Come face to face with exciting wildlife, get stuck in with Anglo-Saxon crafts and enjoy exploring nature’s playground says One Magazine’s Peter Frost

Set within the stunning, private parklands of Escot House, home to the Kennaway family for the last 200 years, is Wildwood Escot – a fantastic place for exploration, discovery and for coming face to face with exciting wildlife. Nestled just outside of Ottery St Mary, it is easily accessed by car via the A30 and has ample free parking for visitors.

For those not familiar, Wildwood is a charity dedicated to rewilding and conservation of native and formerly-native wildlife such as red squirrels and wildcats. Working at Escot for over a year now, Wildwood have really made their mark on the park.

We were met with a friendly welcome on arrival and given information of talks and shows plus a map of the park. We had arrived just in time to head straight for the otters feeding time talk, passing through the estates marvelous walled garden via the giant trampoline and hedge maze – which is surprisingly big once you’ve found yourself passing the same point ten times trying to find the middle. Watching the family of chattering otters being fed by the knowledgeable ranger was a very entertaining way to start our day.

Keen to see the birds of prey experience, we next made our way past the aviaries to the arena. The display offered an up-close encounter with three very different birds; firstly Suki the kestrel, then Meridien the Harris Hawk who both took great pleasure in taking low level swooping flights through the audience. The final bird to stretch his wings was Mozart the eagle owl who certainly made his presence felt while the ranger concluded the fun, fact-filled talk. For a small additional charge there’s even a chance to try on a handler’s glove and hold a bird of prey yourself – an amazing experience!

The woodland path then led us to the new and secluded wildcat enclosure, where we stayed as silent as we could to try and spot him. The enclosure is next to a huge fallen tree which has been incorporated into the park as a great natural climbing frame, underlining part of the ethos of Wildwood – to let children explore nature’s playground.

Walking further into the woods we came to a large clearing where we met the lynx prowling underneath a huge felled tree serving as both a prop for climbing as well as shelter, creating a great environment for these amazing big cats. Also in this area you will find the wild boar with their striped piglets, a huge outdoor vertical drop slide, the termite pavilion and the secret path but shh, we’re sworn to secrecy!
But that’s not all – Wildwood Escot is eagerly awaiting the imminent arrival of wolves all the way from Stockholm University, Sweden! The build has officially started for their enclosure which will span a large area of the park, from the drop slide over to the wildcat, giving the wolves a large wooded space for roaming.

No trip to Wildwood Escot is complete without a visit to the Coach House Restaurant. Also open to the public without having to pay to enter the park, the restaurant offers a light and airy place to relax and satisfy your hunger, with views looking out into the courtyard through the six original coach doors that are still in situ – now converted into giant windows – whilst enjoying a great range of locally sourced food, homemade cakes and desserts. There’s even a cosy kids corner complete with comfy sofas and books – perfect for winding down after a busy day of exploring.

With a need to burn off our delicious lunches we headed over to the pirate ship playground which has views out towards the Blackdown Hills, before spending the afternoon in the Anglo-Saxon Village where you can experience a slice of life from Anglo-Saxon times. With a number of hand-crafted buildings, including the iron smelter’s hut and the work shed to allow for activities even in the wet, visitors can get involved with cooking, milling, pottery, woodcraft, penny-making, campfire creation and forging demonstrations with period-costumed staff on hand to teach these fascinating historic practices.

Wildwood Escot makes for a fantastic day’s adventure for the whole family. With a constantly evolving collection of animals and activities, there’s plenty to keep you coming back for more.

Find out more about the work Wildwood Escot do and their upcoming events online at:

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