Since my son reached toddling age, we've been regulars at the Trent Park Animal Sanctuary. While the whole of Trent Park is lovely, the sanctuary really is the jewel in its crown.
The animals are all rescued: goats, pigs, shetland ponies, chickens, deer, sheep, owls, geese, swans, herons, ducks, ferrets, guinea pigs and all manner of birds. They are a great way to introduce the little ones to animals, and they can get close enough to all of them to make it a memorable visit for them. The staff are all friendly and happy to tell you about the animals, and best of all it's very cheap (£3 for adults, free for very young children. Not sure of cost for children above toddling age).
There are a few playground rides there for the children, which are OK without being great, but keep our son entertained. There is also a small shop selling snacks and a lot of educational posters and signs dotted about the place (ferrets really are brilliantly weird animals).
The only problem with Trent Park is the parking, which on a sunny weekend is highly traumatic. But that aside, I can't recommend the whole place, and the animal sanctuary in particular, highly enough. And if you don't support it, you may well lose it.
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