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Discover a Day at Wildwood Escot

Just off the A30 is a place where wolves roam, lynx prowl and red squirrels leap between trees.

Wildwood Escot is like being in Devon thousands of years ago, before the arrival of man and the cream tea.

This fabulous place near Ottery St Mary has conservation at its heart and winding woodland paths lead you past the kind of wildlife that would have once wandered freely through the British countryside.

Standing beside the wolf enclosure as the pack trots out for snack time though makes one grateful that there is a fence. Wolves are beautiful creatures but only when you expect to see one.

We all stood and watched while they munched their treats and their keepers told us how the wolves are fed meat only once every three days and were particularly hungry at the moment.

     

In the wild, they would hunt wild boar. Teasingly, there were a few of these in the enclosure opposite, blissfully unaware of their rather menacing neighbours as they snuffled through the mud for worms.

After gazing at the boar for a while, we went off to view some other strange creatures, which seemed to enjoy throwing themselves down a terrifyingly high drop-slide.

Big kids and little kids whooped with delight as they hurtled down and slid to the end where waiting parents watched, grimaced and then cheered.

Alice, seven, got as far as the summit before deciding that the tyre swing was probably a better option. She’s going to go on the drop slide next time, though. Definitely.

We picnicked nearby, observing the wildlife in its natural habitat, including toddlers falling over and children eating yogurts while running through puddles.

       

Nobody minded though because Wildwood is all about getting muddy and not worrying too much about it.

The trees  - and some of them are awesome - provide enough shelter to make this a great place to visit on a damp October afternoon when the thought of soft play is just too much to bear. There is a play-barn here, which we hovered outside while the children got their ball pool fix.

     

But then it was time to get back into the great outdoors where Jake and Alice explored the rhododendron bushes and ran through tunnels made of trees.

There is also a generous helping of timber constructed play areas, too, with rope bridges and treehouses to hide in. It’s easy to get lost in all the fun.

I nearly did when I left the group to answer the call of nature and found myself looping back around where I had already been and passing the otters twice before eventually finding the toilets by the front entrance.

Wildwood is a deceptively big place and without the benefit of a map, it’s probably wise to leave a breadcrumb trail.

Luckily, I made it back in time to watch the bird of prey display where Bo the 23-year-old (23!) eagle owl and his friends wowed us with their aerobatics.

They soared high above us, riding the air currents before swooping down inches from our heads. I will never tire of watching stuff like that. It makes you feel very inadequate.

So too does getting lost in a beech hedge maze where a birds’ eye view would have been very handy. We managed to find the lookout spot just before extreme panic set in and quickly found our way out again, much to the relief of my husband. I’ve known him for 20 years and did not know that he dislikes mazes.

We all learnt something about our native species at Wildwood today.

By Chrissy Harris

Find out more about Wildwood Escot


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