Come along for the ride!!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

"He lives in a house, a very big house in the country ..."

I have been told by the lovely M that I have done a disservice to Bath in general (and the 7th Marquis of Bath in particular) by not going into greater detail about our trip there, so I shall put this right immediately.

Bath is lovely.


I'm half way there - now for the other bit and there really is only one way to say this and that is in capitals.


I will try to impart how incredible a place it is without waffling on too much (you know me however - this won't be easy!)

We opted for the best value entrance fee. This was called a family 'passport' and cost £76 plus £5 for a colour souvenir brochure. Included in this was an audio CD that 'talked' you round the safari park (although it was narrated by BBC's Kate Humble which was a bit annoying!)

The monkey enclosure was closed for repair but apparently they make a right old mess of your car, breaking off aerials, wipers, wing mirrors etc so I was more than happy to bypass them. The park was cleverly laid out with pockets of area to walk around and see the animals across a low fence coupled with huge swathes of land which was home to the scarier type of carnivore - scary enough for them to close huge gates behind your car, locking you in with other 'tinned food' lest something should go 'wrong'.

Frankly, I don't care how many David Attenborough programmes you've seen, when a fully grown male lion in a seductive mood passes within inches of your car whilst following an equally fully grown lioness who has a headache, you sit up and take notice!

If your heart doesn't thump loudly in your chest, you're a braver man/woman/child than any of us were at the time.

There are all the usual suspects; giraffes, camels, sea lions, a gorilla, wolves, tigers and, as mentioned, the lions but what Lord Bath has done is quite remarkable. This is more than just a visitor attraction or money making scheme; the man really is preserving endangered species in an astonishing setting (ie, his own back garden).

His predecessor, the 6th Marquis of Bath, apparently formed a friendship with Jimmy Chipperfield (of the circus fame) and opened the grounds to allow folk like you and me to see animals as they should be seen.

Ok, not exactly as they should be seen - I guess you'd have to go to Africa for that, but this Lord Bath has taken things a step much further and commited the grounds to the long term protection of many species.

And you really do have to see for yourselves to believe what a terrific job he has done. When you see the size of the grounds these animals have, it puts places like London Zoo (the country's landmark zoo for many years), to shame. If you have seen the Animal Park series on the Beeb, it gives you some idea of the scale of the place.

But there's more to Longleat than just a safari park. There is an incredible adventure playground, with huge slides, tree top walkways, areas for the young and the very young, a miniature railway with working signal box, the extensive gardens, an enormous maze to get lost in and finally, the house itself.

Now your passport buys you ONE entrance into all of these separate areas of Longleat but the neat thing is this; if you don't have time to visit all of them in one day, you can come back at any other time of the year and access the bits you didn't do the first time round for no extra cost!! Basically, we spent the whole day in just the safari park, the railway and the adventure playground (with just enough time for hot chocolate and a cake) so we will be heading back to visit the house at our leisure.

Rumour has it that Lord Bath is barking mad. This may be so but he has done a wonderul thing with Longleat, not just by opening the place up to Joe Public but by having realised what an important part he has been able to play in the conservation of some pretty spectacular beasts.

Three cheers for the 7th Marquis of Bath, hip hip ... hip hip .... hip hip ....

Dominant male peeing pretty much where he pleases, in this case, up against a defenceless tree.

Dominant male 'checking out' local talent.

Dominant male accuses lioness of having "obviously low morals" (but we think has was just showing off, what with having an audience and all).

Picky lioness (oh come on, he was her only option!!) passes within gnats gnadger of our car - occupants hold breath - driver particularly so!

And .... breathe ...........................


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