A Lake District eco-tourism business offering unique wild animal experiences is to undergo an ambitious £1.4m development to expand and enhance its facilities.
‘Predator Experience’ is the only place in the country where people can enjoy unique ‘walking with wolves’ experiences with wolf hybrids. The popular visitor attraction, which is celebrating its 10th birthday this year, was voted BBC Countryfile’s ‘top magic moment’ when viewers watched presenter, John Craven howing in unison with wolves, Maska & Kajika.
The new facilities will include the addition of new animal housing and viewing rooms, an indoor flying room to provide year-round wet weather facilities, reception area, parking and comfort facilities with disabled access, an education, training and conference room, and a new animal hospital.
New animals including two more wolf hybrids will also be introduced to the attraction, which has held an exemplary zoo licence since 2011.
Further interactive experiences include flying golden eagles from the top of Lake District fells, countryside hawk walks, fox encounters, and learning about the crucial roles these predators play in the bio-diversity system and in supporting eco-tourism.
The new development marks the culmination of a four-year David & Goliath-esque planning struggle with the local Lake District planning authority. After different planning schemes were repeatedly rejected, the National Planning Inspectorate got involved and overturned previous decisions. Finally owners Dee and Daniel Ashman have permission for the development of a live/work unit to live alongside their animals.
Dee said: “This has been so many years in the making and we’re excited to now take the business forward to that next level. At the moment, we don’t even have a proper parking area, toilets, or anywhere for people to enjoy a cuppa when they arrive so this will make a huge difference to our customers.
“Although we have a zoo licence, we’ll never become a busy open zoo, that’s not what we’re about. Our experiences are like intimate natural history style documentaries where people can get grounded in nature, bond with the animals, find out how they live, and the impact they have on bio-diversity. We’re committed to doing what we can to protect the planet whilst creating a world-class visitor attraction in the process.
“We’ve already received our first CV and we haven’t even stuck a spade in the ground yet!”
Work is due to get underway later this year with the new facilities opening in spring 2021. The improved visitor experience is expected to provide a £1.1m annual boost to the Cumbrian tourism economy as well as creating additional jobs.
Walking with Wolves is the attraction’s most popular experience, which sees people go through a special greeting process with Maska & Kajika before taking the leash and walking foot by paw as part of the pack. Whilst in control of 55kg of impressive muscle, they’ll learn about wolf conservation, their environment, how they communicate (including some synchronized howling!), and the crucial roles these apex predators play in the bio-diversity system and within eco-tourism.
All experiences need to be pre-booked and start from £65 per person. Walking with Wolves experiences are priced at £95 per person.