“ Cotswold Wild life park / Burford / Oxfordshire / OX18 4JW / Tel: 01993 823006. „
I recently had a week away in Gloucestershire with my best friend and our dogs. We stayed in a little cottage and planned to see as many attractions as we could in a week. While looking though a brochure of all the local attractions, I spotted one called Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens and was really pleased to see that we were allowed to take the dogs with us for a day out.
In 1923 the Manor House and Estate (that is now the park) were purchased by Colonel Heyworth-Savage and when he died in 1948, the estate was passed to his grandson John Heyworth who is the current owner. In 1969, he decided to open the gardens to the public. The Victorian Manor House that dominates the park is a listed building.
Cotswold Wildlife Park is set in 160 acres of gardens and houses an amazing collection of birds, reptiles and mammals from all over the world. Many of the animals that can be seen here are endangered and the park is a member of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria which means that they exchange animals with other Zoos and Parks for further breeding programmes to help the animals from becoming extinct.
Cotswold Wildlife Park is situated on the A361, about 2 miles from Burford. I am not the best person with directions but I found it really easy to find and it was very well signposted too.
The park is open every day (except Christmas Day) from 10am. Between March and September last admission is 4.30pm. Between October and February, last admission is at 3.30pm. During British Summer Time, the park needs to be clear of all visitors by 6pm and 5pm between October and February.
This is one thing I really liked about the park; I thought that the admission costs were extremely cheap considering the park is an entire day out. Admission costs are as follows:
Adults - £10.50
Child (age 3-16) - £8.00
Senior Citizen - £8.00
We arrived at the park at midday and left at 5pm and we just about managed to see everything, although we did have to rush the last bit. I would suggest that if you want to see everything, you arrive at 10am as this place is massive!! There are so many animals to be seen here, as well as gardens and special features such as the Insect House, The Walk-Through Lemur Enclosure and the Walled Gardens.
I am not going to mention every single animal as it would take me all day but I will outline what I particularly enjoyed about the park and my personal highlights.
The first park of the park we came across were the Pheasant Aviaries. This section is shaded by the woodland that surrounds the park and I liked this fact because it was very similar to the natural environment of these birds. There were several aviaries which all houses different species of Pheasant, some were extremely bright coloured and really pretty. One of the aviaries towards the end of this section also had 3 chicks in with the parents. They were tiny but I was amazed to see that they could sort of half fly, as one did when it spotted by big black dog watching him!! Other aviaries in this section houses Touracos. The species that can be seen here include Red Crested, White Crested and Violaceous Touracos. Also in this section were a couple of aviaries that housed Prevost's Squirrels which were absolutely stunning as they were black, white and tan in colour.
Birds of Prey
Personally I love Birds of Prey so I found this section really interesting. In here there were all different species of Owl which included the Snowy Owl, Spectacled Owl and the Great Grey Owl who was my favourite. The Great Grey Owl was, as you can imagine rather large and he was very interested in the dogs. He sat on his perch and kept leaning his head over to look at my dogs (who were also quite fascinated by him!). Also in this section was the Tawny Frogmouth which was really rather odd to look at because his head was such a funny shape. All the aviaries in this section were large and clean and each one had been adjusted to suit each different type of owl.
In this section, there are also a variety of Vultures (again which I love) and Caracaras which originate from South America and tend to live in coastal areas and in high mountains.
In this section are the Leopards, Lions and Wolves. One of the Leopards kept here in a rare Amur Leopard which was bred in captivity as part of an international breeding programme. In the Lion section there are both Asiatic and Indian Lions. Finally, in the Wolf section there was several different breeds which included Canadian Timber Wolves and Grey Wolves.
All the big carnivore enclosures were massive, to the point where it was sometimes quite hard to actually see the animal but again, I quite liked this fact because it meant that they could have some privacy away from prying eye when they felt like it. There are timber walls around the enclosures with lots of panels made from glass, allowing visitors to stand at the glass sections and view the animals. We were particularly lucky at the Leopard enclosure because he had decided to have a lay down right near the viewing panel we were stood at. He was only about 4 feet away from where we were standing and it gave me a chance to appreciate the sheer size and beauty of these stunning animals.
Monkeys and Apes
The Monkeys and Apes are actually located in several different areas of the park and include Monkeys, Lemurs and Gibbons which also include Siamangs (which are the largest type of Gibbon). The Gibbons are close to the restaurant and had a huge enclosure which had ropes, loads of branches and platforms for them for play on. The Gibbons were quite noisy and playful and were fascinating to watch. One was swinging between a rope and a branch, clearly trying to keep the attention of the people looking.
The Monkey sections included species such as the Purple-faced Langurs, Squirrel Monkey's and the White-faced Saki. There were also several different types of Tamarins and Marmosets. They enclosures for the monkeys were also very large, with plenty of contents to keep the amused.
The Lemurs were housed within The Walled Garden which I will cover later.
Reptiles and Amphibians
I am a great reptile lover anyway so this section appealed to me greatly. The Reptile House is situated in converted stables and included many different lizards, snakes, frogs, salamanders, turtles, terrapins, tortoises and even crocodiles. This section is quite dark but each vivarium (where the reptiles are housed) is lit up so the animals are still very easy to see. Since the park opened in 1970, it has kept ten different species of Crocodile and currently they keep Morelet's Crocodiles which are extremely rare. The enclosure was HUGE with a massive pond / lake area for them to dip into as and when they pleased. The whole enclosure is behind glass at the front so you can have a real close up view of these amazing reptiles. There was a feature wall in the Crocodile section which displayed items which had been confiscated by HM Customs and Excise which were made from crocodile skin. The wall explained that when you buy these items, you are helping to make these animals extinct so I thought that was a really good message to be getting across.
