A visit to The Gruffalo Discovery Land

Helen Annetts, together with Wayne, Charlie and Joe Statham, visit Twycross Zoo’s latest attraction.

There was a time, not too long ago, when I could recite The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom and A Squash and a Squeeze off by heart, and so when we were given the opportunity to go along to a preview of The Gruffalo Discovery Land at Twycross Zoo I jumped at the chance – and it seems the lure of classic childhood fiction was appealing to my whole household.

Once we’d been given our VIP Lanyards (the boys will barely leave the house for an ‘event’ if there isn’t a lanyard on offer – I am not joking) and a couple of soft toy Gruffalos, which even the teenager couldn’t resist, we set off into the deep dark woods.

The Gruffalo Discovery Land takes you on a winding journey which breaks down the story into the fox, the owl and the snake and starts with a hot house of butterflies which took us all by surprise, filled with wonderful butterflies of blues, reds, yellows of all sizes and we are sure a nesting Peahen.

Each part of the story is then told through a mix of interactive, animatronic characters with buttons to press along the way. After each outdoor section of the story on the trail you go through an indoor section which features the relevant clip from the film adaptation of the story with hands on activities and touch screens which allow you to test yourself on your knowledge of foxes, owls and snakes as well as learning about conservation along the way.

Along the way you also meet some of the real life animals from the story – the owl was a wonder! A beautiful grey owl sat on a stump close to the edge of its enclosure rotating its head, almost too perfect an owl resulting in much debate as to whether it was real or not. It was indeed very real and a highlight for us.

There is also an aviary to walk through, a goat enclosure – although the little goats were sheltering from the intermittent snow – and of course a snake house! I confess to not looking forward to this – I am not a snake fan – although my youngest was very keen! Sadly for him, gladly for me said Boa was curled up barely in view, though from what you could see, should you have seen the snake moving you would have gasped at how big it was!

Our visit included the chance for a photo with the Gruffalo himself – we could not resist of course and he wasn’t the least bit scary in real life – and a visit to the Oh Crumbs! Café – coffee for us and ice cream for the kids in a suitably Gruffalo themed café which overlooked a small outdoor play area which will be perfect in the warmer months for when parents want to sit and children want to carry on playing.

The mix of real life animals, animatronics, hands on activities and winding trail were the perfect way to tell the story, my almost too old children (thirteen and nine) thoroughly enjoyed it and it was lovely to see the mix of excitement and slight fear – oh look! oh no! it’s the Gruffalo – in the toddlers and younger children who were also enjoying the preview visit.

Luckily for us the day also included the chance to visit the Zoo itself –the last time we visited was for the oldest child’s 1st birthday! The many and varied monkeys were of course a hit, we loved the Giraffe’s and a highlight for the youngest was the ants (make sure you visit the toilets at the entrance/exit)!

Whilst you could argue the Gruffalo is aimed at younger children, The Gruffalo Discovery Land is hands on enough, information filled enough and fun enough for all ages, and we thought an excellent addition to the zoo. We would highly recommend Twycross Zoo and The Gruffalo Discovery Land as your next family day out.