Easter weekend we arranged to meet our friends who live in Solihull and who we don’t see nearly enough, for a day out. We looked for somewhere to meet half way, us going South and them coming North, so neither of us had a full 2 hour trip, there’s nothing worse than a big journey on a bank holiday Monday.
We eventually decided on a trip to Monkey Forest at Trentham Gardens in Stoke, which is just over an hour away from home for both of us. We have been before about 8 years ago with my nephew and niece (this makes me feel old) it’s a place that I really wanted to take the munchkin so I’d put it firmly on my wish list of places to visit this year.
As always on our days out we packed up a picnic, we went a little posh this time with Mr C cooking Chinese nibbles in the morning and packing some olives for me. I’m partial to taking a picnic anywhere, I think you may have realised this if you’ve read about some of our other days out, I think it adds to the adventure of the day and keeps the cost down, rather than spending a fortune on café food.
Monkey Forest is the only place in the UK where there are 140 Barbary macaques roaming free and they really are roaming around. They’re from North Africa which has a similar climate to ours here would you believe so they’re right at home. There’s a walk round their home and the setting is really rather beautiful. It’s very pram friendly with flat paths all the way round, although there is a bit of a climb up a hill and as the saying goes, what goes up must come down, so there’s a steep decline on part of the walk. It’s not a very long route, you can spend as much time as you want observing and there’s talks every so often which you can listen and learn too. You can also do the walk as many times as you want.
You really get to see these monkeys in a habitat that is close to their natural one. You see them playing, grooming, running, climbing and just sitting. They really do have the run of the place. Don’t get me wrong, these are still wild animals and have not been tamed, you’re to keep at least a metre away from them at all times. There’s lots of members of staff dotted around the walk making sure you don’t get up close to them. These staff members also offer information and answer any questions an inquisitive munchkin wants to ask about them, the monkeys not the people. The munchkin was very interested in what the monkeys do in the rain. There were lots of little monkeys playing, some of the youngest were 10 months old, which made them the same age as the froglet. They are also expecting new babys come May time.
We had a leisurely walk around the forest and then sat down away from the monkey area for our dinner. There is a café with tables and chairs inside and outside and also a large grassy picnic area. You aren’t supposed to eat your own food on the table and chairs, we snuck and sat on them to eat, we did buy coffee so we weren’t completely cheeky. There’s a play area near the café, as we sat with our drinks the munchkin and our friends daughter went to have a little play. The munchkin taking it upon herself to be the guardian as her little friend is a few years younger than her. The sun had really come out by this point, it was so warm we were all able to take the many layers we had worn in preparation for typical bank holiday weather.
Because it was Easter weekend there was a little egg hunt quiz, you had to follow the clues and answer questions, after lunch we followed the clues. This led us to another adventure playground near the grassy picnic area, with the munchkins favourite Monkey bars (how very apt), then to the information area, an undercover area where you can watch a video on how the monkeys came to live at Trentham Gardens and then back to the café. The clues were really simple but it gave everyone who followed them a nice opportunity to see the whole of this part of the Forest.
Still fairly early in the afternoon and none of us wanting to leave just yet we decided to take a walk around the Forest again. It had got quite busy by this point but there was still plenty of opportunity to see the monkeys and watch them enjoying the sunshine.
The time had come for us to set off home, not before Mr C and Ian had perched on a wooden rail and broke it (I can’t believe I didn’t witness this) and not before a trip to the gift shop. Which was extortionate with a Barbary Macaque teddy costing 18.90. I would normally go out of the way to avoid the gift shop anywhere but the munchkin had been given some money instead of another chocolate egg from Nanny (great-gran) and she wanted to spend it.
Whilst the munchkin and Mr C were in the longest queue I’ve ever seen in a gift shop our friends daughter went on the trampolines, this was an extra cost on the entrance price. There was also face painting and peg decorating. Whilst I’m thinking, the entrance price was rather reasonable.
We had a really lovely day. The weather turned out beautifully, we were all pink cheeked by the time we got in the car, totally unprepared for sunshine. It was also really lovely to spend some time with our friends and getting out in the fresh air. Why not have a look.