In the Lizard section were so many lizards including Green Tree Monitors, Beaded Lizards and Mellor's Chameleon. The Mellor's Chameleon change they skin to suit their surrounding so he was pretty hard to find but amazing once we did, it was fascinating to see how his skin suited the background perfectly. There were also Utilian Spiny Iguanas and my personal favourite - the Rhinoceros Iguana who was massive. He was sat in his vivarium literally watching people walk past him and he just looked so chilled out.
In front of the Reptile House, there is an enclosure which houses Radiated and Red-Footed Tortoises. Two if the enclosures are behind glass but the back of the enclosure leads out to a large garden for the tortoises and visitors can look straight over the top of the walls to the garden and get a really detailed view of the tortoises.
The largest Tortoises are kept in front of the Manor House in a massive lawned area although they do have a heated house to retreat to when they need to warm up. These are the Giant Tortoises and they certainly were that. We even saw them mating which to be honest looked quite traumatic for the female as the male was much larger than her and he made the most awful noise as he was doing his thing, kind of sounded like a horse which was rather strange!
The Snake section was also very interesting and housed both venomous and constrictive types including the Reticulated Python, Cuban Boa, Madagascan Tree Boa and Gaboon Viper to name a few. Green Anacondas can also be seen here and these are the heaviest snakes in the world. It is very hard to breed these in captivity but the park managed to do just that in 2008. On the day we visited the Anaconda was totally submersed in water but it was still easy to see.
Lastly are the frogs and salamanders which can be seen in with the retiles (in the same building, not the same vivarium!). There were several varieties including the Poison Dart Frog which actually looked really pretty as they were bright green and black striped. They also had the Blue Poison Dart Frog which was bright light blue with dark blue legs and dark blue spots all over it.
Believe it or not, this was actually really fascinating. Inside, there was a Leaf-cutting Ant colony which were housed in a massive vivarium and we stood for a good 20 minutes watching these. They were simply amazing to watch, cutting off pieces of the leaves that were in there and then marching them along a branch until they reached their nests. Their nests were enclosed within glass cubes so you can actually watch the activity inside the nest too.
Also in the insect house were Scorpions which included a large black one and also a load of really small red ones. There was a vivarium holding giant millipedes which again were fascinating to watch, I can never quite believe just how many legs they have. In the spider section there were Red-legged Tarantula's as well as a Bird-eating Spider which was massive, I was amazed at just how big he was! Giant land snails can also be seen in here, there were hundreds in the enclosure including lots of baby ones.
Also in here is the Tree Shrew who looked just like a Squirrel. If I hadn't of read the sign, then I would have thought he was one. Apparently the Tree Shrew has the largest brain to body ratio of any animal, including humans.
The children's farmyard was a pleasant section where you can actually pet animals such as pigs, sheep and horses. You can also see ducklings in their little nursery enclosure which I'm sure children will love. One of the pigs here was absolutely huge and very friendly. As we walked in, he came over to the side of his pen, grunting and looking up for a fuss. There is an indoor section to all the enclosures so the animals can either roam in the large outdoor enclosures of snuggle up in their pens. There were several different types of pigs and horses and some very friendly goats too.
Guinea pigs and rabbits can also be seen in this section as well as the Giant Rabbits who were chilling out in their hay when we visited. Finally, there are several skunks in this section, although they were behind a glass screen so we couldn't smell them!
The Walled Garden
As you enter the Walled Garden, you will see the penguins who again, have a large enclosure with the water section being right at the front. This allows visitors to view the penguins as they swim in the water. You are actually so close to them that you could touch them although obviously you are not to do this.
As you move on from the penguins, you will come across the Meercat enclosures. They were fascinating to watch and the moment the spotted the dogs, the one of 'watch out' started making clicking noises to alert all the other that there might be danger around! There were babies in the enclosure and they were just the most adorable little things. It was quite odd to see, but the parents weren't overly protective of the babies and we saw several just laying by themselves having a snooze!
Inside the Walled Garden, there are many free flying species of birds which include Blue-bellied rollers, Plovers and Bali Starlings. There are also many birds within large aviaries which include Open-billed Storks, Egrets and Kookaburras.
The Otters were good to watch too and almost seemed to be showing off running around chattering to one another and jumping into the water.
Within the ground of The Walled Garden, is the Tropical House which was totally renovated in 2004. The Tropical House provides a home for a range of birds which include Crowned Pigeons, Sun Bitterns and Mousebirds to name a few.
Roaming free within the Tropical House are two Linne's Two-toed Sloths who were absolutely beautiful. As you exit the Tropical House, you can see the water garden where you can see a large pond full of Koi Carp. This pond is surrounded by aviaries which house lots of different birds including Weaver Birds.
