Pensthorpe: History buffs, birders flock to nature reserve
January 21, 2009
There is plenty to see at Pensthorpe — whether you fancy birds, beautiful gardens or demonstrations of how people lived during medieval times.
The Pensthorpe Nature Reserve and Gardens, near Norfolk, welcomed 72,000 visitors to its 250-acre grounds last year. That’s up 55 percent from recent years, thanks in part to the British Broadcasting Corp. show “Springwatch,” which highlighted the reserve’s conservation efforts, said Mark Noble, Pensthorpe’s director of marketing.
Pensthorpe was started by British cereal moguls, the Jordan family, 21 years ago. Since its inception, it has become home of world-class gardens and a captive breeding program to help endangered species. The breeding program has helped various bird species, mice and red squirrels.
The reserve is home to more than 171 bird species, including eight of the world’s 15 crane species, one of which is the 6-foot-tall Manchurian crane.
“There are a lot of things to look at,” Noble said. “We have marabou storks from Africa, red squirrels and we’ve got wild birds. We’ve got otters — you may see one, but I’ve never seen one.”
The reserve is a bird-watcher’s paradise, with blinds that allow people to stay out of sight so they don’t spook the birds, Noble said. Visitors can also take bird food with them on their jaunts around the grounds to bolster their chances of seeing a greater variety of winged critters.
Pensthorpe officials also tout their activities for families and children.
There are also walking trails for people to get glimpses of the wildlife. The reserve also has a bug walk for children to learn about various insects. They can win prizes by learning facts about creepy crawlies and answering questions.
Pensthorpe also has the Wensum Discovery tour — a Land Rover ride that tours a farm on the grounds and parts of the reserve that people can’t walk to. And in late August there is a medieval re-enactment with archery demonstrations and a living history exhibit in which actors dress for the period and demonstrate how people lived during that time.
The grounds also have a Saxon church, burial grounds and castle ruins.
Noble also noted the beauty in any one of the reserve’s four gardens. Another garden, the Springwatch Garden, being done in conjunction with the BBC show, is also in the works.
The reserve’s Millennium Garden is the work of Piet Oudolf, a famed garden designer from the Netherlands, Pensthorpe’s Web site stated. It features colorful perennials and scenic grasses.
Getting thereLocation: Pensthorpe, Fakenham, Norfolk, NR 21 OLN.
Admission: 8 pounds for age 16 and older; 5 pounds for children 4 to 15; 7 pounds for seniors. A family ticket good for two children and two adults is available for 23 pounds. Package deals also are available.