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Where the wild things are!

WHILE the whole world seemed to be going crazy with Christmas last Saturday it was to time to go off the beaten track. Just two miles out of the city on the Pershore Road, is one of Birmingham's finest, unsung attractions - and one that will turn 40 years old in 2014.

I love coming here at this time of the year in particular, when the leaves are off the trees and the setting sun casts a golden glow over the entire site at closing.

It's also the perfect destination for a family gathering over the New Year period.

Not much travel involved, little cost to get in, plenty of fresh air, a snack in the cafe and lots to see and do. Perfect.

Your children might end up with runny noses, but that's just part of the fun.

Wrap them up warm (the site is exposed at the Pershore Road side and can get a bit colder down towards the River Rea) and they will be fine.

Just remember how important it is to wash their hands after visiting a place like this.

As soon as you leave the Nature Centre shop you will see the rhea america to your right, flightless birds that look like ostriches.

To your left. a new South American attraction is being built ready for new arrivals in 2014. Can't wait!

Just up the hill are two Kunekune pigs which can weigh up to 100kg each.

Although they can have between three and 14 piglets at once and are available to see at other Midland attractions from Dudley Zoo to Woodgate Valley Urban Farm, they are actually classed as a rare breed.

The pigs originate from New Zealand and are descended from an Asian breed originally introduced there in the early 19th century.

For more details visit www.britishkunekunesociety.org.uk Other creatures we enjoyed seeing again included the white naped cranes, the European lynx and the golden lion tamarin from the Atlantic coastal rainforest of Brazil.

Whisper it quietly, but we also saw Santa running out his igloo ready to head back to the North Pole on his sleigh.

The interesting thing to note about my latest visit is that the price of visiting has gone up again in the past 12 months.

But that still doesn't make it expensive.

It's now PS5 per adult and PS2.50 per child (under fives still free), compared with PS4.50 and PS2 respectively a year ago.

With council cutbacks affecting all areas of the city, it is no surprise that the cost of admission should be rising.

Perhaps now is the time for a rethink about how best to balance the need for income with visitor numbers.

Would returning zoo status during its 40th year give it a higher profile with prices to match? Or is it best to keep it as a cheap and cheerful under the radar attraction that pulls more people in who want value and the surprise factor of just how good, and how big, the 6.5 acre site is? Certainly the annual fees seem to be steep (PS65 joint, PS45 single adult).

If the city council wants people to go factfile ? Birmingham Nature Centre, Pershore Road, Birmingham B5 7RL (opposite Pebble Mill Road). Adjacent free parking available. Opening times: winter (from the last weekend of October) 10am-4-pm, last admission 3pm; summer (from the first week of April) 10am-5pm, last admission 4pm. Price: Adults PS5, concs PS4 (inc seniors, students, Passport to Leisure holders); children aged five to 16, PS2.50 (under fives free). No under 16s admitted without an adult. Season tickets: joint PS65, single adult PS45, concs PS40. Applications for volunteering and work placements are always considered.

down the season ticket route, they might try to offer an 'Access All Areas' combination pass to include the city's museums such as Sarehole Mill, Soho House - and Thinktank - for not much more than that.

CAPTION(S):

New South American reserve under construction.

Santa heads for the North Pole!

Say cheese! A pair of Kunekune pigs smile for the camera. Pictures by Graham Young.
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Dec 28, 2013
Words:682
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