If there’s one thing my daughter loves it’s animals. If there’s another thing she loves, it’s LEGO. So imagine her unbridled glee when I told her we were off to spend the day at the zoo, on an animals-made-of-bricks safari.
Marwell Zoo is fast becoming one of my happy places. Having spent summer days there as a kid, I hadn’t visited for *cough* years until I took my son there in February. As soon as we walked in I was reminded of my childhood and felt a warm sense of nostalgia growing inside of me. The Boy and I had a great day, and when we got home my 2-year-old daughter was so jealous of our special day, a promise to repeat it with her was swiftly made.
But life gets in the way and summer rolled around without a repeat trip to the Winchester park, despite it only being an hour or so drive from London. And then I read about the new Great Brick Safari attraction and was nudged into action. So we set off last Friday for an adventure of our own….
Now the thing about The Girl is that she’s very, very excitable. Especially when it comes to furry things. Or feathered things. Or anything that isn’t human, basically. So as we picked up our Safari Trail worksheet she squealed with delight at the pictures of the animals we were seeking. Yep, the pictures. I knew right then that it was going to be an exhausting day.
More than 2 million bricks have been used to make more than 80 stunning LEGO sculptures for the safari trail. Among them are a 1.5 tonne elephant, a life size Bengal tiger and a trio of Giant panda cubs. Other sculptures have been inspired by Marwell’s own diverse collection of animals, with a red ruffed lemur, a warthog and even a mob of peeping meerkats all featuring on the trail.
There’s a colourful worksheet kids can collect at the entrance so they can tick off all the animals they spot on the way round. In between gasps of joy at being up close and personal with real life giraffes, zebra and even a tiger, there were shrieks of joy as The Girl spied yet another colourful crafted animal. Following the LEGO trail adds an extra bit of magic to your trip to the zoo.
At the centre of Marwell’s 140 acres is the imposing Marwell House, where for the duration of the exhibition a Great Brick Building Zone has been erected in a giant marquee. LEGO fans of all ages can try their hands at making their own animal sculptures, and enter competitions to create the most imaginative, and guess the amount of bricks used to build the huge elephant (Named Earl Grey by a visitor vote).
The LEGO statues really are incredible to see. Each tells you how many man hours went into its creation, and how many bricks were used. But if your little ones aren’t LEGO fans there’s plenty more to keep them happy. There are several playgrounds dotted around the grounds (although be warned, they’re a haven for wasps so take some insect repellent!), there are plenty of picnic spots, and also some hands-on opportunities where you can get up close and personal to the animals. There’s a new Lemur walkthough, a Wallaby Walkthough and an aviary one too. We got really close to the resident tiger, and you can even pay to have your own one-to-one experience feeding giraffes or penguins.
Having spent a good six hours there we had to tear ourselves away from Marwell and get back on the road to London. But not before saying a sad goodbye to The Girl’s favourite resident by far, Norbert the baby pygmy hippo. “I’ll be back sooooooon, I looooove you” she cried as I dragged her away from the viewing platform beneath which Norbert wallowed with his mum. And we will be back soon Marwell. We promise.
A trip to the zoo is always a good bet for a family day out. And Marwell’s Great Brick Safari really puts the icing on the cake for fun family days this summer. Find out more here.
- The Great Brick Safari is included with general admission to the zoo and runs throughout August until Sunday October 1st. Follow the zoo on Facebook for all the latest news https://www.facebook.com/marwellwildlife/ .