PONDEROSA ZOO: A family-friendly attraction in Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire – Review

PONDEROSA ZOO: A family-friendly attraction in Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire – Review

Ponderosa Zoo in Heckmondwike is a hidden gem housing over 120 animals from Lemurs to reindeers and reptiles. 

We went on our first trip to the West Yorkshire based Zoo, formerly known as Ponderosa Rural Therapeutic Centre, during the school holidays to experience a family day out. 

Visiting Ponderosa Zoo 

The zoo is located off Smithies Lane Liversedge, Heckmondwike WF16 0PN. I hadn’t realised it was there until recently as it is tucked away. 

 

We parked up before checking in at the wooden hut-come-gift shop. We were greeted and showed the treasure trail which was there for Halloween. As it was Halloween when we went you could also pay £3 extra to get a pumpkin carved. The zoo is very reasonably priced compared to larger zoos we have been to. 

ponderosa zoo pirate ship dand pit yorkshire heckmondwike  family blog.jpg

I hadn’t realised how much there was to do from visiting animals to an indoor playbarn, outdoor play area, zip wire and talks on animals. There’s also spaces to eat a picnic or there is plenty of food and drink available to buy on site.

The zoo is compact with lots of paths making it easy to get around. There’s also a sand pit, so it’s a good idea to wear wellies especially when the weather is cold and drizzly like it was when we visited. 

My daughters aged 4 and 7 enjoyed exploring the zoo and filling out the treasure hunt. My Step brother Oscar, who is autistic, also enjoyed the zoo which is off the beaten path and felt a lot more tranquil than other attractions we have been to. 

We sought shelter in the large Lakeside Cafe which is also an events and wedding venue. It’s a cafeteria style eaterie with hot & cold food and drink available to buy. I had a nice tomato sop whilst the kids opted for jacket potatoes. 

We then ventured back outside for a last look around at some of the animals, before picking up our pumpkin which had been specially carved for us, suing our drawings. The kids had a few last goes on the zip wire before we returned to the car. 

I hadn’t realised there was a small indoor play barn as well, so next time we will definitely try that too. 

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We had a lovely half-day at the zoo with friendly and accommodating staff. My mum and I really appreciated the emphasis on education, nature and endangered species. 

It’s a down-to-earth Zoo which is affordable and perfect for the whole family. 

ALL ABOUT PONDEROSA ZOO

Ponderosa Zoo (originally Ponderosa Rural Therapeutic Centre) was created in 1991 by Maureen Cook with the aim to ‘bridge the gap’ between disabled and able bodied people through the care of animals as a form of therapy. At the time the centre held a variety of domestic animals including pigs, goats and cattle.

Since its conception Ponderosa Zoo is now home to over 120 animals from lemurs to reindeer. They are a dedicated team of hard working and passionate individuals who aim to promote animal welfare, in addition to educating the public on conservation efforts and the threats many species now face in the wild. In 2017 we took another step in journey by becoming provisional BIAZA members.

Although they are now a much bigger facility with their primary focus being on welfare, education and conservation, they still hold a ‘Bridge the Gap’ vision by ensuring our zoo is always disabled friendly and offering a variety of grounds keeping roles for disabled individuals to gain valuable work experience in a friendly and welcoming environment.

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DISCLAIMER: We received a free family pass for the purpose of this review.

 

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FREE FAMILY FRIENDLY DAY IN LEEDS: Festive activities at Leeds Corn Exchange

FREE FAMILY FRIENDLY DAY IN LEEDS: Festive activities at Leeds Corn Exchange

Leeds Playhouse and Leeds Corn Exchange have joined forces to host a free family friendly takeover day.

Running on Saturday December 15, the takeover will see the Corn Exchange filled with free activities and workshops for young people aged 5 – 16 and their families.

The packed programme of free events will include story dens, festive choirs and singing groups, craft activities and workshops, all inspired by Leeds Playhouse’s current yuletide offering A Christmas Carol, playing now in the Playhouse’s Pop-Up theatre. The day will be delivered by the theatre’s award-winning Creative Engagement programme. There will also be an exciting opportunity to dress up as your favourite character in a pop-up photo booth, with beautiful outfits from the theatre’s Costume Hire.