Last but certainly not least, is the Walk-Through Lemur Enclosure which opened in 2007. This is only open from 11.30am until 3.30pm so you need to ensure you get there before 3.30pm if you want to see them! We only just made it! Inside here the Lemurs just roam around and have plenty of trees to climb upon. The moment I entered the enclosure, I heard a strange clicking / grunting noise behind me and as I turned round, a black Lemur came marching past me. He was very cute and stood and looked at me for a while. Most of the other Lemurs were busy grooming each other in the trees that line the walk through area. There are several different species which include Ring-tailed Lemurs, Black Lemurs and Red Bellied Lemurs. Also in here, there were small pond areas where a variety of birds lived.
The Manor House
The Manor house which sits in the centre of the house is truly beautiful and is a listed Victorian building. The owners of the park used to live in here but now it has a variety of other uses. The drawing room is used for meetings, exhibitions and conferences, the library is now a bar area, the original kitchen has been turned into a storeroom and a self contained flat. Other rooms are used as storage and offices. The upper parts of the building have been turned into flats which are used as staff accommodation. Myself and my friend commented that we can't imagine how beautiful it would be waking up inside the park every day.
There is a lovely little train that runs around the park and we were amazed that we were allowed to take the dogs on there with us. The cost is £1 for adults and 50p for children. I thought this was well worth the money as you get to see many of the animals on the journey. We did the train ride at the beginning of the day which meant that it helped us to get an idea of where the various sections were. The train runs from April till October, weather permitting.
For visitors with children, there is a children's playground which looked like lots of fun. There were climbing frame, slides, swings and a see-saw. The children's playground is located near the restaurant and there were plenty of benches for parents to sit on while the children play. There was even a little carousel in the children's playground although I did notice that it cost £1 to have a go.
There is a restaurant which serves hot food as well as sandwiches, ice creams and drinks. We got a portion of chips each which were £1.60 which seemed a bit expensive but were certainly got our money's worth as the portions were massive. Dotted around the park are plenty of refreshment buildings where they sell drinks so you don't have to keep going back to the main restaurant every time you fancy a drink. There were plenty of toilets around the park which included a disabled toilet and a unisex baby changing room.
Near to the entrance there is a gift shop which sells all the usual items such as teddies and memorabilia from the zoo. Sadly we didn't have time to look in here although I had a quick look through the window.
Well, as you can probably tell, I thoroughly enjoyed my day here. I loved the fact that the zoo takes part in international conservation projects as I believe these are very important. All the enclosures were clean, well built and designed to suit the needs of each individual animal. The park itself is very well laid out and truly beautiful and you can see that a lot of thought and effort has been put into making the park look appealing. The fact that many of the animals have been bred inside the park says a lot for the work that the park does, after all, if the animals were not happy, they wouldn't breed. I thought the admission costs were very reasonable considering this park easily take up a whole day. I also loved the fact that I was able to take my dogs with me, although obviosuly they had to be kept on their leads. Waterbowls were available around the park for them to have a drink which was really useful as it meant that we didn't have to keep going back to the car. The one downside for me (although this wouldn't apply to most people) is that the dogs were not allowed in certain sections such as the Reptile House and the Wolves section. Luckily, as I was visiting with me friend, we just took it in turns to hold the dogs while the other one went in s it wasn't really much of a problem. Overall, a ten out of ten from me!
For forty years the Cotswold Wildlife Park has been a place that I have periodically visited and it was definitely popular with my primary school as the location for school trips, to the extent that by the time I was eleven or twelve I was pretty fed up with going here as I knew it inside out. When I had my own children the visits recommenced and our latest visit was on a beautiful Friday in August when we introduced my 2 year old nephew to the animals here. He absolutely loved it and ran excitedly towards the different animal encounters. It maintained his interest throughout the whole day and he didn't even need to have a sleep as he was so busy. My own teenagers still enjoy it, probably as we didn't overkill it for them with so many visits as I was subjected too, and it was their choice for where we took their cousin for a day out. I think they would have still been happy to go here again even without the attraction of entertaining a little one.
The Cotswold Wildlife Park as its name suggests is in the beautiful Cotswold region of England about a 30 minute drive to the West of Oxford and near the pretty town of Burford. It is located on the A361 and also is easily reached by car from Swindon and Cheltenham. The park is not serviced by a bus route. As you enter the park you will drive past llamas and antelopes before reaching two pay kiosks. Make sure you have your money or cards in the car with you and not in the boot as you pay from the car before parking. It was a busy day as we arrived just after the ten o'clock opening time but the queue quickly dispatched as extra mobile ticket sellers were also taking entrance money. We were then directed to the nearly carpark. This is a large grassy area of parkland with lots of large shady trees and compacted earth driveways across it. I'm not sure how this would fare in wet weather, but there was no sign of mud and churned up ground so I assume it has not been a problem. There is a smaller paved carpark too which was being used for people with mobility difficulties but maybe is used for others on quieter days too.
**What is there to see*
Once parked there are several different ways into the park so no matter which area of the park you are in you are not far from your car so it is easy to pop back for picnics etc. As you have paid before parking there is no issue with re-entry to do this.
The parkland where the animals are housed is based around a large Cotswold stone country house. The cafe and a brass rubbing centre occupy the ground floor of the house. One of the things that I was so pleased to see and hadn't remembered as vividly from past visits was the beautiful planting that exists throughout the park. I was almost more interested in looking at the bright and cheerful displays of flowers that existed throughout the park than the animals - they obviously take a huge pride in the appearance of the park; there are great swathes of tall beautiful but not too formal plants.
