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 celebrated 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 Lake District National Park Authority. After different planning schemes were repeatedly rejected, Government body, the National Planning Inspectorate overturned previous decisions to allow planning permission for the development of a live/work unit for owners Dee and Daniel Ashman.
Dee said: “We’re so excited! We’ve not been able to take the business forward in the last five years and have got so used to throwing everything we have both emotionally and financially into fighting for our survival, and what we knew to be right and just, that we still can’t quite take it all in. 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.
All experiences need to be pre-booked and start from £65 per person. Walking with Wolves experiences are priced at £95 per person. For more information on Predator Experience visit http://www.predatorexperience.co.uk/.