Dudley Zoo and Castle
Having grown up in The Black Country, I am a little ashamed to say that despite it being about 5 miles away from where I lived, I had never visited Dudley Zoo. However, last weekend when we suddenly found ourselves with a free day we decided to remedy this.
The zoo is based in the grounds of the Dudley Castle and you can see the ruined remains of the castle at the top of the hill as you drive towards the zoo. Dudley Zoo has been open since 1937 and for me it is very different sort of zoo compared to some of the others I have visited. Aside from a large collection of animals – some of which I have never seen in real life before – the location within an ancient woodland and castle ruins adds to its uniqueness. There is also the vintage chairlift running from the zoo’s entrance up to the castle. The zoo’s architecture is very different – the Modernists who designed the zoo created a new design of building called tectons. These buildings made from reinforced concrete are still located around the zoo and add to the zoo’s character. I loved the way that with some of the buildings it looks like nature is trying to claim these structures back for itself.
Of course, this makes the exhibits about both the animals and the tectons, such as this example in the lion enclosure.
And due to the castle as a backdrop to the zoo you get to see sea lions swimming in the castle moat….
Almost every animal-centered attraction seems to have meerkats nowadays, but few of these will have an 11th century castle as a backdrop.
When we arrived at the zoo it was a beautiful sunny morning – always a joy in September. The monkeys were obviously enjoying the weather too.
My favourite animals in the zoo were the big cats. It was an absolute privilege to be able to see a snow leopard – even if it was curled up asleep and not in great position to be able to get a photo. It is so sad that these beautiful animals are endangered and it gave me a good opportunity to talk to Freyja about endangered animals. The snow leopard didn’t want a photo taken, but this lynx was quite happy sunning itself in full view.
I was blown away by the tigers. The pair were fast asleep in their enclosure right next to the viewing windows. They were so beautiful. I am not sure I would have felt so comfortable being that close to them if they were awake!
We had our picnic next to the Barbary Sheep who had just been fed themselves. Freyja thought that they looked like the Billy Goats Gruff. We decided that we wouldn’t want to be too close to those massive horns!
Just after we had eaten our lunch we managed to see the otter finishing off his. It was wonderful watching it dive into the water to grab the fish that had been scattered throughout its enclosure.
A lot of zoos and wildlife parks seem to be having lemur walk-through exhibits and Dudley is no exception. I loved the way this black and white ruffed lemur positioned itself in order to make it easier to identify what species he was.
Dudley also has a wallaby walk-through exhibit.
One of Freyja’s favourite kinds of animal is the penguin. They have a large enclosure with a walkway going over their “beach” which reminded me a lot of seeing this species in the wild in South Africa. Here though they have ancient woods as part of their habitat.
Dudley has a large collection of primates including chimpanzees, macaques and capuchins. The tiny pygmy marmosets are incredibly cute and we watched them having lots of fun running around their enclosure and scurrying up their climbing posts.
Freyja and I particularly loved seeing the Bornean orangutans. We spent ages watching a younger one with its mum. The mother seemed to be wanting to just have a lie down and a rest but the youngster was climbing all over her. It reminded me very much of when Freyja comes into bed for a cuddle with me.
Access to Dudley Castle is included in the entrance fee to the zoo. You can climb up the top of the keep from where you get some great views of the Black Country and Birmingham.
Dudley has lots of play areas dotted around the site as well as a small fun fair near the zoo entrance. The girls enjoyed playing on the one close to the lemurs and lions, particularly in the safari cars.
There is no better way to complete a lovely day out than with an ice cream. It was so sweet to witness a moment of sisterly love between the two girls – Emily sharing some of her ice cream with Freyja. I should add that Freyja had had an ice cream of her own!
All-in-all, Dudley Zoo was a great day out and whilst it is a shame that it has taken me so long to visit, I am glad that I have been able to introduce it to the girls and I am sure it is somewhere that we will visit again.