Do you know there is a small Zoo, located about 45 minutes from Oxford, called the BCA zoo. I had never heard of it and it never cropped in any of my many searches, so I was surprised when they got in touch and invited us to their Family Zoo Days.
BCA Zoo is actually located within a small part of the Berkshire Agricultural College campus. It is an education and training centre for the students and as such, only offers public encounters and events on a pre-booked basis during weekends, bank holidays and student term breaks. The Family zoo days run on the last Saturday of each month, March until September (the next one is 29th of April 2023 and the following one on 27th of May 2023). You can book for a morning or afternoon slot lasting three hours and explore at your own pace.
I was not sure what to expect if I am honest, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much there was. BCA Zoo is home to over 100 species of animal, but please don’t go expecting Tigers and Elephants. It is a small place but there are Lemurs, Meerkats, different variety of monkeys, Otters etc. in the Zoo Courtyard to keep your kids occupied. The Otters were particularly friendly and came close to the glass fences to stare at you. A number of the species housed at the zoo are at risk in the wild and are part of European Endangered Species Programmes (EEP’s) which include our critically endangered Bali Starlings and Pygmy Slow Loris.
There were many interesting insects in the Bug room including Trantulas and Scorpions. It was fun spotting them in the cabinets (which was not always easy). Reptile House was warm, as expected, but had an impressive collection of snakes and two pythons among others. A crested Gecko was hanging on the glass cabinet, much to the delight of all kids. Everyone tried to distract it but it did not budge. There is also a nocturnal enclave which had a cute armadillo running around in its enclosure as well as a Brush Tailed Possum (thought to be the most widespread marsupial in Australia). Outside is a vast green space with many Farmyard residents including Pygmi goats and Alpacas.
I also hear there were keeper talks and feeds as well as the opportunity to get up close with some minibeasts throughout the day, though, unfortunately we missed them. It would be good to ask the receptionist about when these occur when you sign in.
There were lots of arts and crafts activities scattered throughout the different rooms. There was also a lovely face painter who was quite reasonably charging 2-4 £ for designs of your own choosing. You can also choose to get an activity book from the reception (for 1£). If you filled it, you get a badge. You choose a picture from the display yourself, and then create the badge yourself right there in front of you. Talk about custom made stuff, hah!!
All in all, it was a lovely family day out and is ideal for small children . The place is not huge and though, there are not that many animals in the Zoo Courtyard itself, it makes it up with its collection of insects, Reptiles and nocturnals. You can move around at your own pace without feeling rushed or overwhelmed. A small play area would have elevated the experience even more in my opinion, but that does not take anything away from the place. We spent 1.5 hours in there and came out feeling happy.
You can combine it with a trip to Ray Mill Island, which is gorgeous (and about 15 minutes drive away) or a trip to the lovely local Higginson Park in Marlow (which has a huge pirate boat). Cliveden is also not too far.
Address: BCA Zoo, Burchett’s Green, Maidenhead, Berkshire, SL6 6QR
Price is 8£ (under 3’s FREE). You can book for a morning or afternoon slot lasting three hours and explore at your own pace.
Experiences from £35+ per person.
Toilets and baby facilities
Limited Refreshments on site
They are unable to admit any animals into the Zoo as this can upset our animals and can cause the spread of disease. Unfortunately, this also applies to guide, service and therapy animals.
All of the zoo courtyard and exotics house is fully accessible for our Zoo Tours. By the nature of farms sometimes the paths in our livestock areas can be a bit muddy at certain times of the year.