Pettitts Animal Adventure Park
If ever you’re stuck for something to do with children, remember this mantra: they love animals more than they love you! While that isn’t strictly true (*cough), their love of fluffy, noisy, canter-y (and sometimes downright smelly) things is second to none – put your child in front of anything half resembling an animal (even a pig) and a great day is guaranteed.
Fully aware that our weekly routine of shoving our kids in a sunny beer garden with a slide on a Sunday afternoon had run its course, my friend and I decide to take them for a *proper* day out, animals and ice-cream and all.
Having ticked off most of the obvious family attractions in Norfolk, Claire suggested one I had not heard of before: Pettitts Animal Adventure Park. With a name sounding like something you do with an animal, I was instantly sold (and essentials for a day out instantly packed).
About half an hour from Norwich in Reedham, Pettitts is a sprawling park that’s ideal for pre-schoolers, with rides, trains, animals, playgrounds, ball pits, ice-cream and more… Despite being a little on the pricey side (under two’s are free; two to 15: £13.95; 15 and above: £12.95), you can go again for half the price if you keep your receipt (which reminds me: where did I put that blasted thing?!).
We park in the middle of a field more akin to arriving at a festival than an attraction for kids and walk the narrow lane to the entrance, passing a new brewery on the way (will there be time to pop in on the way home?, I think to myself…). For a beautifully-sunny Sunday, there is no queue and we are in and armed with animal feed before you can say boo to a goat.
The little café just inside the entrance isn’t much to write home about – weak, insipid coffee in a polystyrene cup does little to take the edge off my restless night, but is cheap at £1. My daughter wants to ride the tiny merry go round outside unaware of all the treats in store, so I ditch my coffee so that we can get in the thick of it.
The next two hours is a whirlwind of Tea Cups, Pirate Ships, Little Trains (what’s not to love), ball pits, massive slides, wooden playgrounds with zip wires, sand castles and bouncy castles – and that’s just the kids. Benches are conveniently placed at the foot of each attraction meaning parents can sit in the sun while the children almost kill themselves, and attempt adult conversation in between equal shouts of encouragement and caution.
Rides and attractions are cleverly themed, with recognisable names like Alice in Wonderland, Meet the Meerkats and Robin Hood’s Adventure Playground, while the park also runs three daily live shows hosted by Bubbly Bingo the Clown. During Easter, the park runs an Easter Treasure Hunt, and don’t miss Pegga Pig’s annual visit in the summer.
Lunchtime, and again the food the only real disappointment of the park – a van serving junk food, canned drinks and ice-cream – I shudder as my daughter’s chicken nuggets are emptied straight from freezer into a vat of hot recycled oil; still, she’s happy. There are picnic areas all over the park, so bringing a packed lunch isn’t just a healthier idea, it’s cheaper to boot. The promised ice-cream is next, then it’s off to feed the animals, the cynical side of me beginning to wonder what’s wrong with beer gardens and slides anyway!
But, like children, animals never fail to charm adults either, and Pettitts has field upon field of ducks, geese, goats and ponies that will put a smile back on my face. You can either feed the animals through purposely made wholes in the fence or, if you are feeling brave, head through the gate and hope one hungry goat doesn’t attack you! I choose the former and watch as my friend untangles her two-year-old from an angry kid (oh the irony!).
“How much is left to see?” I ask nobody in particular, marvelling at the size of the place and how tired I am already. It seems we haven’t even covered half of it, with Crazy Golf, a Monkey House, Bird Enclosures, a Shooting Gallery and a Rocky Roller Coaster Mine Train still untouched – plus another 20 or more attractions on top. Seems like we will definitely be re-using that ticket to come again (if I can find it, that is).
For now, with the park’s ‘kids’ and our kids hot, fed and tired, it’s time to head home and enjoy the last of the sun with a beer in the garden (and, no, that wasn’t beer garden!).
Pettitts Animal Adventure Park, Church Road, Reedham, Norfolk, NR13 3UA. T: 01493 700094. pettittsadventurepark.co.uk