat from wetlands, hedgerows, woodland and water meadows to river banks, farmland, breck and heath. These are all vital habitats for a species-rich countryside and the value of the habitats at Pensthorpe are recognised internationally by the E.U. Special Area of Conservation designation as well as nationally with four Site of Special Scientific Interest designations.
There are seven bird hides that look out onto the diverse range of habitats at Pensthorpe, including their newest hide, which overlooks a newly opened wetland area. Its extra-large viewing panels and ample seating can accommodate an entire class of students. There are six other hides scattered around Pensthorpe: Wader Scrape Hide East; Wader Scrape Hide West; Garden Hide, Lake Hide; Woodland Hide and Farmland Hide.
The Wader Scrape which was a favourite with BBC’s Springwatch viewers, is great for migrating waterfowl in the winter and is an insect rich habitat in the summer for breeding waders. Here you can see avocets, kingfishers, shelduck, marsh harriers, redshank, oystercatchers amongst other varieties. Underwater wildlife can be observed at Pensthorpe in their large pond dipping facility. These seasonal pond dipping sessions are run by knowledgeable members of staff and are fun for the whole family.
Pensthorpe is home to flamingos and majestic cranes and has a new enclosure that has been inspired by the tropical lagoons more commonly found in southern Spain. Wildlife photographers love Pensthorpe’s Wader Aviary, which offers the opportunity to get close to some rare species such as turtle doves, corncrakes, teal, shoveler, black-winged stilts, redshank, garganey, bearded reedlings and avocets.
You will find one of Norfolk’s largest wildflower meadows at Pensthorpe, with other 80 different species of grasses that attract an abundance of insects such as damselflies, bees and dragonflies. Take a walk through their magnificent woodland and depending on the time of year, you may discover a blanket of bluebells or spot a herd of deer drinking at one of the reserve’s more remote lakes. Search out their Woodland Hide and see a whole host of different birds feeding nearby.
Enjoy daily warden talks and bird feeds at Pensthorpe from the comfort of their viewing gallery. Learn about the species that live at Pensthorpe as well as any migratory species that pass through. Feeding time is 4pm, 3pm in winter and during the summer they switch to a flamingo feed and talk. Norfolk is of vital importance to many species including otters, soprano pipistrelle bat, reed bunting, demoulin’s whorl snail, white-clawed crayfish, skylark and stone curlew. Its diverse habitats means sightings of goldcrest, sparrow hawk, bittern, kingfisher, honey buzzard, tawny owl and pink-footed geese, amongst many others, is possible.
Pensthorpe has four of the most stunning gardens - Millennium Garden, Habitat Garden, Wave Garden and Infinity Garden. Discover year-round colour, inspired planting and thought provoking sculptures as you meander through some of Norfolk’s most beautiful landscapes and diverse habitats. Watch how these wildlife-rich gardens, created by award-winning designers, develop through the seasons; explore them all-year round.
The Pensthorpe Explorer is a vehicle that takes passengers on a behind the scenes tour, reaching the more remote parts of the reserve. Listen to the guide as you go off the beaten track and discover the history of Pensthorpe, gain an insight into their current farming methods and hear about some of their conservation work. Please note the Pensthorpe Explorer does not run all year round and an additional charge applies for this tour. Further details can be found on their website.
The younger visitor is sure to love Pensthorpe’s outside play area WildRootz, which offers outdoor adventure play for a wide age group and is cleverly nestled amongst stunning natural surroundings. Visitors can discover more about the birds in their garden, build dens and play on the fun slides and equipment. There’s a free gift for those who collect all the stamps on the WildRootz Trail. Pensthorpe also has an indoor adventure area called Hootz House, great when the weather isn’t good.
Courtyard Café at Pensthorpe serves home-cooked meals including breakfast from 9am-11am and afternoon tea. Hot meals are currently served from 11.30am-3pm daily. The Courtyard Café is just outside the reserve and entry can be gained without paying the reserve’s entrance fee. For daily offers, opening times and to make a booking, call 01328 851465 or visit their website.
Like the Courtyard Café, Pensthorpe’s Gift Shop can be visited without having to pay the reserve’s entrance fee. On a wet day or if you only have a couple of hours to spare, an outing to Pensthorpe’s Courtyard Café and Gift Shop is very pleasurable and parking is free. Browse the well-stocked shop and find unique hand-made gifts, bird boxes and feeders, jewellery, contemporary household accessories, seasonal items, cards, books, children’s toys and some of Norfolk’s finest food and drink.
Please note dogs are allowed in the Courtyard Hub and Courtyard Cafe (where they must be kept on a lead and in the Function Room only). Unfortunately, unless they are assistance dogs, they cannot enter the main reserve or adventure play areas at Pensthorpe. For those who may need doggy day care whilst visiting the reserve, the Pensthorpe website suggests a company called Petit Paws, 6 miles from Pensthorpe, that offers a home-from-home day care service for your dog. Contact Sylvia Yerby - 01328 878823 or 07887 564600.
For opening hours, entry costs, membership details, accessibility, how to become a volunteer and for any other information, visit the Pensthorpe website:
Pensthorpe Natura Park, Pensthorpe, Fakenham, Norfolk, NR21 0LN
Tel: 01328 851465