Days Out

A Day Out at The Hemsley Conservation Centre

There are hundreds of small villages in Kent, and each one has its charms. What each one does not have, however, is its own mini zoo. That honour goes to Fairseat near Meopham, which is home to Hemsley Conservation Centre, a small but perfectly formed animal sanctuary.

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When we arrived we were surprised by just how much there is to see there, and as soon as you step through the fun, jungle-esque opening, you are immediately surrounded by creatures of all shapes and sizes. Our mission was to meet a keeper at ‘base camp’ and then to feed the lemurs (it’s also possible to feed meerkats, kinkajous, porcupines and others). Never having been quite so up close and personal to actual, real life, wild animals (even if they were small and fluffy and very, very cute), I was a little nervous about what to expect. Don’t lemurs have sharp teeth? What about their claws? Do they eat meat? Questions, questions…but thankfully our guide was full of knowledge. Yes, lemurs have sharp teeth and claws, but they’re also herbivores, and, as long as we stuck to the rules (no stroking, no sudden movements) all would be fine.

We were each handed bowls of salad for the lemurs and then taken through the zoo to where the little guys lived. They were two boys called Kevin and Isaac who had been taken in from another zoo because they had been the only males in the troop and the females had started to push them out so they couldn’t have food. Feeding lemurs is a funny old business. Or at least it was with Kevin and Isaac. They were pickier than I had imagined they would be, choosing only the bits of salad that they fancied, holding each leaf up in their tiny hands and inspecting it. Not stroking these boys was a hard task; it’s so very tempting.

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When the feeding was over, there was plenty of time left to explore the rest of the zoo. Animals there include a civet (we saw it eat a whole chick – a little stomach-churning but strangely fascinating all the same); three terrapins named Bill, Ben and Bertha; marmosets; meerkats; a prehensile-tailed porcupine; white lipped tamarins; skunks; a rusty spotted cat; a range of different reptiles and insects and a gorgeous array of colourful birds. There’s more to come too – over the next few years there are plans to extend the site massively, and incorporate monkeys in a walkthrough exhibit, otters, a clouded leopard, and a Geoffrey’s cat. There will also be a picnic area that will include walkways for the lemurs who will be able to venture out and sunbathe above people’s heads! It is a huge task to undertake but they aim to have everything ready for summer 2018.

Finally, if you’re going for a fun day out at Hemsley Conservation Centre, you can round it all off with a lovely cream tea made at Flick’s Tearoom next door.

www.hemsleyconservationcentre.co.uk

GET 10% OFF EXPERIENCES AT HEMSLEY CONSERVATION CENTRE
Just quote ‘KENT10’ when booking
Valid until 1st June 2018

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