I had a bit of a break from sewing yesterday as The Parents, Sister and I travelled up to Winchester to visit Marwell Zoo! We hadn't been there before, and went as part of an event put on by The Sister's workplace, which gave us discounted tickets and a free train ride (who could ask for more?). There were also special events planned for those going with small people, or further events intended for later on in the evening, but sadly the weather was not good and by lunchtime, it had settled into a steady downpour and lots of people left early.
We didn't really mind the rain and quite enjoyed a slightly emptier park. The animals mostly didn't appear overly keen and it was a shame that the sun wasn't shining so you could see the primates playing on their swings, or the birds flying around the walk-through aviaries.
There were so many different types of animal! I can't remember a lot of their names, but have looked some of them up for you using the animal inventory of Marwell. In the top montage (above) you have the Humboldt Penguins, in the next montage down you have the Capybaras and Greater Flamingoes, then in the below image you have an Amur Leopard, Mr & Mrs Bat-Eared Fox, a Serval, a Cheetah, a Ring-Tailed Coati and a Fossa who was intently watching the keepers clean out the Lemurs next door (she would eat Lemurs in the wild so was probably hoping for an escapee lunch).
Most of the Lemurs themselves were asleep. They are so funny in the way they roll themselves up on the branches, and if there is more than one on a branch, they stack themselves up next to each other in their rolled positions! So cute. The Golden Headed Tamarins, whose name is longer than the animal itself, were quite active, leaping in and out of the door to the outside. They were in a cage with two other types of primate, including the Silvery Marmoset who was sweet and tiny. We watched one delicately eating a piece of carrot, stripping off pieces from the outside and nibbling, sticking it's tongue out to make sure it hadn't missed any. I think you can see a little tongue poking out in the middle right hand image above if you zoom in.
There are at least five different types of Lemur at Marwell; the Alaotran Gentle Lemur (who I didn't manage to get any good photos of), the Ring Tailed Lemur, the Red Ruffed Lemur, the Black-and-White Ruffed Lemur and the Crowned Lemur.
Of course, there were also the bigger, showpiece animals like the Rhinos. There are four at Marwell, three ladies and a gentleman who share their outdoor enclosure with one of the three types of Zebra, Ostriches and a herd of Scimitar-Horned Oryx. It was nice to see that they had such a huge area to play in, which included a water hole with accompanying mud, rocks for them to scratch against and some trees which were in the process of being stripped by the Zebras.
There were many different types of antelope-esque animals who kind of looked similar but come from different places and have different names, like the Mountain Bongo (horned and stripey), Lowland Anoa Buffalo, Sitatunga (stripey but not horned) and Sable Antelope (the poser in the middle of the montage). Apparently this type of animal was a favourite with the founder of the zoo, John Knowles which might be why there are so many different types.
The Giraffes were really lovely to watch. Their coats are like patchwork quilts, all of the shapes fitting together with the light border around the dark centres. There is a great walkway to watch these majestic animals from, which brings you about level with their heads so you can appreciate their view of the world from up high. They appear to eat anything, nibbling the paintwork off the windows of their house and the bark from the posts that their hay bales are attached to, their ears waggling backwards and forwards the entire time.
We stayed and watched the Amur Tigers for a little while. There was a Mum and Dad with three 14 month old cubs. Dad did a lot of pacing his territory, walking around and spraying where necessary (there were lots of signs around the enclosure that essentially said, if he points his bottom at you, run.), whilst Mum stayed with the cubs, play fighting with them when they jumped on her from behind and then washing behind their ears when they got dirty. Apparently these cubs will be moved on to different zoos when they are about 18 months old to start new breeding programmes and have little cubs of their own.
The enclosure with the Somali Wild Ass was attracting a lot of attention, and on closer inspection, there was a baby Ass! So sweet with its over-sized ears and little spindly stripey legs leaping around all over the place, it can only have been a few days old.
This little Oriental Small-Clawed Otter (see how knowledgeable I am?) was very sweet. You couldn't have missed him in his enclosure because of the noise he was making. So much persistent squeaking going on! Whoever he was shouting to obviously had put ear plugs in and was determinedly ignoring whatever he was saying as no one else appeared in answer to his call. Not to be deterred, he continued shouting even whilst playing with a tiny stone he discovered, flipping it around between his paws and play fighting with the tree bark. Every now and then he would coyly look up at the people standing on the bridge watching him before returning to squeak across the water.
(From top left: Black-Headed Weaver, Little Egret, BH Weaver, Hamerkop, Wrinkled Hornbill (Male), Weaver Nest, Waldrapp Ibis, Marabou Stork,Wrinkled Hornbill (Female))
(Great Grey Owls)
The Owls did not look impressed with the weather. Most were inside their boxes, and the ones that were outside were strategically placed so as to be underneath their boxes. Then again, I'm not sure Owls ever do look particularly happy do they?
(Northern White-faced Owl)
(From top left; Madagascar Tree Boa, Beaded Lizard, Casque-Headed Iguana, Starred Agamas, Eygptian Tortoise, Emerald Tree Monitor, Tortoise, Monitor, Beaded Lizard)
The Wallabies were also very sweet, you can see how hard it was raining at this point in the top right hand image there. It didn't actually seem to bother them very much, and you can walk through their enclosure so they were bouncing out all over the place. Some were trying to disguise themselves as plants which was funny. You would suddenly notice them peeping out at you from behind a bush and once they'd realised you'd clocked them in the undergrowth, they would bounce out and be all casual about it. Such little characters!
Part of the special event section of the day was a tour of the ground floor of the house. Which sounds very grand, but actually it was four rooms and a corridor, which were all empty save for some very impressive fireplaces. They don't fill the rooms in a National Trust kind of way because they use the house for different venues and as the guide put it, 'would be constantly shifting sofas from room to room' if they furnished it in the style that it might have been lived in. The facts given out were quite interesting; there is a lot of history to the house because it wasn't passed down through one family as others of its type have been. Lots of people have lived there and bought it, from all walks of life, one chap was born a butcher's son and was sent to debtors prison, making his way up in the world from there as a prize fighter turned racehorse breeder. The grand fireplaces come from when Henry Seymour (as in, brother of Jane Seymour, third wife of Heny VIII) lived there. After Henry VIII had died, and his son Edward VI had beheaded Henry Seymour's two brothers, Edward and Thomas for treason, Edward VI decided to visit H. Seymour, who immediately had a fireplace built with the King's name and motto and crest chiseled all over it as a sign of loyalty and allegiance. (Well, wouldn't you?)
There are also lots of ghosts and ghost stories connected with Marwell Hall. One of the most famous is the Mistlebow Bride. Supposedly, just after Christmas, the wedding party of a just married couple were playing hide and go seek. The bride was the first to hide whilst the others counted down. She found a massive oak chest in a neglected corner of the house and opened it to discover that the chest was empty. Seeing this as an excellent hiding place, she stepping into the chest and closed the lid after her, not realising that the catch on the lid would close and lock her in the trunk. She wasn't found until several years later and the story goes that if you stay at the hall on the 27th December, at 11pm you can hear the sounds of the wedding party searching for the lost bride, or see a ghostly figure dressed in white, roaming the corridors looking for somewhere to hide....
We rounded off the day with a train ride around the park, past the Rhino enclosure, through the Macaque playground, past the Flamingoes, and back round again. Everybody was very soggy by this time, and although we had had a lovely day, it was a bit of a relief to get back to the car and take our wet outer things off. Apart from that, we would very much recommend a visit for anyone near enough to go!