As a family we love going on days out, but with Noah and his communication difficulties, it is always relatively stressful and requires careful planning on our part. We wanted to take him out somewhere after his 3rd birthday in July and decided that given his current interest in animals, a zoo would be the best bet. We had previously visited Twycross Zoo in East Midlands in 2014 and absolutely loved it! Actually when it came to writing this post I realised that my blog picture was actually taken there when we visited in 2014. From our memory of our visit we particularly liked that the zoo covered such a vast space and it didn’t feel particularly busy so we decided to make a return visit. We booked our tickets online which saved us a few pennies and while we printed our receipt off, the staff there are happy for you to provide them with your booking reference if you don’t have a printer.
As you enter the zoo using the entrance pictured above, there is a large indoor complex with multiple food stands, refreshments and a huge soft play area, and although there is a small additional charge for it, it does seem worth it. Unfortunately we were unable to make use of it and Noah was so exhausted after looking at all the animals that he fell asleep on the walk back to the zoo entrance! This is also where you find the gift shop, which is a haven for all things your kids will beg you for, and while it is no cheaper than any other attraction gift shop you would visit, it is clearly signed throughout the shop that all profits made from purchases in the gift shop go directly into the conservation programmes that Twycross are involved with.
Whenever we go anywhere we are careful to check whether the disabled parking states that it is reserved for blue badge holders only or whether it is just ‘disabled parking’. Due to Noah only just turning 3, we haven’t applied for a blue badge for him yet. Luckily for us the disabled provision at Twycross doesn’t require you to show a blue badge and the signage states that it is disabled parking and not exclusively for blue badge holders. However, when we attempted to park the car in the disabled bays, our entry to the car park was obstructed by a member of staff on a golf kart style vehicle and he made hand gestures in a square shape to say that we needed a blue badge and motioned for us to turn around and pointing in the direction of the field parking whilst leaving his vehicle obstructing the entrance to the car park. Although we were disappointed that we weren’t allowed to use the disabled parking, we turned around and headed to the field parking provision and parked up. When we had arrived at the zoo, my husband popped into guest services to ask why the signage does state that we must display a blue badge. Much to our surprise the staff in guest services said that as we had attended the zoo with a disabled guest and had provided the appropriate evidence for Noah to enter on a disabled child’s ticket, we were free to use the disabled car park.
Happy that the parking issue was now resolved and clearly just a misunderstanding, I sent the husband off to fetch the car and park it in the disabled car park to make our return to the car easier. As you can imagine I was horrified to find that he had again been prevented from entering the car park, by the same member of staff and had to actually get out of the car and explain to the man that we had spoken to guest services and they have informed us that we are welcome to park there. It wouldn’t have been as bad if he was allowed to then enter the car park, but the man was just as reluctant to move as he was before. In the end my husband actually had to say to him ‘please move your vehicle because I will be parking my car here and if that is an issue you can take it up with your management’. Whilst this was the only issue we had on the day, it did put a downer on our visit and so much time was wasted at the start of our day trying to sort it out that it did set the mood for the visit, which is a shame as we do like the zoo itself. Upon our return home we telephoned guest services to explain what had taken place and naturally, express our disappointment. Andrew spoke directly to the head of guest services who was more than happy to explore the issue and offered us a complimentary return visit by way of apology, which we accepted.
When we returned a couple of weeks later, we had no difficulty parking, we used the disabled parking and when we arrived we popped in to guest services to thank the man that had arranged for our return visit. He was very apologetic for our previous experience and let us know he would be available throughout our visit if we needed him for anything. It really felt like he cared whether we enjoyed our visit and was happy to help us.
The thing I love the most about Twycross is that unlike some other zoos we have visited, the animals are spaced apart and there is plenty of green space and lots of room to walk around (and play!), when we visited we were told that there were approximately 50% more visitors than usual on an August Saturday, but if I am to be completely honest, I would never have noticed that the park was especially busy. We had no difficulty with queues for ice cream in the park, no problems viewing the animals. When we have some decent weather again we will definitely be making the trip again and are seriously considering getting an annual pass for the coming year.