Family Days Out: Monkey Forest, Staffordshire

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Unique in the UK, Monkey Forest is set in 60 acres of Staffordshire woodland and meadows.

Here you’ll find 140 Barbary macaque monkeys living in total freedom, giving visitors a truly unique experience.

We visited here as part of my husband’s 40th birthday celebrations as he has always been fascinated by monkeys.

We have already visited the likes of Monkey World in Dorset but that was a bit too far to visit for a day trip!

I’d come across Monkey Forest while doing an internet search of places to visit nearby and thought it sounded like a great day out.

Travel wise, it was about an hour and three quarters to get there from Corby (via the M6) and the journey was pretty much straightforward.

On arrival I was quite surprised at how big it all looked.

I was expecting to see something on a smaller scale but the size of the car parking available indicated this was a place used to catering for large numbers.

Car parking here is free – and there’s plenty of it too.

We parked up pretty quickly and then headed towards the main entrance.

Entry prices are pretty reasonable too.

Under-threes go free and it’s £8 per adult or £6 per child, so for the five of us it was £34 which is pretty good value for a day out.

The sunshine was out in force as well so it looked like we were going to have a sunny visit.

After paying, we headed straight towards the monkey enclosure.

As you are going to be walking through where all the monkeys roam, you are not allowed to drink or eat while you’re in here.

Either pack it away in your bag or leave your bags at the entrance and collect them when you come back out.

As you enter the enclosure you can observe the monkeys living as they would in the Atlas mountains of Algeria and Morocco.

The two groups come from Monkey Forest’s existing parks in France and Germany and the monkeys have lived all their lives in a similar setting where they have received as little intervention as possible.

Walking along the path, there are several guides dotted along the way to help point out the monkeys and answer any questions you may have.

Straight away a guide motioned to where some monkeys were having a nap high up in the trees; that was our first monkey spotted!

Just a bit further along the path we came to a more open area – and were greeted with lots of Barbary macaque monkeys!

Some were sleeping while others were either grooming or playing together.

The kids were pretty mesmerised (as was I) although my eldest was a little cautious that we were so close to them!

The advice is that you should keep a distance of at least a metre between you and the monkeys – and double that if there are any baby monkeys nearby, as the mothers get protective.

It was fascinating watching the monkeys in their natural surroundings without the restrictions of cages.

The pathway is a 3/4-mile winding forest path which takes you through the forest of Trentham Estate woodlands.

As we wandered down the pathway further, we came across several baby macaques.

They were just adorable and captivated a good portion of the visitors, including ourselves, for about 20 minutes as we watched them play fight and chase each other.

The walk through the enclosure itself is also wonderful.

It’s quite hilly in places so just bear that in mind if you have a pushchair.

To learn more about the Barbary macaques, hang around for the keeper talks which take place in several locations during the day (just look out for the signs and times of each as you walk around the enclosure).

During these talks you’ll learn about their habitat, what they eat and how hierarchy works within the group. We even got to see them being fed!

After our walk with the monkeys we headed out of the enclosure to grab some lunch.

There are plenty of picnic tables if you’ve brought your own food and drink with you.

But if, like us, you haven’t brought your own, then head to the Banana Cafe.

It serves a selection of hot and cold food such as baguettes, soups, jacket potatoes and chips along with daily specials.

Prices are reasonable and there is plenty of variety on offer.

As it was such a nice day, we sat outside. After lunch the children all played on the adventure playground near the cafe (which is suitable for children up to age six).

There is, however, another playground to the left of the main entrance which is for older children.

After the kids had had enough of monkeying around, we headed to the Jungle Shop which is next to the cafe.

In here there are lots of monkey-related toys and gifts – with plenty on offer to cater for everyone’s budget.

Ruby picked a pen and a cute little monkey toy, while both Kai and Ella decided to spend their pennies on a soft, stuffed monkey toy each.

The shop itself is quite small so it can get very busy in there.

With pocket money spent and the sun still shining, we headed towards the larger play area.

It was too big for Ruby to play on (she’s only three) but was perfect for Kai and Ella.

However, our visit to Monkey Forest was cut short by the sudden arrival of torrential rain and high winds!

Fortunately we managed to find some shelter underneath the picnic area but after 20 minutes we had to admit defeat and end our visit by running back to our car for cover.

Despite getting pretty wet, we all thoroughly enjoyed our day out and would highly recommend it to families looking for a different day out.

How much?

Adults: £8; children (age three to 14 years old): £6; senior citizens: £7.50; students (valid student ID required): £7.50 each; disabled/carers: £5 each; under three years old: free!

Opening times 2015

Until August 31, open 10am to 6pm, last entry 5pm.

September 1 to October 24, open 10am to 5pm, last entry at 4pm.

October 25 to November 1, open 10am to 4pm, last entry at 4pm.

For a full list of opening times and seasonal variations for 2015 visit www.monkey-forest.com.

Getting there

From the M6, exit at junction 15, then take the A500 towards Stoke before leaving at the A34 exit towards Stone.

Go straight over the roundabout to The Trentham Estate and they are the next roundabout on the right. Just look out for the brown ‘monkey forest’ signs.

If you’re travelling from the M1, exit at 23a or 24a and turn onto the A50 to Stoke on Trent. Follow signs to Trentham on to the A34 and then follow the brown signs to Monkey Forest.

As Monkey Forest is relatively new, if you’re using SatNav, use the postcode ST12 9HR which will guide you to the Strongford Garage – Monkey Forest is directly opposite!

Good to know

If you or any member of your party needs to leave Monkey Forest and wants to come back later in the day, just pop into the Jungle shop to collect a re-entry wristband!