Half-term activities bring even more visitors to Pensthorpe
Families are enjoying a host of activities at a popular nature reserve near Fakenham this half-term, as officials seek to build on a strong start to 2018.
The Sprinkle of Spring event is running all week at the Pensthorpe Nature Park to introduce youngsters to some of the wonders of nature.
And evidence that the natural world is attracting more attention from the younger generation was evident from admission figures at the park.
Marketing manager Jo Artherton said: "Before this half term were already some 1,500 visitors up on last year.
"Our ethos is to encourage people to get out of doors and interact with nature, encourage them to take an interest in the natural world instead of their computers and iPads."
With 700 acres of wetlands, lakes and grassland, which were carved out of former gravel pits, even a full day is hardly enough time to see all that is happening in a man-made nature reserve and safe haven that is home to almost every species of water fowl in the world.
Not only are their exotically-coloured birds at almost every turn - some so used to humans that they can be almost unwilling to move out of the way of visitors - but the park also harbours conservation projects that have been mounted to save both bird and animal species from extinction.
All this could be learned in a structured programme for youngsters on half-term holiday.
There was daily pond-dipping for the many creatures that lurk under water and are a food source for fish and fowl alike.
Visitors could enjoy an introduction to the park's endangered red squirrel breeding programme - and, if lucky - see kittens, the first young to be born this year, if they chose to pop out of their nesting boxes to take a look.
Youngsters were introduced to the importance of nest boxes and offered nature-related craft activities before ending their day watching the wild fowl scramble to be fed by a park warden.
Ms Artherton was keen to point out that what was most visible to the public was only part of the story of the park.
The Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, formed 15 years ago, works closely with the park on several endangered species on the global red list of animals threatened with extinction to a greater or lesser degree.
At Pensthorpe work is being done to help increase the numbers of Turtle Doves and the Common Crane which has seen a recent dramatic decline.
The population of Corncrakes, whose habitats are being eroded by modern farming methods, have stabilised but still need help and Red Squirrels, decimated by a grey squirrel virus, where the kittens are helping to re-populate the Isle of Anglesey, a grey squirrel-free island.