Sunday, 26 October 2014

Banham Zoo, Norwich, Norfolk.

I spent a good few hours here and I am not sure that I visited every area, I will have to go back at some point.

The zoo is a little bit out of the way, at least from the direction I was travelling but it is very well sign posted and there is plenty of car parking once you arrive.

There were 2 ticket windows open when I arrived and no queues.  The adult ticket cost £17.95, a child's £12.95 and under 3's are free.  There are concession rates for Senior Citizens and carers, also the winter admission prices are a little cheaper.

There are plenty of toilets, always important when you are visiting somewhere with children, and food outlets too.

The first animals you see on entry are painted camels, they are not real - obviously - but very striking.  These camels were painted by local schools.

Next, there is a petting area with the fattest guinea pig I have ever seen, there are rabbits, goats and llamas too.

If you look closely, you can see that the llama at the back is sticking his tongue out.

From here on, you have several choices of direction to take, with many different animals to see.

All the animals seem very happy, with none of the distressing actions of those in European zoos, although this marmot made a break for freedom.

Marmots are burrowing creatures and they have dug holes under the fence of their enclosure, this cheeky chappie popped up out of a hole, looked around, decided he was better off inside and went back.

One of the lemurs was so bored with all the goings on that he fell asleep on the information sign.

And it was all too much for this meerkat who was also fast asleep.

Banham Zoo is home to 2 of the approximately 150 Suffolk Punch horses left in the UK, they are registered and used for breeding.

The giraffe enclosure is huge, their building has a first floor viewing platform, this can be reached by stairs, a long wooden sloped walkway or a lift.

There are so many animals and so many routes round that it would be impossible to mention them all here.

There are feeding talks and educational talks several times a day, some of the birds of prey are flown in display.  You can book to hold a meerkat or fly a bird of prey, but there are additional charges associated with this activities.

You do have to leave via the gift shop, but where don't you?  If you do need to leave and return to the zoo, you can stamp your hand to gain reentry.

It is definitely worth a visit.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

My Holiday Complaint, a final update.

I have accepted £100 from the booking agents, I have been trying to get my money refunded for nearly 4 months now and I have to accept that I have reached stalemate.

ABTA have been no help at all.

I looked into the small claims court, but it is too much to pay out to start proceedings, I am already a couple of hundred pounds down and I can't afford to pay out anymore.

Somewhere2Stay are still refusing to comment on, or even acknowledge, the month it took them to tell me that the Maritim had refused the booking.

As well as the difference in price between the hotels and the cost of eating out even though I had paid for an evening meal, there was the cost of a taxi to the airport from Calella, this cost €120.  I had booked a return transfer and I received confirmation of the time of the return trip and pick up location.

For whatever reason, the time of the pick up was changed, the transfer company contacted all the hotels where pick ups had been arranged so that they could put signs up in the reception area noticeboard to notify the traveller.  Unfortunately, as I had been moved, I did not receive any notification.

After waiting at the pick up point for an hour, I tried ringing the contact number on the booking confirmation, but there was no answer.  I walked down to the train station and took a taxi.

I have calculated what the holiday cost me.

I expected to pay £510

I could have paid £420 had I booked the Santa Monica myself, choosing B&B and eating meals out.

I ended up paying £685.

(I laid all of this out in an excel spreadsheet but I couldn't post it to my blog!)

So lesson learnt, make sure the company you are ultimately booking with is reputable.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

High Lodge, Thetford Forest, Suffolk

High Lodge is a fantastic place to visit, it is set in the beautiful Suffolk countryside, full details can be found here.

The site entrance fee is in the form of an hourly car park charge.  Currently it is £2.10 per hour per car, with a maximum charge of £11, this can be paid on arrival to beat the queues at the end of the day.  As today's cars can comfortably seat up to 7 people, this is very good value.

Minibuses and coaches have a fixed charge.

If you just want to walk around the grounds, or bring your own bikes, this is the only charge.  Dogs are welcome but must be kept under control and cleaned up after.

And there is plenty to walk around.  There are 4 marked walks, 3 starting from the main area and 1 starting within the forest, these are either 1.5km or 5km.  You can also make your own route up.

There are 6 cycle trails too, upto 18km in length.  Bike hire is available, adult hire is £8 for the first hour and £4 per hour after that (upto a maximum of £32 per day), child's hire is £7 for the first hour and £3 for any further hours (a maximum of £24 per day).

You can also hire child seats.

You cannot use disposable barbecues or open fires at High Lodge, but you can hire barbecues.

This year sees the Forestry Commission celebrating 15 years of the Gruffalo with sculpted Gruffalos at several country parks around the country, you can find a list here.  And I found the Gruffalo!

I also found the fox, but don't know what he said.

In another part of the forest, there is a musical trail.  Scaled up instruments made from wood and metal which you either hit or stand on to make music.  Being alone I had great fun finding out what sounds each made.


There are plenty of things for children to climb on and swing from.

This was a giant seesaw, the signs said that only teamwork could make it work, however, I am ashamed to say that I managed to get it moving all by myself.

The morning I visited it was very misty, the mist and low cloud making a very quiet forest even quieter.  Very Blair Witch in fact, for those of you remember the film, the mysterious and random stacks of logs adding to the atmosphere.

Or maybe Deliverance, with half built platforms.

But I loved every minute of it.

There is a cafe where I had a fantastic breakfast, there is plenty of seating both inside and out.  There was also an eating area called the Pantry but this was closed when I visited as it was still early.

There are plenty of toilets.

Go Ape is available here too, I didn't try this out myself, but did enjoy watching others crossing wires and using death slides.  The shouts and laughter of the Go Apers added to the spookiness of parts of the forest as you could hear them but not see them.

You can also hire Segways from Go Ape, but these are £35 per hour.

I would love to visit again, maybe next time I WILL hire a bike.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

My Holiday Complaint, a further update.

As you will recall I have been trying to have the difference in cost between the hotel I booked and the hotel I was actually accommodated in refunded by the travel company, this is for a holiday booked back in April of this year.

The latest reply from Somewhere2Stay, via Alpharooms, advises that they are not going to increase their existing offer of £50 and if I want more compensation then I should continue with my claim via a third party.  

Very professional.

And is a refund of an overpaid amount really compensation?  I don't think it is.  Yes, I would like compensation, more for the fact that this has dragged on for so long, but primarily I am just trying to collect money owed.

I discovered this week, that Somewhere2Stay is a sister company of Monarch Airlines, and this really surprised me as Monarch have always been completely professional in all the dealings I have had with them, I think that for my next flight I will be returning to EasyJet even though that means a 2 hour journey to the airport instead of 20 minutes up the Birmingham road.

ABTA have been as helpful as the travel company so now I have contacted Watchdog to see if I get any joy there.

The only step I have left is the Small Claims Court.