Do you know when you have a turning point in your life? A moment when something happens that affects the course that the rest of your life takes? Well my son, Bruno, had such a turning point last week when we went for a ‘keeper experience’ at the Lake District Wildlife Park near Bassenthwaite.
We started off grooming the tapirs, Muffin and Rio, and young Alvez (yes, he is named after the Brazilian football player). Now I’ve always thought tapirs were quite ugly but when you’re grooming them they are just the most gentle, lovely creatures ever. And they LOVE being groomed. So much so that they go into a trance and collapse on the floor to get the most benefit from the grooming.
After the grooming it was off to prepare some food for the meercats. There’s a growing mob of around16 at the Lake District Wildlife Park and they just love squished-up banana. Bruno loved getting his hands dirty squishing up the banana for them and shoving it into a log that had holes drilled out of it (this turns the feeding into a game for the meercats). The meercats ran to greet us when they arrived – they knew what was coming. After they had eaten their fill they came over to investigate and before we knew it was had meercats jumping all over us. One meercat very patiently spent 10 minutes untying Bruno’s shoe lace!
The keeper looking after us saved the best til last in my opinion, and that was playing with the Ring Tailed lemurs. We sat quietly in their enclosure and it wasn’t long before they were coming up to us, sitting on our shoulders and just generally being sociable. So much so that Bruno wasn’t able to leave for some time. A lemur had taken a liking to him and sat on his knee, not budging and not letting him go. The rest of us left Bruno and his lemur sitting there. It made his day and this is why he wants to be a keeper when he grows up.
The ‘keeper experience’ lasted an hour and it flew by. I would recommend it to anyone. We spent the rest of the day at the Lake District Wildlife Park too. We met Rupert the vulture who had been flying out for training; Brian the gibbon who stormed the internet last year when a video of him went viral; Meili the red panda sitting in a tree; Tommy the python (who surprisingly isn’t slimy but warm and friendly); and Margaret the tortoise, who has appeared on TV with Alan Titchmarsh and (more excitingly for Bruno) has had babies aged 46.
One of the keepers, Richard, gave a display with the birds of prey. He’s 36 now but when he was at school he always said he wanted to be a falconer. When he was 16, he got his first buzzard, Jasper, who he reared and trained from a youngster. I wonder if Bruno will be like Richard. Watch this space…
Lake District Wildlife Park is situated about 1.5 miles outside Bassenthwaite village, just near the Armathwaite Hall Hotel. It is open every day from 10am to 5.30pm (excluding Christmas Day and New Year’s Day). There are domestic animals as well as wild animals, daily talks and displays and the opportunity to book onto one of their experiences – Keeper Experience, Take a Hawk for a Walk, Meet the Meercats, Have a Lemur Encounter. Pre-booking essential for the experiences. Call them on 017687 76239 or visit their website at www.lakedistrictwildlifepark.com
You can view all our Bassenthwaite Cottages here.