Our first stop was the rhinos as these were the animals that my nephew was adamant that he had come to see. They share a large open area with the zebras which would once probably have been the front lawn of the house. There are three rhinos and quite a few zebras including a cute two month old foal. The Cotswold Wildlife Park is famous for its collection of four giant tortoises who live near the rhinos and were surprisingly active during this visit. One is new, but the other three have been at the park longer than I've been visiting and I don't think they've changed at all!
Continuing on we passed camels as we headed for the lion enclosure where you have a great view of the lion and lioness through glass panels. Giraffes are a new addition to the park since we were last there and I was very impressed with the visitor experience of their home. A walkway has been built alongside the enclosure leading you up to a height where you are eye level with these tall beasts, both indoors and outdoors. I have never been so close to a giraffe's head before.
Cheetahs are the last animal in this area and by now you are at the far side of the rhino lawn and have a great view of the house with the wildlife in front. Ostriches are on your route back towards the house and we then diverted into a woodland walk area where there were many types of exotic looking ducks as well as the more colourful flamingos and even some 'big bad wolves' that our little 2 year old was so impressed with that we had to make a return visit. Wallabies, tapirs and some strange pig type animals were all also living in this section of the park.
Next came the children's farm area where we spent a long time and it was definitely the favourite part for a small boy. Indoors there are large pens with rabbits , guinea pigs and chickens and cows. These animals are free to wander into their outside pens but as it was so hot we found them inside where it was cooler. Outside you can head into the goats area and play with the goats. Lots of small kids (goat and human) seemed to be having great fun running and rolling down the little hillocks in this section. Shetland ponies, donkeys and some incredibly noisy pigs who had spotted lunch on its way were also popular here with the children. Signs encourage handwashing at the sink provided after touching the animals.
Back in the stone outbuildings of the house we had a quick trip into the reptile house spotting an assortment of iguanas, snakes including the most deadly black mamba, baby crocodiles and two large crocs. As it was so hot the only other indoor area that we chose to go in was to see the bats who occupy one of the barns, but because it was so dark we found it quite hard to see them. I usually enjoy the insect house even though it is fairly small. I'm fascinated by the ants as they carry their enormous cargo of leaves in a long procession across their tank and also love to see the tarantulas and other spiders and butterflies. I think there is also an aquarium. In the centre of this courtyard area are more tortoises but of a much smaller variety this time and also some gibbons that were great fun to see leaping around.
The walled garden was another area that we definitely didn't want to miss as the penguins live here with feeding times at 11.00 and 4.00 and they're always fun to watch diving in and swimming. Meercats and birds are also to be found here and as we entered one walk through aviary we were surprised to find a gorgeous little owl right in front of us just waiting to pose to have his photo taken. This garden is one of the most spectacular from a horticulture point of view. Spiky cactus and hot bright colours are visually striking as well as lush lawns and foliage so I spent quite a bit of time photographing these. Quite a few of the smaller monkey species are popular as you leave the far end of the walled garden and then a lemur walk where you can get right up close to the lemurs, if they'll let you, as you wander through their habitat. We were told that as it was after lunch nap time and warm the lemurs weren't quite as active as normal, but we were happy with the ones we saw. A mother was sitting nursing twin babies and then decided to walk off with one clinging to her front and one to her back; this definitely needed to be photographed. We also saw one leap right up onto the wooden rail that edged the path giving the people walking past a start. Be warned that this closes at 3.30 so don't leave it too late as it would be shame to miss this. It will also be busy at 12.00 when the keepers give a talk.
After seven hours worth of activity on a perfect summers day we were too tired to visit one area of the park where if I remember correctly there are large birds such as vultures and monkeys as well as the train station. I can't believe we missed going on the train, but we did wave to it many times throughout the course of the day as it wound its way around the various areas of the park. It has 4 quite large coaches so appeared to fit lots of people on at any time, but didn't have room for buggies so we would have to have left this behind at the station. It costs £1 per person for a trip around the park.
**Need an icecream**
A day at the zoo wouldn't be complete without an icecream and these along with other drinks and snacks can be brought from the cafe in the main house, a kiosk just outside the walled garden and one near the camels. There were icecream van type soft cornets or assorted lollies and I had a really nice tub of a locally made icecream. I failed to take notice of the prices though as this was Grandpa's treat.
The cafe sells a good selection of food with things like sausage and chips for about £6 and a variety of sandwiches. The menu looked to have a reasonable selection at prices that I would have been happy to have paid had we not have taken a picnic. Tea was £1.30 and coffee £2.00 with fridges of cold drinks with juice cartons and fizzy drinks from a dispenser at £1.50 and also bottles of alcoholic drinks such as cider at £2.80. There appeared to be plenty of seating inside and wooden benches outside which could be used for those eating in the cafe or for picnics. It is an ideal place to take a picnic as there is no shortage of pretty shady spots to sit out on the grass and throughout the park there are benches to stop at.
Toilets: we found these located in the same areas as the food kiosks. The ones I used at the cafe and walled garden were clean and I didn't have to queue despite it being a busy day at the park. They contained baby change facilities. My Dad reported that the mens at the cafe smelt really foul towards the end of the day.
Paths: pathways generally are a compacted sandy coloured material which was quite smooth and easy to push the buggy over. We saw a couple of wheelchairs and a mobility scooter moving around without difficulty. The Young Disabled Unit that I used to work in came for trips here regularly as they found the facilities to be good and as there are no hills at all it is easy to access all areas. Wheelchairs can be loaned from the Manor House.
