Days Out: Port Lympne Animal Park, Hythe, Kent
Sunday 25 February 2007
Any child with a TV will be familiar with Port Lympne, the setting for the CBBC series Roar!. The show is a children's version of Animal Park, documenting the daily dramas of the 50 species and their keepers. The 400-acre park was founded by conservationist John Aspinall and it is at the forefront of efforts to return captively bred animals to protected areas in the wild. Among the highlights are Barbary lions, now extinct in the wild, a lynx, tigers and many smaller big cat species. There are also elephant and rhino, the world's largest gorilla house and lots of monkeys.
Something for children
Animal lovers of all ages will be very happy. There are a couple of small adventure playgrounds, but competitive children will definitely think the monkeys have got the better deal. During the school holidays, there are keeper talks and a craft studio. Watching the gorillas being fed is a year-round attraction.
Something for adults
Port Lympne is more like a park than a zoo: the enclosures seem to blend into the woods and some are open-topped. There is a one-and-a-half-mile circular walk that would be very fine without the wildlife. The African Safari trip across the Kent veldt in a large open-sided Jeep is possibly better appreciated by the mature visitor, as the animals per minute count is lower than young TV viewers might be used to.
That said, the snakes and creepy-crawlies in the reptile house at the half-way point should hold everyone's attention. Those interested in garden design will enjoy the 15-acre grounds of the Port Lympne mansion, which include a maze.
There is a pricey restaurant in the mansion's conservatory. In summer, there are refreshment kiosks and picnic areas around the park.
Some of the park is quite hilly, but there is a marked route suitable for wheelchair users. There is also a Park Hopper service.
Open every day except Christmas Day from 10am. Adults, £13.95, children aged four-16, students and disabled adult £10.95 (under fours free), senior citizens £11.95, disabled child £8.95. A family ticket for two adults, two children is £42, two adults, three children, £49. No dogs. The African Safari £5 adults, £2.50 children.
How to get there
Port Lympne Wild Animal Park, near Hythe, Kent (01303 264647; portlympne.co.uk. By car: leave the M20 at junction 11 and follow the brown tourist signs to the park. Free parking. By public transport: the nearest station is Ashford. From the station get the Stagecoach East Kent No 10 bus to Folkestone which passes the park. For times, phone 01233 620342.
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