on October 8, 2012
"Trees. They're trees and we have to pay £7.90 entrance fee to see them?" My first impression on the suggestion of visiting Thorp Perrow near Bedale in North Yorkshire wasn't too positive. However, outvoted by a majority decision we visited on a gloriously sunny October afternoon and I was rather won over. Entrance wasn't the most inspiring, but it was kind of novel to be amongst the youngest people in the queue (it hasn't happened for 20 years or so), and the terribly slow check in process really didn’t help my anticipation. When we got to the till, we found rather bizarrely that the front desk was merged with the main cafe area and so admission fees were being collected while the staff member was making cups of tea at the same time. With my muttering "lean processing" under my breath, we proceeded to the first and best view of the gardens; a long expanse of lawn, trees and a beautiful stream running through the middle. Something like Rivendell I imagine.There are around 100 acres of woodland planting to explore, and they make good use of different trees such as maples for colour. With the water, dappled shade and light there were plenty of places for the frustrated photographer. We also liked the formal house on the other side of the lake; truly beautiful. Dotted around the 100 acres are "championship trees" which made me wonder if they had been transplanted to be shown at the "Tree of the Year show" or suchlike at some point in the past. Frustratingly, there was nothing on the signage but a number and the legend "Championship Tree". I could see that this would have to be a little mystery that will have to be solved another time. One great idea sadly lacking in execution was the Halloween display; a few plastic bats and pumpkins do not make a scary display. The only one I had any time for was the scary clown on one of the trees, but I guess I'm a few decades from their target audience so what do I know? Likewise the visitor shop was just terrible with mainly really naff and cheap items to buy. Give even me £300 to buy some stock and I'm sure I could double their takings. Much better was the animal display; Thorp Perrow choose their animals carefully; falcons, owls and a few other birds of prey who perform a little falconry show a couple of times a day and which is quite entertaining. I particularly liked watching the owl waddle after the trainer. Kids over the age of 8 or so can ask the trainer to "catch" the bird which is quite exciting. Also in this area is the chance to see a little zoo including ferrets, pole cats, goats chickens and ducks and the fantastic meerkats. Unlike some others I've seen, these meerkats don’t seem overfed and are as cute as anything. As mentioned before, there is a little cafe selling reasonable food (jacket potatoes, soup and sandwiches) for a few quid. It's not gourmet but good value nevertheless, and a chance to recoup something of the entrance fee my reducing the cost of the day overall. Overall I did finally warm to Thorp Perrow and its friendly staff. In all we spent a happy 3-4 hours wandering around the place and most importantly felt we had had a day out for our money.
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