Shop: on this visit we avoided this at all costs as we didn't think we'd ever get my nephew out again as he loves toy animals and the shop is full of those. The shop is close to the carpark and very large. It also usually has clothing items and other souvenirs such as T towels and ornaments with animal themes.
Playground: I've always liked this playground that sits next to the cafe. My girls were disappointed that the slide that they thought was huge has shrunk and had to be persuaded that they had grown. It was also taped off, presumably because it is metal and it was very hot. There is also one of those old style rocking horses that I used to love and a circular climbing net as well as swings and much more. A carousel ride costs 80p for a very short turn.
The park is open from 10am and all visitors must leave by 6 although most facilities close at 5. Last admission is at 4.30. From October to April it closes at 5 or dusk.
Adults cost £13 and children 3 - 16 and OAPs cost £9
My daughter has a Blue Peter badge and this is one of the places that she was able to get in for free. Unfortunately they do not accept Tesco day out tokens for payment. People who are blind do not have to pay. There doesn't appear to be a family ticket but you can buy season tickets with a family one costing £220.
These prices seem very reasonable for a full day out. Most of the viewing areas are outdoors so I would recommend going on a dry day to make the most of your money.
Address: Bradwell Grove, Burford, Oxfordshire. OX18
More details can be found at http://www.cotswoldwildlifepark.co.uk/in​dex.htm
The Cotswold wildlife Park is not a huge zoo and doesn't have every type of animals, for instance there are no elephants, tigers or bears. However it does have plenty of animals to keep you amused for a full day out and all in picturesque surroundings. The enclosures seem to be a reasonable size and I didn't have any concerns about the welfare of the animals. It is perfect for small children and adults who will also appreciate the surroundings and is also recommended for older people and those with mobility problems as the area to walk is not vast as it is with larger zoos such as Whipsnade. Most age groups from toddler to teen, parents and grandparents were present in our party and we all thoroughly enjoyed our day out here. Despite the weather now being a bit cooler The Cotswold Wildlife Park would make a great day out at any time of year.
This review also appears on Ciao under my same user name, Melissa Ruth.
Cotswold Wildlife Park was the perfect place to take my little daughter for her first birthday.
Me and my husband are huge wildlife fans. We have been known to sit for hours on a Friday night by a badgers sett waiting for them to come out and by a stream where otters have been spotted in the pouring rain to no avail on both accounts.
So we like to soften the blow of our failed wildlife endeavours and occasionally visit places where we know we are going to be guaranteed a sighting, or several. It looks like our daughter has inherited the wildlife bug. She has been known to hyper-ventilate on seeing a pigeon and so a wildlife park seemed the perfect destination for her birthday.
We were right in our assumption. If my daughter could write a review, she would have given her trip to the Cotswold Wildlife Park five stars - four of those for just the penguins.
The kiosk is one you drive up to as you enter the park. Admission is £13 for adults and £9 for children aged 3 to 16. Children under three get in for free. This meant we paid £26 in total which isn't cheap but at the same time competitive, as you can't get into anywhere for much cheaper these days.
You can purchase a family season ticket, for two adults and two children, for £210 but I always find these are not worthwhile unless you are definitely going to visit several times a year.
The wildlife park is open every day of the year except Christmas Day. The park opens at 10am and closing times vary depending on the time of year. During the winter, from November to March, last entry is at 3.30pm and gates close at 5pm. During summer months, from April to October, last admission is 4.30pm and the park closes at 6pm.
Finding the wildlife park
As a disclaimer, I am rubbish at navigation and my husband drove us there but I have been reliably informed the wildlife park is situated two miles from Burford in Oxfordshire, on the A361. It is well-signposted with brown signs several miles from the destination and so is easy to find. A map with more detail on how to get there is available on the wildlife park's website.
The gift shop has reasonably priced gifts including the usual selection of animal soft toys, many for under £10, as well as cold drinks and ice-creams.
There are four toilet blocks dotted around the site including one by the car park on arrival. They all include unisex baby changing facilities but no baby feeding rooms unfortunately.
The restaurant is situated in the former manor house on the wildlife park's site. The food and drink is reasonably priced. For example we purchased two hot drinks for £3.50. We did not purchase any food as we had bought our own but it all looked reasonable and was along the lines of typical canteen-style fare such as sandwiches, salads and hot food like sausage and mash and cod and chips. The restaurant was clean and bright with big windows to allow diners to still take in the scenery outside. There were plenty of high-chairs for babies and children.
There is a main tarmacked car park which is right in front of you immediately after entry to the park and a grassed over flow car park. There are plenty of disabled parking spaces I noticed.
There are smooth paths and ramps all over the park allowing easy access for anyone on wheels. We did not find any area out of bounds because we had a pushchair with us. There is one gated area with a hump-backed bridge which signs point out could be tricky for people in wheelchairs to negotiate and an alternative path is signposted. The only time we had to leave the pushchair behind and carry our daughter was in the Madagascar exhibit where you get to walk with the lemurs. We also chose to leave our pushchair outside the goat petting area. We felt secure in the knowledge our pushchair would not be taken as it was a quiet mid-week day in March but at peak visiting times you may feel more uncertain about leaving the pushchair behind.
