Talking to the Animals and a rather Lovely House….. Birmingham Nature Centre and Selly Manor, Birmingham

Woolly says – It’s been years since I’ve been taken anywhere, I have complained verbally and in writing but the cruel Jo just gives me excuses and then when she is off for a day the elements are against me and she refuses to leave the building because of torrential rain, poor excuse for a carer I say!

The moaning has been intense and no matter how many times I explain that I have work…. provides his pistachio’s, looking at property and land….. to provide for his future and a charity event that I’m organising, which I’m hoping that he will behave at!

Woolly says – Moan, me! Never.  I merely express my feelings which tends to elicit an occasional sigh floating out of me.  Having finally made my point and told her to do something about it, it appeared that my wishes had been answered as she informed me that we were off out for the day.  With no idea of where I climbed into the car and spent the next half an hour playing guess the destination, apparently Russia and China weren’t going to be happening which shows a complete lack of imagination.  As we drove through the centre of Birmingham, I spotted a picture of a duck on the brown signs which Jo promptly started to follow, not sure how impressed I was with visiting a duck but time would tell.

I’d decided on two places, one for fresh air and some animals, a change from manor houses…… and well a manor house, it’s cold and wet so anything outside is a bit of a risk.

Woolly says – As we bounced onto the car park, I leapt out of the car and padded over to an information board. 

Birmingham Wildlife Conservation Park, formerly Birmingham Nature Centre, and before that Birmingham Zoo, is a small zoo on the edge of Cannon Hill Park in Birmingham, England. Owned and managed by Birmingham City Council.’

It told me, it had opened on 1st of May 1964 by the Dudley Zoological Society Ltd and was designed to exhibit mainly young animals, but to also house Dudley Zoo’s collection of monkeys and two dromedaries for rides. I tusks pricked up at the thought of camels although sadly not in the desert, I decided that now wasn’t the time to moan and trotted through the entrance building to see what it had to offer.

It was a place I had been to many many times, as a child with my Father and as a Mother with a very young Zoe, not the biggest of places but sweet none the less.

Woolly Says – I gave a cheerful wave to the Rhea’s in their compound who were happily pulling a bush to pieces before having a brief conversation with the rather large pigs in their sty, apparently their carers didn’t feed them enough either! 

As I followed the trail round, I found that the trees and peacefulness was strange given that we were slap bang in the centre of Britain’s second city, we crossed over the River Rea (pronounced “ray”) which was the river on which Birmingham was founded by the Beorma tribe in the 7th century. It’s lovely tinkly sound made a lovely backdrop to the ocelot pen, sadly the rather lovely cats weren’t having selfies so I headed into the Lair of the Dragon to see if the Komodo dragon would be more accommodating. The lucky beast had his own heater but having attempted to clamber into his area I found my legs dangling in the air as Jo promptly removed me and plonked me back on the ground.

A hospital visit isn’t on my list for the day!

Woolly says – As we passed cage after cage many of the animals were taking the sensible option of staying inside their warm bedrooms

The two red pandas however were having a great time playing on their branches. One of the pandas had disappeared from the nature centre in November 2005 and spent four days “on the loose” before being discovered. Nature centre staff believe he was blown out of a tree and found himself outside his enclosure. His disappearance and the citywide panda hunt that ensued made national headlines at the time. I told him to head my way next time he escaped as I’m sure we could find a bed for him. 

The centre has quite a range of small monkey’s, including the Golden-headed lion tamarin, Goeldi’s marmoset, Squirrel monkey and the Pied tamarin, they were fascinating to watch as they raced around, climbed up the trees and in some cases bashed a rock against the ground, not sure if he was trying to break the rock or dig a whole but neither seemed successful.

In the interests of warming up I led my small friend into the café and sat clutching a hot coffee while he looked at the map and slurping his juice.

Woolly says – The conservation garden looked interesting and would fit in nicely with our eco ideas for the future, as the last of my juice had manged to fall on the floor, I gave Jo a sheepish look before heading off to take a look. 

Next came the meerkats and porcupine, one brave fellow sat on the highest rock keeping guard as the other’s huddled up in the warmth, who could blame them, even my tusks were feeling icy.

Wandering past the colourful birds, I asked Jo if it has changed much since she was a mere splodge, she laughed and pointed to a small shed explained that that had been there and lots of rabbits and guinea pigs but that was it.  The place has certainly grown then.

The capybaras were huge and spent a good five minutes giving me evil looks before turning around and ignoring me.

Not surprising as he had been squeaking at them for way to long, sometimes he just doesn’t know when to stop.

Woolly says – The otters were out but next door we were able to see right into the Binturong’s bedroom…. not sure I’d like the world peering into my room! He appeared not to enjoy it either and kept his back firmly towards the camera.

Having seen everything that had chosen to be on display, been allowed to play on the play area and had a quick snack it was time to head off to our second destination.

As Jo drove the short distance I tusked through my Mammoth Book of Facts until I found our second port of call, over its 500 year history Selly Manor has had several names as well as two locations. The earliest records for the house date from 1476, when it was called Smythes Tenement and was on land belonging to William Jenette, lord of the sub-manor of Selly. Over the years a huge number of tenants occupied the house until it fell into decline in 1853, it’s destruction was prevented by George Cadbury, who acquired it in 1907 with the intention that it would become a museum to compliment the other public buildings he had built in the garden village of Bournville, alongside the Cadbury chocolate factory.  From the outside it looked spectacular.

Having bought our tickets from a very fine ticket office

We headed inside to the parlour which was surprising warm even without having the fire lit.  Wonderful wide oak beam floors slopped and tilted as we made our way into the dining room. 

The stone floors were cold under paw but the lovely oak table was worth a little discomfort to stand an admire.

The kitchen was high-ceilinged and wonderful in its authenticity with a large fireplace just right for toasting your bread and toes on.

Up a narrow set of steps, we went and into a wonderful bedroom with its canopied bed, just the right size for me, and its large pieces of oak furniture.  Classically Tudor in all ways and forms.

Through a doorway and we found ourselves in the garret or what would have been Jo’s quarters in the days when servants actually obeyed their masters! A priest hole was deep within the beams and would have been a tight squeeze for any human. For me it would provide a handy bolt hole.

With the interior completed we made our way outside and followed the path round to the front of the building.

Such a lovely example of fine building, I turned to my carer and gave her a got kick to thank her for finding such a little gem.