Walk: Filey’s Bird Garden and Animal Park

Fran Holah pictured with some varieties of turkey at Filey Bird Garden and Animal Park.
Fran Holah pictured with some varieties of turkey at Filey Bird Garden and Animal Park.

Have you been away on holiday this year? For once, I stayed at home. I discovered that if you choose favourable days, and visit places you love, life may be equally enjoyable in North Yorkshire.

Why look further than fabulous Filey, particularly if you visit its award-winning bird garden and animal park?

We first entered this superb centre in 2010, and were quite overawed, not only by its exhibits and high standards, but by its remarkable educational value. Being a family run business, their success story goes back to 2005, when Ian and Fran Holah had purchased the house, and 4.5 acres to realise a dream come true. Together with sons Matthew and Chris, the hard work began. The family’s passion for wildlife shines through. Each year reveals even greater achievements. What a labour of love!

Choose a fine day – preferably mid-week for peace and quiet, and park in the free car park. Dogs are welcome on short leads, and the cafe serves hot and cold drinks, sandwiches, snacks and ice-creams as you enter. You’re sure of a warm welcome, along with informative leaflets, and bag of food. Hey – that’s not for you, but, the large, friendly animals, such as goats, donkeys, pigs, sheep, ponies and alpacas. Don’t feed it to smaller animals and birds.

Beyond cocks and ducks, seek the cream-coloured corn snake which was found in Filey – never claimed, and handed to the centre by a vet. It has grown rapidly during its stay.

The real eye-catcher, is the recent introduction of the popular meerkats. Watch them digging vigorously in the sandpit, or maybe exploring their adventure playground through a glass panel in the wall.

Guinea pigs or cavies, I love. I had an albino called Snowy, so similar to one here. They originated from South America, living in herds, but were often kept for meat. Go and talk to Pop-eye and Charlie, the African parrots, and one may reply.

All the animals have spacious enclosures, and each has a name.

Always feed from the flat of your hand. Greedy goats will snatch food, bag, fingers and jacket if given half a chance. They like to be rubbed firmly between the horns.

Usful information is on the interpretation boards, along with little puzzles to make you smile. Rabbits are third in popularity as pets. Did you know that their teeth never stop growing?

Do you like boiled eggs? Can you believe you’d need two dozen chicken eggs to equal one ostrich egg! A comparitive display of egg sizes, from ostrich and emu down to quail and Bengalese finch egg is most interesting.

Cleanliness is emphasised, as you feed or touch animals. Please wash your hands before eating, and after using the spotlessly clean toilets.

Hello, now who’s this? “My name is Frank. I’m carved from solid oak.” Oh – it’s a big brown bear. He was a present from Fran’s brother and sister-in-law on her 50th birthday. He’s looking a little older (as we all are), so please don’t climb on him.

Beyond paddocks of alpacas, braying donkeys, and mini Shetland ponies, you reach a grand play park for children under 12 to let off steam, where no dogs are allowed. Wander through the woodland trail, with secret hide-away picnic table and benches.

Next, visit those huge Kune Kune pigs which are white with black markings. Del Boy and Rodney are nature’s ploughs. They were only eight weeks old when they arrived in 2008 as sweet little piglets. They have a pair of ‘tassels’ beneath the chin called piri piri. Rodney’s lost one! This breed originated with the maoris in New Zealand.

The wild flower meadow is a great attraction to bees and butterflies, but in autumn the seeds are appreciated by birds. Goldfinches love thistle and teasel seeds.

The sensory garden – more recently created, reveals artistic skill and imagination. Walling and flooring are delightfully designed and textured, stimulating your senses. The rainbow, with its matching flower colours; the perfumes and leaf textures encourage one to touch, and to crush a variety of leaves releases scents seldom appreciated.

Admire the bird feeding station, with illustrations of birds you should feed, and how you should feed them.

Mini beast hotels are becoming popular, and ponds are a great asset to any garden, as natuaral ponds have disappeared over the decades.

Having almost covered the five acres, don’t miss the aviary, with its colourful canaries, budgies, lovebirds and parakeets. Now relax in the secret garden, or from the sundial, inhale sweet perfumes from rosebeds, and colourful herbaceous borders.

Finally, enjoy light refreshment in the cafe. Treat yourself or friend to a little gift or memento of your visit, then spread the news of your enthralling walkabout.

Access by road: Take the A1039 Scarborough road. It’s the second property on the right, and half a mile from the A165 roundabout.

Public transport: On the main bus route No 120 or 121. Bus and railway station in Filey town centre one mile away.

Open: Until November 5 from 10.30am-4pm. Closed October 2, 9 and 16.