Seb Smallwood as Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol. Photography by Andrew Billington (2)

Leeds Playhouse’s Head of Young People Gaby Paradis said: “This is the first collaboration between the two Leeds organisations and we are thrilled that this free family friendly day will happen in the iconic surroundings of the Corn Exchange – it will be fantastic to see the inspiring venue filled with amazing activities the whole family can get involved in. At Leeds Playhouse we aim to make theatre as exciting and as accessible as possible and being able to host the event in the centre of Leeds and in partnership with the Corn Exchange demonstrates our commitment to opening up creative possibilities for everyone whilst showcasing some of the fantastic organisations within the city.”

Leeds Playhouse and Leeds Corn Exchange Takeover. Photography by Anthony Robling (2)

Leeds Corn Exchange Centre Manager Adam Warner said: “We’re really excited to welcome Leeds Playhouse to Leeds Corn Exchange on the 15th December. It’s really important for us to create valuable relationships with key city centre partners and we feel that this partnership is a perfect fit. Leeds Corn Exchange has long been a hub of creative activity in the city and we are looking forward to welcoming their team for a unique day of workshops, live music, performances and more.”

Leeds Playhouse offers a regular dedicated programme of work for young people aged 5 – 25 consisting of creative projects, workshops and productions. Over 350 young people take part in Playhouse Youth activities each week both within the theatre building and its dedicated creative space for young people, First Floor.

Leeds Playhouse and Leeds Corn Exchange Takeover. Photography by Anthony Robling (4)

Free Festive Takeover Day, Leeds Corn Exchange, Call Lane, Leeds, LS1 7BR

Sat 15 Dec, 10am – 6pm

MY YORKSHIRE: Yorkshire Mum of 4’s top family days out, activities and attractions

MY YORKSHIRE: Yorkshire Mum of 4’s top  family days out, activities and attractions

From Wakefield to York, new blogger Yorkshire Mum of 4 is taking the online world by storm. Here she shares her favourite places to go and things to do in Yorkshire as part of our My Yorkshire column.

Where do you live and work?

I am Gemma. I live in Wakefield and work in Barnsley as an accounts assistant.

How do you like to travel around Yorkshire?

I do like to travel by car because I love choosing my own music and having the flexibility to just jump in the car on my own schedule. Although as the car is a Zafira, it’s more like a bus which is essential when you have 4 kids.

Where would you recommend nearby?

Places nearby I would recommend for a family would be Xscape as there is so much to do from bowling, laser zone to trampolining, however we don’t get there much as it can be quite expensive.

We do like Swithens farm in Rothwell as all the kids like animals and there are also adventure bits for the older kids. It is cheap and cheerful and not far to travel.

What do you love most about Yorkshire?

I love the fact Yorkshire people are just so down to earth a friendly, there is a real sense of pride about being from Yorkshire. I also love Yorkshire Puddings and Yorkshire tea.

the full english breakfast in a Yorkshire Pudding at The Hepworth Cafe

What is your ultimate day out in Yorkshire?

Ultimate day out in Yorkshire would probably involve a theme park so Lightwater Valley and then a nice pub somewhere on the way home serving traditional British Grub as I like my food. The family like our days out exploring theme parks and trying different rides and thrill seeking and then a nice meal at the end. Usually followed by a chocolate brownie and custard or some equally delicious dessert.

What are your favourite family-friendly places to go?

Weekends for us as a family are about exploring What is on locally so we will look at the local what’s on pages and event listings on facebook and find an event that we can support whether that is a fayre, a music event, a craft occasion, fun day, Emley Show that we went the other week or just a local car boot sale. There are so many wonderful events happening right on our doorstep that it is great to support.

What are your favourite free activities in Yorkshire?

Free activities that are available are places like Bolton Abbey, Hemsworth Water Park, Yorkshire Sculpture Park and also places like Thornes Park that have play areas and also nice park areas where you can take a ball, kite or frisbee, go for a walk or bike ride and feed the ducks.

yorkshire mum of 4 gemma stringer

Where would you recommend going for food and drink?

For food and drink in West Yorkshire we have been to so many places – My reviews on trip advisor have been read by 65,000 people and we have visited a variety of places however we do have three favourites. As a family I would say Orlandos over Emley way because he does magic at your table, they have a birthday hat for the kids and it feels very authentic and happy. For adults I would say the Old Mill in Horbury although I think it has been rebranded now and we haven’t been since. A local favourite would be Rinaldis, food is always delicious and service is usually pretty good.

If you were giving a whistle-stop tour of Yorkshire – where would you recommend people go if they were spending 48 hours in Yorkshire with their family?

