Meet the animals at Gwel An Mor, Cornwall
Whenever I mention that we’re going to a farm, my daughter asks if there’s going to be a turkey. It’s evidence of how much impact travel can make… albeit not always the one you expect.
We encountered the turkey prompting the question on the Isle of Wight over two years ago. It was a lot bigger than Minnie at the time, gobble gobbled inquisitively, and left her determined to give them a very wide berth in future.
Fortunately the Meet the Animals tour at Gwel An Mor had plenty of animals she adored, from goats and reindeer to chickens, hedgehogs, various furry creatures and a snake.
Feadon Farm is the wildlife centre at Gwel An Mor, where we were staying, but you needn’t be a guest there to take part. For adults and older children, there’s the chance to try a badger safari or night walk, Meet the Animals is tailored to younger kids, plus there’s falconry, other wildlife experiences and even rockpooling, led by Gary, the centre’s wildlife ranger.
You’ll spot a few of the furrier inhabitants as you walk around the grounds, particularly the pygmy goats, who lift their heads optimistically whenever anyone walks past. And that’s where we started, cupped hands full of food at the ready – even if half of it went on the floor in startlement at the goats’ enthusiastically licky tongues. They still ate it – obviously, goats will eat anything…
Picking up a few goat top tips along the way (such as never patting them on the head, as that’s a challenge), we moved on to the chickens. Some beautiful birds: feathery footed, intricate plumage, gorgeous colours, I was busy marvelling at their markings while Minnie was discovering that if goats were licky, chickens were pecky. Nowhere near as good in her eyes, compounded by the fact she then stepped in chicken poo which she seemed to take as a personal affront.
For my three-year-old, the rest alternated approximately between animals she loved – the reindeer, taking home a hank of hair from their moulting winter coats; the staggeringly soft-furred rabbit; the corn snake (my daughter unexpectedly adores snakes); tiny baby mice – and the ones she approached with slight suspicion.
I loved every moment, from the ferret which snuggled up happily in Gary’s hat to the hedgehog whose relaxed spines felt just like stroking a hairbrush, and the wonderful barn owl which would fly onto your gauntlet.
And throughout, lots of fascinating bits of information about the local wildlife, the centre’s conservation efforts and how Cornwall’s nature is affected by encroaching modern life, plus trivia about the animals. I am very definitely a city girl, which might explain why I never knew badgers would eat chickens or that only the white of the egg is needed to create a chick (the yolk gives it energy for the first day).
But the highlight for me was the foxes. Three rescued animals: one which someone had tried to tame in their home – unsuccessfully, as you can’t tame a fox – before handing her over to the RSPCA. Still wary of humans, they’re happy to tolerate visitors in one particular area of their home or if you approach in ones or twos to offer up food. Foxes, it turns out, are just as enthusiastically licky as goats.
Two hours passed in a flash. I’d have gone round again given half the chance – and on a longer stay, I’d have been signing up for more activities, especially the fascinating sounding night walk. Gary was fantastic with the kids too, reassuring the nervous, balancing his care for the animals and one highly enthusiastic little boy, and generally keeping us all entertained.
And not a turkey to be seen.
Need to know
All the activities need to be pre-booked, either when arranging your stay or separately via the website. You can also book at reception, although with limited numbers, it’s worth signing up early during busy times.
The sessions cost £12 for adults, £7 for children and it’s free for under-twos (although not all activities are suitable for younger kids). The tours meet at reception not at the farm itself.
Disclosure: My stay and visit to the farm was courtesy of Gwel An Mor. All opinions and easily startled three-year-olds are my own.
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