“ Address: Preston Park / Yarm Road / Stockton-on-tees / TS18 3RH England „
Hidden away in a not-often-visited corner of the North East of England is a butterfly wonderland.
Butterfly World is in Preston Park, situated close to Thornaby and Stockton on Tees (Teesside/Middlesbrough area if you're not familiar with it). It's easy to get to, and shares a large car park with the park, which is rarely full. They open between March and october, between 10am and 16:30pm, including Sundays and bank holidays.
Prices are relatively cheap - £3.50 for adults, and £3.00 for kids, with a family ticket available for £12.00.
Go in and you will enter what is essentially a huge greenhouse. Exotic butterflies flutter from plant to plant, rest on food left out for them, or occasionally land on a visitor's head. Quail run about the place freely. Wander through, past the goldfish pond, and you can gape at a window of crysalises and possibly see a butterfly crawl out, or you can walk through to the second room. There you will find tanks filled with reptiles, snakes and spiders. There's also a large habitat where two elderly meerkats (they've been there for at least ten years now) play, chase each other, and stare at visitors.
In busy periods and holidays such as halfterm, the staff will often take the snakes out and talk to the kids about them, and allow them to touch or hold them if they wish. They're also very understanding of people who bring cameras in the hope of getting decent close-ups of butterflies, and if you're obviously here for that and around for a while, they'll often call you over to show you some caterpillars to photo, and things along those lines.
Just a couple of words of warning if you visit Butterfly World. Firstly, it is as stated a giant greenhouse. As such, it gets warm. If you have to dress up warm due to the outside weather, make sure it's something you can take off such as a jacket.
Secondly, please keep an eye on your kids. I know the folk there have had some problems due to smaller kids grabbing at butterflies, collecting caterpillars to take home, or trying to climb in with the meerkats. They don't know any better, and they might chase insects outside so see no problem with doing so here. Please, losing caterpillars and butterflies DOES affect what they can do there, so please watch your kids and make sure they know the rules.
That said, it's a lovely place both for families and naturalists. I highly reccomend that if you're in the area you check it out.
Set inside Preston Park Museum is an indoor tropical garden populated by exotic free-flying butterflies complemented by a display of fascinating insects.