For 48 hours in Yorkshire I would say spend some time in York, I remember me and my husband had a day out in York where we did the York Dungeon, then had some lovely food at a nice italian restaurant in the town. Then we went to the Chocolate Story and had a walk by the river.

Later that night, he proposed, so York is one of my favourite places and nice for a day out. They also do a family pass for families to explore the attractions there so it would be a fab place to spend a weekend.

There are also seaside destinations such as Whitby and also Bridlington that I would recommend for sight seeing and historical reasons.

Anything else you’d like to share about Yorkshire?

I love that fact I live and work in such a fabulous place, there are so many things going on here and so many places worth visiting. We have Cannon Hall Farm, Clifton Park, Lightwater Valley, Hornsea, Filey, York, Harrogate and also Leeds which is a fabulous shopping destination. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

Find the Yorkshire Mum of 4 at www.yorkshiremumof4.com and @yorkshiremumof4 on pinterest, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

MY YORKSHIRE: The best Yorkshire Attractions, Family Days Out & Food

MY YORKSHIRE: The best Yorkshire Attractions, Family Days Out & Food

Yorkshire Families began due to my love of Yorkshire – the people, the places, the attractions and most of all the fond memories I have of being born and bred in God’s Own County. 

And I want to help other families enjoy Yorkshire – helping them to discover with insider knowledge the best places to go, eat, drink and experience the region. From South Yorkshire to North Yorkshire, from West Yorkshire to East and the Yorkshire Dales.  

I was born in Sheffield, South Yorkshire and now live in Wakefield, West Yorkshire and have travelled around the region lots… but I want to hear from other people who also love Yorkshire in this new “My Yorkshire” column as there is so much to do and so much to discover that I can’t do it all myself… as much as I will try. 

Anyhow, here are my answers to the questions I’ll be asking, as well as, a short introduction: 

A self-confessed YouTube and Yorkshire Fan, Sophie Mei Lan decided to set up Yorkshire Families to help showcase the best Yorkshire has to offer. When she is not blogging or vlogging, Sophie is a mum to two girls and a multi-award-winning Journalist. She also co-owns Media Consultancy & Video Production Company Evoke Media Group and The Hepworth Cafe. 

Where do you live and work? 

I live in Wakefield, West Yorkshire near Castleford, Pontefract and Leeds. But I am from Pitsmoor in Sheffield, the Steel City. My family are originally from all over – from Burton-on-trent and Preston to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and China!  

I blog and vlog from home and when I am out and about. I also run my own businesses – Evoke Media Group, our office is in Wakefield City Centre and The Hepworth Cafe which is based inside The Hepworth Wakefield and I help my chef husband with his events and wedding catering company Pop Up North. 

Wakefield Westgate station Jasmine Make and Move

How do you like to travel around Yorkshire? 

Most of the time you’ll find me running with the buggy or walking or catching buses but occasionally my husband drives us around or we use the train if going for a day-out. 


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Mum ont run! Instead of a car I like to run everywhere from place to place. I don’t have the drive to “go out for a run,” I much prefer incorporating exercise into my daily routine. It means I get to chat to my child as she sits happily watching the world whizz by. I’m not focused on #calories or #miles just the speed I can get to where I’m going. Whether it’s running, walking, taking the stairs… whatever the physical activity… anything is better than nothing #fitnessmotivation #fitnessjourney #mumrunner #mumrunners #runningbuggy #mumontherun #nocar #exercisedaily #fitnessblogger #fitnessvlogger #fitnessforlife #runnersofinstagram #runnermom #runnerslove #runnersworld #runnersunite #mumlife #mumblogger #mummysgirl #mumblog

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Where would you recommend nearby?

The Hepworth Wakefield is great for a free day-out with crafts and lots of family activities on, especially during the holidays. It’s not just because we own the cafe there but we have been going to The Hepworth since it opened. 

There’s also a Free City Bus in Wakefield which takes you from Wakefield Westgate Station and Wakefield Kirkgate station to The Hepworth, Wakefield Museum (which is also fab and full of free activities for children) and into the City Centre where you can shop at Trinity Walk or The Ridings Shopping Centre. 

I also love a walk down the canal near The Hepworth and going to Thornes Park which has a Secret Garden, Duck Pond and indoor/outdoor gym and athletics stadium. 

The Hepworth Wakefield in the rain

What do you love most about Yorkshire? 

All the independent businesses, suppliers, influencers and makers – there is so much talent in Yorkshire. 

What is your ultimate day out in Yorkshire? 

