Monkey Forest Review

Nov 1, 2014 by

Monkey Forest Review

Monkey Forest, Trentham Review.

Who knew? Who knew that just outside Stoke on Trent there was a forest dedicated to the conservation of Monkeys. And not just a couple of random specimens, there really is quite a lot of them.

Set in 60 acres of forest, there are 2 groups each made up of 70 Barbary Macaques who live, free to roam in this forest. Thanks to questions from my son and his friend, we learnt that Macaques live to around 24 but that the oldest here is a ripe old age of 28. The youngest is 6 months, and there’s a lot of those to watch who are just incredibly cute!

It’s very easy to find (check the website for sat nav advice) and there’s plenty of free parking. Once through the entrance you see an adventure playground outside the café and shop. In this area there are plenty of outdoor seating, there is also an area for you to have your own picnic, although prices inside are reasonable; for kids lunch boxes and hot meals plus meals and ciabattas too. The hot Cranberry and Brie Panini was delicious as was the sausage and chips for the kids. Hot chocolate was very welcome too.

Next to the café is an undercover seating area for picnics and seasonal activities, being Halloween there were craft making and face painting, both were clearly very popular.

At the top of the hill you see the entrance to the monkey forest, it’s all very Jurassic park with high fences and a double gated entrance, which is all very exciting for the kids. You hear a short safety notice from the attendant advising us of the few rules – no running, no eating, no touching or feeding the monkeys. We’re happy with all of that and we are granted access.

There are no visible monkeys at the beginning but after a few short minutes, reading various information points as we pass that builds interest, we rounded a corner to find ourselves at the top of a hill with a wide area of grass in front of us, with monkeys all over. The children especially, entered this area slowly not really knowing what to expect (later on however, after gaining confidence they were told to slow down a few times). We realised the kids felt very much at home here – make of that what you will…

The path leads through this area so that we’re walking w ith monkeys to both sides. They are so used to people that they pretty much ignore us, often fearlessly walking among us much to all of our delight, sometimes even with a baby clinging on to a parents back which is amazing to be a part of.

You do feel privileged to have been granted insight into these private moments with them, both tender moments between mother and baby, whilst just a few steps away and an over amourous member of the group will be chased off by a more dominant member! And they act like we’re not even there. I could sit and watch them interact all day.

There are information guides present all the way around the walk which as well as being great for asking questions, it is reassuring too, just knowing they are there. At a quarter past the hour, every hour there are talks available to attend which are worthwhile. The guides appear with a bucket of food whistling to call the monkeys for a treat, the guide imparts information about the importance of creating a sanctuary like this; how they live, what they eat, where they are from then invite questions at the end. You’ll learn a lot from this.

The ¾ of a mile path continues in a large circular area that takes you through the first group of Macaques at the bottom of the hill, then up through the forest to the second family living at the top. Interestingly they don’t mix with each other. If you stay and watch, even just for a short time you’ll see the personalities of some of the family members, the way they interact with each other is fascinating and they really are no different from us – the way the kids will play and fight, with mum barging in to tell them off when she’s had enough.

As you walk the path, there are lots of information points, at the entrance you may have been given a trail map for the children to answer questions throughout the walk, these are always worthwhile at any venue, they are excellent at keeping the kids motivated to learn!

These Macaques originally came from Germany and France to create these two groups. The aim of the forest is to increase awareness of this endangered species by providing this beautiful insight into their lives in as close to their natural habitat as possible. It also aims to preserve the species to enable them to be re-introduced to the wild. The forest also supports research and the development of educational information into the biology and social behaviour of the Macaques, we chatted to one researcher who was making notes ready to write a 15,000 word dissertation. Which goes to show there is a lot to learn about these monkeys.

The walk continues gradually up to the top of the hill and then over the top to the steeper ‘trek’ down. Although it is steeper, there was a wheelchair user having no problems so it is accessible. The walk itself is lovely, with a winding stream to follow at the bottom which brings you back to where you started at the main presentation/feeding area. At this point you can go around again or head for the exit, being lunchtime this is what we did.

After lunch we explored the two educational areas, one is a classroom with a constant video loop explaining more about the Macaques, the second area is simply information boards with photos and captions with facts and research findings. After we’d been through this we decided to go back in, and although it was the same walk again, with the monkeys providing a new set of activities it was just, if not more enjoyable the second time around.

On the way home I asked the children what their favourite part of the day was, comments included seeing the monkey’s bottoms (yes, there’s always one), watching them chase each other and also feeding time, which was obviously popular with them as they asked so many questions.

We’re giving it an 8 out of 10 rating. Because it’s not a full day’s activity, I wouldn’t like to see any more ‘fun’ facilities included because to Disneyfy this place would ruin it, and as a conservation area it is quite perfect. However when asking the kids what they would like to see here, they said they’d like to be able to touch the monkeys so perhaps a petting area, with any hand reared Macaques would be a lovely reason for people to visit again.

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