This week is my daughter’s 3rd birthday and as always as well as having a family party planned, we had our little family day out! This year we chose to go to Martin Mere for their Animal Magic Weekender. With the promise of alpaca, snakes, lizards, meerkats, owls and other animals as well as a visit from the Sea Life Centres Rock Pool display at one of the little ones favourite places, it was an easy decision. We had planned on going on Saturday but for one reason or another we cancelled Saturday and moved it to Sunday which turned out to be a brilliant decision weather wise. With a few traffic issues due to the Southport Airshow we got to Martin Mere around 11.30 and already the overflow car park was in full use. I figured it would be busy, but didn’t think it would be this busy (and I don’t think the staff expected it either but they managed incredibly well).
We headed in, bought our bird food (a must), Charlotte lost her small toy Pascal (the lizard from Tangled which she had brought specially to meet the real life lizards) by “feeding it” to the plastic swan used to collect donations, a distraught tantrum was had (the staff have kindly agreed to keep hold of it the next time the swan is emptied), comfort was dished out with a little bit of “this is why we don’t feed toys to swans” explaining and then we went in search of snakes, which weren’t very far at all thankfully.
Tom was mesmerised from the off, the North West Reptile Club were there with a huge selection of animals from lizards to snakes and tortoises! The handlers were very knowledgeable and were great at getting down to the kids levels and letting them interact with the animals by stroking them. Charlotte was a bit apprehensive at first but after a few minutes was just as comfortable as her older brother who was particularly taken with the orange snakes (in his words), but did prefer the tortoises.
We then headed over to the Owls (always a favourite with Charlotte) who were there courtesy of Corio Raptor Care where the set up was a little different to usual. Rather than the birds being on little stands on the ground, the birds here were raised up and on decorated tree stumps. Tom was asking lots of questions about the set ups which the gentleman behind the rope was more than happy to answer. He had one of the smaller owls down for everyone to meet and stroke but with Tom declaring that he liked the biggest one, the man obliged and fetched down “Boo”. She was huge and the bravery wavered slightly but both the little ones stroked her. He then raised her up and out spread her wings, Charlotte ran back to her dad, Tom stood there wide eyed. She beat her wings which I think everyone felt! The handler was brilliant, really indulgent of the little ones which really helps to peak their interest in nature and wildlife.
Then picnic time!
I had read at the bottom of the event page on the website that the ‘event’ was by the canoe safari so we wandered off that way feeding ducks and playing on the stepping stones as we went. We got there though and there was nothing so while the kids had a play on the playground, I photographed some dragonflies and Bob had a rest. All was well until we wanted to get going again. Charlotte wasn’t happy about it and decided to let the entire playground know about it. She kicked and screamed and threw herself on the floor! Me and Tom walked ahead and waited while Bob fetched her. To say it was awkward would be an understatement. Once she had calmed down, we enjoyed a walk around the paths and headed back to the visitor centre for around 3.30ish for a quick play on the park (before attempting to beat the airshow traffic back). Despite looking, we never saw the Sea Life Centre rockpool (which was only there 12-2 so it could be we simply missed it) or the alpaca (which would surely be hard to miss). We were handed leaflets when we came in for the Animal Magic event giving similar info to the event page on the website. A small map for what was where (not even detailed, just areas that the animal magic event was on in) would have helped, but with a day as busy as that, if that is my only gripe, then I must be being picky. The event was included in the entry to Martin Mere with each organisation having donation boxes for you to contribute to.
The kids had an amazing day, and so did we and with Autumn officially starting, the reserve looks absolutely beautiful.
There were a few issues with some of the other families (some of which has been covered in a previous post which you can read here), and I can only stress those points again, but I do really have an issue when parents are happily allowing their children to touch very young ducklings when the parents are visibly unhappy about them doing so. Also when they can see their children are obstructing everybody else and causing a danger near the water, standing by and doing nothing is unacceptable. I wish I could say it didn’t put a dampener on my day but it did a little, fortunately an ice-cream for everyone later and it was all gone.
If there is another Animal Magic day, we will be there in a heartbeat!
Fun had (according to the kids): 20/10
Tantrum level: 8/10 An easy 7/10 when Pascal was eaten, an 8/10 when we left the playground and a 9/10 when we had to leave the park to come home!
Worth it: Undoubtedly!
Worth knowing: There are events throughout the year at Martin Mere so always check the website to see what’s on and make sure you have your wellies in the car! There are paths but if you want to explore the whole of the Mere, then you might find wellies beneficial in wet weather (also the birds are penned in, and so you might not feel comfortable in open toed shoes). Martin Mere is pram and buggy friendly so perfect for families of all ages!
50 things achievement: 4. Build a den, 30. Hold a scary beast, 44. Go bird watching
Cost: Entry in Adults £10.73 each (£11.80 gift aided), children 4-16 £5.23 (£5.75 gift aided), Under 4’s free (Look at membership prices though if you would consider going more than twice a year, could really save and gets you into ALL WWT centres for free).
Bags of food £1 each