I love the Yorkshire Coast! I had an amazing day-out in Scarborough. We began the day at Alpamare Water Park before heading down to the beach and playing on the slots. We then seen the evening at The Scarborough Spa – perfect! 

Where do you enjoy going to at the weekend in Yorkshire? 

If the weather is nice the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in West Bretton is lovely for a walk and a picnic and so is National Trust’s Nostell Priory. Or if the weather isn’t great we head to The Hepworth or a local play-centre. 

What are your favourite family-friendly places to go? 

  • Sheffield’s Winter Gardens and Millennium Galleries (they’re attached and all indoor). 
  • Stockeld Park near Harrogate 
  • National Coal Mining Museum for England, in Overton, Wakefield 
  • Hemsworth Waterpark or Anglers Country Park (both in the Wakefield district) 
  • The Ridings Shopping Centre in Wakefield has The Den play area and FAB (Families and Babies) charity. 
  • Kirklees Light Railway 
  • Eureka in Halifax 
  • Wensleydale Creamery is home to a new family experience (we’re yet to check it out).
    The Wensleydale Creamery Visitor Centre 12 

What are your favourite free activities in Yorkshire? 

There are so many galleries and museums with children’s activities on as well as an array of parks (we love Millhouses Park in Sheffield) and countryside to explore – all for free. For example, I’ve mentioned a few free excursions such the National Coal Mining Museum and The Hepworth. Also check out your local library for activities and play/story corners. 

What are your favourite Yorkshire attractions? 

Any secret hot-spots or insider tips you’ve discovered? 

  • For discounts, check out the leaflets on display at a local attraction as you can pick up some bargains, we always enjoy using Yorkshire Attractions. And sometimes you can save money by booking online in advance. 
  • Check out the Park Run website for places to go on a Saturday morning to run with the whole family. 
  • How Stean Gorge is really cool if you have older children who fancy gorge walking or abseiling or just look in the cafe as there is a glass floor looking down to the gorge. 
  • If you’re visiting National Trust’s Fountain’s Abbey – don’t forget to go on the Folly Trail.   
  • If you’re travelling on the motorway near Scotch Corner check out Mainsgill Farmshop, cafe and playground, beats any service station! 

Where would you recommend going for food and drink?  

It’s always hard finding somewhere comfortable to suit all ages which is why we love picnics but with the bad weather that’s not always possible. Asides from the family-friendly pub chains, if you’re looking for good food and drink which is family-friendly there are tons of homely Italian Restaurants. 

Farmer Copley’s has a nice Bistro-style Cafe with plenty of options. Oh and of course, The Hepworth Cafe! 

the full vegan breakfst brunch at The Hepworth cafe

We also loved having Children’s Afternoon Tea at Mr and Mrs C’s in Wakefield City Centre and the staff at Waterton Park Hotel put on a special family afternoon tea for us all if booked in advance. 

 

Or another great option is Private Dining where a private chef comes to your home (my husband is a Chef and does this for a lot of families as it takes the stress out of going out). 

Also check out Peddler Market in Sheffield is full of street food and music located in an old warehouse in Kelham Island, Neepsend (Burton Rd), day-time tends to be best for families.

If you want to find exclusive offers to some of the best Foodie spots, go to: Yorkshire Food Guide  which has a new online shop.

Are there any family-friendly shops or businesses? 

We love going to Crafty Owls Pottery Barn in Ossett and Boomchikkaboom put on a lot of fun family events across the region. 

Make sure you check out mumbler.co.uk as they have lots of good recommendations and so do My Bump 2 Baby for families. Or for women in business, check out Girl Tribe Gang. 

If you were giving a whistle-stop tour of Yorkshire – where would you recommend people go if they were spending 48 hours in Yorkshire with their family? 

I’d say check out these blogs in advance as you’ll see there’s so much to do, it’s best to focus one part at a time: Yorkshire Tots (covers West Yorkshire), Trips with a Tot (covers South Yorkshire), Leeds Dad, Hip2Trek, Charlotte The Magpie Mama, Cossins Music School (covers Wakefield), A Mum Full of Dreams (Leeds), Lucy At Home, Wonderful Chaos, Rainbeaubelle, Yorkshire Wonders and here on our site. 

Anything else you’d like to share about Yorkshire?

There is SO much happening in Yorkshire, makes sure you follow us on here and on social: 

@YorkshireFams on twitter.

Yorkshire Families on facebook.  

 

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