The run-down of the animals is as follows: (This list is not exhaustive and a full A to Z of animals at the park is available on the website)
Primates including gibbons in a caged area near the restaurant. They had a cage packed full of swings, ropes and tree trunks to show off their acrobatic skills on. They were more than pleased to perform for us.
There are also rare purple faced Languors and squirrel monkeys.
Small mammals include prairie dogs, meerkats and short-clawed otters.
Canadian Timber wolves have their own wooded pit in a shady area of the park which visitors have to look down into. It must be rare to see too much activity from the wolves as they sleep most of the day. They were sleeping when we dropped by.
Rhinos, giraffes, camels, zebras, emus and ostriches. All these animals have their own large grassed enclosures which allow them to roam about relatively naturally. These enclosures are only sectioned off from the public by a pit and a wire fence so the animals are never obscured from view. There are also inside areas for the animals with viewing points for the public to see them sleeping and eating.
Amur Leopard - this animal has its own relatively small wired cage but with plenty of foliage and branches to allow it to blend in. The leopard is hard to spot and we only saw it on second time of viewing. I think it is a positive thing to allow the animals to camouflage themselves out of view as they do in the wild if they choose to. This is no good for people who want a guaranteed view of all the animals. I would have liked to see the leopard have a bit more space to prowl.
Brazilian Tapirs, Parma Wallabies, White Lipped Peccaries - a revelation to people who don't even know what these animals are.
Aviaries featuring birds from all over the world including storks, vultures and owls.
Red pandas - a more unusual treat, also in a pen right by the restaurant.
Lions - The lions are caged behind glass and again their environment is matched to their natural habitat with leaves and tree trunks that enable them to hide from view, which was what they were doing when we arrived. After waiting patiently we spotted them and were treated to them walking right by where we stood. I was a little concerned, again, at the size of their cage, as it was not as spacious as some of the others.
Herpetology Section including the reptile and insect houses. On writing this review the insect house is closed for refurbishment. The leaf-cutting ants are available to view at the reptile house which also houses amongst other things an impressive pair of Morelet's crocodiles, large reticulated pythons and tarantulas. My daughter was not fazed by the darkened lighting in the reptile house but unable to see the exhibits unless they started moving. Probably one for older children and adults.
This was particularly picturesque with lovely floral borders as a backdrop to bird aviaries and animal exhibits including otters, meerkats and my daughter's favourite of the day, the penguins. We missed the penguin feeding times which take place at 11am and 3pm but they were still all out waddling and swimming when we arrived.
The Madagascar exhibit which houses several varieties of lemur is also in the walled garden. A point to bare in mind when planning your itinerary is this exhibit closes at 3pm and is too good to miss. The lemurs will jump around you and play chase with their friends, or do as one did, sun themselves on the donation box.
Fruit bats - we gave this exhibit a wide berth as it was too dark inside to take our daughter. I also believe the bats fly freely inside so not one for the squeamish.
Farmyard area - a great area for young children. My daughter got very excited at seeing pigs, donkeys and chickens at close range and there is also a chance to go in and pet the goats. They are very friendly goats and are unfazed by children running up to them and stroking them.
There is a well-equipped playground with swings, slides and climbing frames, with benches for the adults to sit on.
There are picnic areas and benches around the park, including a number under cover for wet, miserable days.
These are dotted around the park but are not open in the winter months.
A train runs through the park but again not during winter.
The whole wildlife park is set in the grounds of a former manor house, which in turn is situated in beautiful Cotswold countryside, giving the park a sedate, gentile feel. It is a good tonic to a lot of busy inner city zoos which can be too commercialised and spoilt by the fumes from hot dog stands.
The enclosures are generally lovely and spacious allowing the animals to roam around freely. They look healthy and well looked after and many are part of breeding programmes to boost the numbers of near extinct species. You can choose to note as much or as little about this as you like by reading information boards at each of the animal's enclosures.
There are not as many large mammals as you would see at proper zoos. It was a shame not to see any elephants for example but as a visitor you have to be aware this is a wildlife park and not a zoo and the bonus here is more space and time is given to the smaller animals and the birds. I think this actually gives the visitor a more all-round wildlife experience and ensures there is more to please all tastes.
We visited in March so there were few other visitors which we enjoyed as we do not like hustle and bustle but at the same time not all the facilities such as the train were running. To experience everything you would have to plan a summer visit.
Areas for improvement.
The major area of improvement would be the navigation around the park itself. There were a few maps dotted around the park but even they did not depict a clear route around the park. Therefore there was the concern we could miss something. The wildlife park was built around the manor house rather than being planned from scratch so this probably had an effect on the layout.
To combat this they should hand out free leaflet style maps when you pay your admission fee with arrows showing the best routes. There are guide books in the gift shop but these have to be paid for.
All in all this is a great day out for all the family with something for everyone. Just make sure you put on your comfiest shoes as there is a lot of walking involved.
** Introduction **
Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens (which I'll mostly abbreviate here as "CWP") is a cross between a zoo and a foot-based safari park. Set in well over 100 acres of landscaped gardens, the park provides a home for a variety of animals (and birds) large and small, some of them not species you are likely to have seen anywhere else. Naturally, as with all such parks nowadays, the conservation angle is stressed, but that doesn't stop CWP being a most enjoyable day out if all you want is to look at interesting animals.
