The Living Rainforest – worth a visit?

It’s rare that I come away from a day out disappointed with a trip, so when I do it hits me a bit for six. Especially when it’s taken up part of the one precious day I’ve been able to take off work during half term to spend with N. I do blame him though – because it was his choice to go south to the Living Rainforest, rather than my choice of going north to the Black Country Living Museum. But hey, we live and learn, and in future I’ll do more digging online to read reviews first.

N’s been asking a lot about rainforests and the Everglades recently. It’s come about because of a YouTube video that’s his current favourite, all about strange vehicles. One of which is an air boat on the Everglades. So of course when I mentioned that we could go to a living rainforest, he decided that was preferable to somewhere called a museum!


The Living Rainforest is near Newbury, and really easy to find off the A34. It’s exactly what it says on the tin, an enclosed tropical rainforest with animals, birds and plants that you may see in the tropics. As well as being open to the public, they also have a large study/lecture area and obviously welcome a lot of schools as part of their studies.


We arrived a little while after opening and the car park was mostly empty. The entry (around £8-9 each) provides you with an annual pass should you wish to return. Then you’re free to wander at will, through the rainforest.


N was most put out that we didn’t have a clipboard and trail leaflet. We’d not had them pointed out to us which was a shame, although lots of other children we saw had them.


We saw some interesting creatures – the blue poison dart frogs were interesting and N was astounded by the size of some of the fish.


There was a mix of animals – birds, butterflies and a lizard on the loose, then tortoises, turtles, fish, spiders, monkeys and more within their enclosures.


The plants were named, although it was hard to pick them out from each other. But it does give you an appreciation of how dense and green the rainforest is. Especially when you step outside afterwards to find the yellowing leaves falling from the trees.


We were in and out of the rainforest area within 45 minutes and after having a brief look in the indoors learning area, it was time for the playground. This was N’s favourite part of the day and the equipment was different to many playgrounds we usually see. There were lots of ropes rather than wooden play equipment. Perfect for N’s age, he loved launching himself at the ladders, nets and down the slide.


Lunch in the café was calling before we left. The menu was a bit of a mystery – there was hot food being served, but it didn’t state on the board what the children’s meals were, so N had a kids lunchbox which was a bargain £3.50, although had a random mix of items – yoghurt and a pot of fruit in juice? I thought it was a bit bizarre having both. I just had a baguette and a drink, and at just over £8 lunch was good value.

The journey back up the A34 was a bit painful with a lot of hold ups, but having such a short day out did mean freeing up the rest of the afternoon for doing chores and getting a haircut.

N said he enjoyed the day, but I didn’t think much of the Living Rainforest. I expected more – it to have more to see, be larger, and more ‘touristy’ – although the latter isn’t always a good thing. If you live nearby, have younger children who just like running up and down bridges and spotting the same animals over and over again, then maybe it’s worth a trip or two. But we won’t be going back. I think a trip to the park at home, on bikes and scooters is more interesting.

Have you ever been? What did you think? Or can you recommend somewhere similar to visit?

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  1. I haven’t been for years as the kids are too old now but I’d have written exactly the same review based on our last visit. It is close to us but I do think very expensive for the size. If you want to see tropical plants, but don’t mind lack of animals, then the greenhouses of the Oxford Botanic garden are just as good. I haven’t been to the Black Country museum but I’ve heard it’s great!

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