Animal-loving families can cuddle up to a pygmy hedgehog, feed a penguin or fly a bird of prey on an animal experience day in West Yorkshire.
We’ve compiled a guide to nine venues, all within an hour’s drive of Huddersfield, where it’s possible to get up close to furry and feathered friends.
There are opportunities for older children to learn more about animals and farming practices, while young children can enjoy meeting everything from cute bunnies to newborn piglets
Youngsters can also learn more about the day-to-day workings of farms, zoos and animal sanctuaries — all while getting to see their favourite animals up close!
And don't forget the more unusual creatures you can see — meerkats, ostriches and more.
Here are nine animal experiences to try in West Yorkshire:
Charlotte’s Ice Cream Parlour
Whitley Road, Dewsbury
This company makes its own Jersey ice cream and attracts visitors to sample it with an array of attractive animals – from a herd of alpacas and cute wallabies to goats, donkeys, pigs, peacocks and a giant rabbit - not to mention a few Jersey cows. Entry is free and the farm is open from 10.30am until 6pm daily.
Cannon Hall Farm
Now one of the area’s most famous animal attractions, Cannon Hall has an Interaction Zone where children can get up close and personal with a variety of furry and not-so-furry animals. In the farmyard visitors can both touch – and, in some cases, feed – the resident llamas, sheep, goats and pigs. During the summer holiday look out for ferret and sheep racing sessions. The farm is open every day from 10.30am until 5pm in the summer months. Admission is £8.95 per person, with the under twos going free. Parking is £3. Save ticket costs by booking online for a 25% discount.
The famous stately home has a farm and bird garden that offers visitors the chance to pay for the experience of feeding the Humboldt penguins that have been a feature of the park since 1989. Entry to the grounds and bird collection £7.50 for children and £12.50 for adults. To feed the penguins (over 10 years only) costs £23.50 midweek for children and £38.50 at weekends (book on 0113 218 1000 or visit the website before you go). The attraction is open from 10am until 5.30pm daily. Get a 10% ticket discount by booking online.
Meanwood Valley Urban Farm
A long-standing urban community farm, Meanwood has 24 acres that are home to alpacas, cows, donkeys, ducks, rabbits and guinea pigs etc. It is open every day from 10am until 4pm but the site cafe is closed on Mondays. Entry is £2 for adults and 50p for children.
Now a rural therapeutic centre with educational facilities, Ponderosa has a large collection of animals, great and small. The website promises that some of its residents, notably the rabbits and pygmy hedgehogs enjoy being handled. Every day during the school holidays the venue offers pony rides for children. Entry is £5 for children and £5.50 for adults. There is an extra charge to use the play barn facilities. Open from 10am until 4pm every day.
Oxenhope, near Haworth
Offering experience days with birds of prey and owls, SMJ Falconry has a collection of over 60 birds, including 20 owl species. Visitors need to book an experience day in order to visit and there are discounts for groups. It’s not a cheap day out – a 2 1/2 hour owl encounter, for example, is £85 per person and there’s a charge for spectators of £30. But perhaps this is a case of a special experience that money can buy. Suitable for older children, although the centre does parties for youngsters aged seven and over. Visit www.smjfalconry.co.uk for details.
The historic home farm at Temple Newsam has a host of child-friendly animals. Piglets and chickens run free in the yard and there are pens full of rare breed birds, goats, cattle and sheep. There is free parking for the farm and tickets are £3.80 for adults and £2.50 for children. Cafe facilities are on site and there is also a stately home to visit for history buffs.
Stirley Community Farm
The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust farm off Hall Bower Lane can be visited on the first Sunday of every month from 10am until 1pm. Formerly three derelict dairy farms, the 240-acre site is now home to beef shorthorn cattle, has a small orchard and training gardens. The aim of the enterprise is to show that wildlife conservation can exist alongside sympathetic farming practices. Not so much a petting zoo as a way to introduce children to the reality of meat farming. Stirley is very much an educational facility.
Worsborough Country Park, Barnsley
This working farm is a base for Barnsley College Horticulture and Animal Management courses and open to the public. It has a wide range of animals, including meerkats, cows, goats, Shetland ponies, donkeys, alpacas, pigs, sheep, chickens, red deer, guinea pigs, rabbits and more. There is also a rodent room and an aquatics room featuring many different varieties of aquatic life. The farm offers VIP and Young Keeper experiences, which allow visitors to feed meerkats, hold snakes and tend to the rabbits and guinea pigs. Costs vary from £15 to £20 and need to be booked in advance. Contact email@example.com or call 01226 216 474. Admission is £3 for adults and £1.50 for children. There is a cafe on site and opening hours are 10am until 4pm daily.