** Orientation **
Given that the park is so large, it's very much appreciated that there are nice clear map boards in quite a few places. It's refreshing to see this, as some parks tend to make it as hard as possible for visitors to get around unless they've shelled out on the guidebook. (CWP's own guidebook is very well produced, and at only £3 is worth getting anyway for the history and background information.) It's best not to try to see everything at once; indeed, seeing everything even in the course of a full day might be pushing it.
There is a small train which runs on a circuit of the park, allowing you to get your bearings early on, and this is recommended especially to families with young children who might otherwise get tired by all the walking. A trip costs £1.00 and although you don't really get to see anything you couldn't on foot, there is a little bit of a sense of a safari adventure, as well as letting parents store up knowledge for later in the day about where all the "exciting" animals are likely to be found!
Most of the larger animals are kept in large, open grassy enclosures, allowing excellent viewing. How much actual fencing there is depends on the animal: one of the most impressive sights is the rhino enclosure, where there are no fences at all, just a (wide!) ditch separating you from the animals; this allows you to get extremely close to the creatures. On the other hand, the leopards are simply too dangerous (and good at climbing!) for this to be safe, so they are in a rather more traditional enclosure.
** Primates **
One of CWP's major attractions is its collection of primates. There are no "higher apes" (gorillas, orang-utans and so on) here; the guidebook explains that the park does not feel it has sufficient resources to be able to give them a suitable environment. However, you're unlikely to miss them, as there are plenty of smaller primates: these include gibbons, monkeys and the most unusual siamangs, a type of gibbon I'd never seen before. These last are unfortunately among the very few animals still housed in rather old-fashioned cages, though I suspect a revamp is on the way.
However, what probably draws the crowds most are the lemurs. There are quite a lot of these, and the real draw is the "Madagascar" area, a walk-through lemur enclosure - something I've never come across before. Given the inquisitive nature of these animals some precautions are necessary: you must leave all food and drink outside (I even had to leave my packet of Polos!) and pushchairs are not permitted inside either. On top of this, Madagascar closes at 3.30 pm as the lemurs need a lot of time to calm down before bed. Despite the element of planning needed, I highly recommend a visit to this area.
** Large carnivores **
"That means lions, yes?" Well, not only them, but yes, there are lions. These are housed in a reasonably-sized glass-walled enclosure, which maintains safety while allowing very good access. Lions being the rather lazy beasts they are, and also not being inclined to hide, it's usually possible to get an excellent view of at least one or two of the residents; there's always a little shiver of uncertainty among visitors who realise that a lion is gazing thoughtfully at their young son or daughter! The Amur leopards, however, are more comfortable stalking and skulking, so it can be very hard to discern them in their own (rather smaller) home.
Also very popular with visitors are the wolves, who can be viewed from a raised wooden walkway the wolves can walk right underneath! If you want to see them active, it's best to go fairly early, and preferably when the weather's not too hot. (I'm sure they'd be spectacular in the snow, but I've never visited in winter.) An animal I'd never seen anywhere before was the wolverine - despite their relatively small size, these are fearsome hunters and have been known to bring down adult moose. Unfortunately the only one I could see stayed resolutely fast asleep throughout!
** Ungulates **
There's a pretty good selection of hoofed mammals at CWP - though you won't find any elephants or hippos here. The biggest draw must be the two giraffes, whose brand new house is now open and who are another of the animals separated from the public only by a ditch (and a discreet fence!) When I was there the giraffes seemed very amenable to giving the punters their photographs, though they preferred reaching down to munch the grass rather than eating the high-up hay bale as they were presumably expected to do!
I've already mentioned the white rhino, but they share their expansive enclosure with a small herd of zebra, which are of course unmistakable. However, there are also a couple of less common species: Brazilian tapir (this too refused to wake up for me!) and, missed by many visitors as they graze next to the entrance road to the car park, a herd of oryx. Finally, the Visayan Warty Pig from the Philippines is hardly beautiful, but it is unfortunately endangered in its homeland.
** Birds and bats **
A tropical house is always a big attraction at an animal park, and so it is at CWP. The house here isn't the most impressive in terms of size, but it does boast a nice selection of tropical birds, including a particular favourite of mine, the bleeding-heart pigeon. In theory there are also sloths in the house, but I saw absolutely nothing of them when I went. Perhaps that was just as well, given the warning in the guidebook to stay well away from them for fear of a nasty bite!
Outside there are plenty more birds, including the wonderfully colourful weaver birds, which will challenge your photographic skills no end as they absolutely refuse to stay still for more than a second or two at a time! More aviaries elsewhere contain birds of prey (including another personal fave, the burrowing owl) and it can be quite intimidating when a turkey vulture locks its gaze onto you! There are also some pheasants round the back, including yet another species I like, the gorgeous orange-breasted Temminck's tragopan.
The nocturnal house at CWP is not particularly large, so don't expect miracles: you won't find here the likes of bush-babies or aye-ayes. However, one nice area is where the fruit bats live: you stand on one side of a full-height glass window and they fly about on the other. This, along with some judiciously-placed bananas, allows you to watch the bats right close up without the slightest worry that they're going to brush your hair. (Bat people will tell you that their sonar means they don't actually skim people's heads, but the ones in my local lane occasionally do just that!)
