Rare beasts come to Doncaster

Going on a bear hunt? Head to the Yorkshire Wildlife Park this December and you won’t have to look far. This acclaimed Doncaster attraction has just welcomed a third polar bear - called Nissan - to its specially designed enclosure, one of the largest in the world. And he’s not the only recent arrival drawing the crowds. 

Nissan’s journey from Russia to the UK took a year to plan and he’s settling in well, according to zookeepers. He joins Victor and Pixel at the park, which provides a home for males who are no longer needed on the global polar bear breeding programme. There are still just an estimated 20-25,000 of these magnificent creatures in the wild, so this is a fairly rare opportunity to see one up close.  

Don’t forget to pick up a card for him, if you plan to visit. Nissan celebrates his second birthday on Saturday 12 December. Not a bad age to take an early retirement! 

Animals who are in imminent danger of extinction are known as ‘critically endangered’. Amur leopards fit into this category, the most extreme rating, as they number just 70 in the wild. And now two cubs from the species are on view for visitors to the wildlife park. With their parents Drake and Freya, the young males have only just been cleared to go outside and meet the public. 

This large park is home to almost 400 animals in total, with lions, giraffes, tigers and favourites such as meerkats all on site. The creatures are kept in generous enclosures at an attraction renowned for high standards of care and for putting the welfare of their animals first.

If you want to get even closer to the animals, and find out what life is like behind the scenes, you can bag yourself one of a range of premium tickets, such as the VIP Experience at a cost of £150 per couple. This privileged access pass enables you to shadow a ranger and help look after the animals.

York Minster revamped

Phase one of an extensive project to restore the East Front of York Minster to its former glory has involved the renovation of the biggest medieval stained glass window in Europe.

Installed in 1408, the window - as big as a tennis court and boasting 2,311 multicoloured panes - has been painstakingly restored over seven years in a project comparable with that famous exercise in never-ending work: painting the Forth Bridge.

The window is ambitious in scope as well as size - covering the entire Bible, from the creation as described in the book of Genesis to the second coming as told in the visionary Book of Revelation. It’s these latter Apocalypse scenes that have been undergoing a protective glazing before being restored to their former glory, securing them for another 600 years.

Within the Minster’s historic walls there’s a constant procession of events, exhibitions and services. It’s even more alluring during the festive season with carol services providing a welcome and cheering respite from the wintry conditions outside. You can catch a service or a festive procession by day or night during December, plus a rendition of Handel’s Messiah, always popular at this time of year.

Visitors can also explore the Minster’s Undercroft - an interactive exploration of the building’s history - or take a free guided tour. Head up to the top of the tower for stunning views across York.

Landmark Lowry’s £3m Revamp

One of the cultural jewels in Manchester’s crown is in the middle of a major overhaul. And the latest phase of redevelopment has seen the theatre and arts centre unveil its £3m Pier Eight bar and restaurant. Good news – it’s fabulous. 

The space has been transformed into a destination in its own right. Pier Eight’s atrium centres on a stunning tribute to Manchester’s ‘Cottonopolis’ past, with an impressive sculptural representation of a cotton tree.  The restaurant and bar – offering a sleek, modernist ambiance - is designed to be a place to appeal to all diners, not just theatregoers. A mix of textures and hard lines provide a cosy but contemporary feel and the whole space has been opened out. The venue overlooks Salford Quays and floor-to-ceiling windows let light stream in as diners enjoy the perfect vantage point for people watching.

The revamp coincides with a refresh of the menu too. A new pastry chef is whizzing up fresh desserts – where better to enjoy a Manchester tart? As befits the region, expect hearty, locally-sourced ingredients and regional specialties such as Cheshire beef fillet with bubble and squeak, beef and ale pie and cheese ploughman’s. Wash them down with classic cocktails including Cosmos and the sweet peach and fizz favourite, Bellini.

Pier Eight provides the ideal refueling station when you’re exploring the Imperial War Museum next door. And The Lowry itself houses the largest public collection of drawings and paintings by the man who lent his name to the venue - L. S. Lowry, famous for his matchstick men.

With two theatres and an exhibition space, there’s plenty more to see on your visit. Take in the digital artwork of the Right Here, Right Now exhibition and between Saturday 12 and Sunday 27 December, enjoy the free Lightwaves installation, a maze of stunning illuminations. Look out for special artists’ talks and one-off events too. Meanwhile, over in the theatre, there are performances as varied as RnB icon, Alexander O’Neal on Sunday 12 December and The Sound of Music from Monday 14 December to Saturday 2 January.




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