Wildlife and animal attractions in East Devon
- Credit: Archant
Lynx, wolves, zebras, flamingos, red deer and llamas. Not the kind of animals you would spot during a normal country walk in East Devon, but they are here, along with many other creatures, in the area’s wildlife and animal attractions.
Wildwood Escot, near Ottery St Mary
This is not the usual kind of wildlife park; it is a unique conservation project to protect Britain's most endangered creatures, and reintroduce animals to the habitats where they once lived. Wildwood Escot is home to red squirrels, a pack of grey wolves, a British wildcat and two lynx, otters and wild boar.
The squirrels' habitat is protected from grey squirrels, because the greys carry a disease that can kill reds, but it looks just like a natural woodland. All the animals are kept in environments where they are not on view to the public unless they want to come out and be seen.
You can walk through the red squirrels' wood, and see them up close when the keepers give them hazelnuts. The wolves, too, have regular feeding times when they will come within a few metres of their enclosure's fence.
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Wildwood Escot also has gardens, outdoor adventure play facilities including a zip wire and drop slide, a replica Saxon village and an excellent maze. There are regular birds of prey displays.
There is a wetland area which has plenty of flourishing wildlife, but has become overgrown and is not yet visitor-friendly. A project is under way to create walkways and interpretation boards so that visitors can explore the wetland. Visit the website for further infomration on Wildwood Escot.
Axe Valley Wildlife Park
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A small friendly zoo based at Summerleaze Farm, Kilmington, near Axminster. It has animals including meerkats, zebra, flamingoes, chipmunks and many more.
Staff say they believe any age group will love their animals, but the zoo prides itself on being child-friendly and is mainly aimed at families with children under 12. There are several play areas and picnicking areas where people can eat their own picnics, although there is also a café.
During the summer they have talks by the keepers, 'animal encounters', glitter tattoos and other special activities. Visit the website for full details.
World of Country Life, Exmouth.
Plenty of chances to get up close to animals here, with a range of activities mainly aimed at children. Feed the red deer and llama from the Deer Train, bottle-feed lambs and calves, go for a walk with a goat, and hold the tame rabbits and guinea-pigs. There are also duck, lamb and ferret races and bird of prey displays. For details and times, visit the website
Seaton Tramway Birdwatching trips.
The Axe Valley wetlands are home to many species of birds, and one unusual way to spot them is from a tram, travelling through Seaton Marshes and Colyton Common, next to the River Axe estuary. The birdwatching tram trips last for two hours. There are frequent stops along the way, during which a local expert will point out the different species of waders, ducks, gulls and even birds of prey that can be seen. Naturally the numbers and species vary according to the time of year; summer time can be quiet and the numbers build up in winter.
The birds tend to be some distance from the tram, so binoculars are advised. This trip would be most appreciated by people who already have some knowledge of bird species and habitats.
The trips have limited numbers and must be booked in advance through Seaton Tramways. Do it via the website, phone 01297 20375 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Peak Hill Llamas
A different way to enjoy the beautiful countryside and coastal views near Sidmouth. During the summer months, there are various walks available, all including a short introduction to the llamas and how to handle them. One walk includes llama grooming and family activities; another is followed by a cream tea. All the walks are conducted very much at 'llama pace' (not very fast) as the llamas like to walk slowly and stop from time to time to admire the scenery and graze on the hedges.
During the summer there is high demand for the walks, and they must be booked in advance. Visit the website.email email@example.com or call 01395 578697.