** Crawlies and slitheries **
It's perhaps a bit unfair to lump insects, reptiles and amphibians in together, but there have to be some limits to the length of a review! These mostly small exhibitions are perhaps a little more run-of-the-mill than some of the outdoor enclosures, but nevertheless they seemed quite well laid out - although they do have an unfortunate tendency to attract bouncy small children, whose shouts of excitement and/or fright are piercingly loud inside the small buildings. Let's face it, the word tarantula does tend to attract kids of that age and disposition...
Amphibians hold their own thanks in part to the startlingly bright blue poison dart frog, while the leaf-cutter ants are clearly the star of the insect show. On the reptilian front, there is the usual selection of snakes, chameleons and crocodiles, the latter represented by the very rare Morelet's crocodile. In the reptile house is a sobering exhibition of snakeskin products confiscated by Customs. The reptile I was most pleased to see, though, was outside: the giant tortoise. I used to love watching these animals at Bristol Zoo when I was small, and I still have a real soft spot for them.
** Domesticated animals **
Those bringing small children will probably want to visit the farmyard area in one corner of the park, though this is a bit of a misnomer: if you're expecting a bucolic scene of the sort you get in traditional storybooks then you're going to be disappointed, as many of the animals are kept in pens in a large, airy shed. These include rabbits, guinea pigs and - slightly bizarrely - an American striped skunk. Perhaps in view of the last you can see why feeding is not permitted!
There are more domesticated animals immediately outside, however, and certain of those will allow themselves to be stroked. The selection of creatures on show does tend to vary, but you can probably count on finding Shetland ponies, pygmy goats and pigs in this section. Naturally it is very important to clean your hands thoroughly if you've touched any of the animals, especially if you are going to be eating afterwards. Handwash dispensers are provided, although they weren't the easiest to get to work.
** The grounds **
CWP's full name is "Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens", so you'd have a right to expect there to be a reasonable amount of landscaping. You won't be disappointed on that score: my enjoyment of my visit was enhanced slightly but appreciably by the clear effort that had gone into making the park an attractive and pleasant place to walk through. Although some of the more adventurous planting experiments have fallen victim to the recent run of cold winters, there's still plenty to keep the botanists happy, notably the huge Wellingtonia tree on the main lawn, which is more than 40 metres tall.
** Practicalities **
The car parking area at CWP is pretty large, and seems well maintained, which is a good job as the surfaced part of it isn't huge and so you're quite likely to have to park on the grass. I noted a couple of stewards in yellow tabards directing people where to go, and there didn't seem any problems with queues at the admission kiosks. (You pay on entry, before you've parked the car.) There are some disabled spaces near the entrance itself, and almost all the animals are accessible as the grounds are flat. (The children's adventure playground doesn't have much if your child can't climb, though.)
The main place to buy food is the Oak Tree Restaurant, which is located round the back of the mansion building. The food is not bad at all, and certainly my bangers and mash were more than acceptable, albeit not at a Michelin star level! A hot main dish costs around £7.00, but you can buy sandwiches, baked potatoes and the like for less. There's a reasonable amount of seating, but if it's raining and nobody's using the outside tables it can be rather crowded. Service is not the fastest, but not unbearable. There are also a couple of refreshment kiosks which sell drinks, ice creams, crisps and so on, as well as two (rather small) covered picnic shelters.
I was fairly impressed by the toilets at CWP, all of which seemed very clean and well maintained. As well as a block close to the main entrance and (airy but expensive) gift shop, there are three others dotted around, including (naturally) one in the restaurant. There is a first aid post at the mansion, but in truth they're unlikely to be able to do much: one of the more perverse results of health and safety regulations is that a dedicated first aider can't give you a painkiller, but a completely untrained assistant in the shop can sell you a packet which you can then take without any supervision at all!
Slightly to my surprise, you are allowed to take your dogs into the park. They must be kept on leads at all times, and are not permitted around the lake or inside any buildings. On the other hand, you cannot feed the animals; the CWP guidebook says this is because of the need to maintain their balanced diets, but it's undeniable that plenty of other animal parks do allow at least some feeding of the more domesticated species. I really can't see that a goat is likely to be made ill by... well, anything much, given the omnivorous nature of those creatures!
** Times and prices **
CWP is open every day of the year except for Christmas Day, something which sets it apart from the majority of animal parks. The park opens at 10.00 am each day, and last admissions are at 4.30 pm in summer and 3.30 pm in winter, with visitors expected to have left by 6.00 pm or 5.00 pm respectively (or dusk if earlier). Bear in mind that the "Madagascar" section closes considerably earlier than this to allow the lemurs to settle down early for the night.
The following prices are for the 2011 season. They seem quite reasonable to me, when you consider that many zoos and safari parks charge considerably higher rates; the full adult rate at Whipsnade, for example, is £18.50. The one catch with CWP's prices is that the senior citizens' rate only applies to the over-65s, not the over-60s as is common elsewhere.
Senior citizen: £7.50
Child (3-16): £7.50
Child (under 3): free
Registered blind: free
If you plan on visiting the park more than five times in the course of a year, you can purchase a season ticket: the adult version is £62.50 while children pay £42.50. If you've bought an ordinary ticket and kept the receipt, you can put its price towards that of a season ticket provided you buy it within seven days from your visit.
** Getting there **
The park is only a couple of miles off the A40, so getting there by car is not at all difficult. The M5 is a few miles to the west; the M40 a few miles to the east; but coming from Worcestershire it's also worth considering the route from the north via Evesham and the A424. The only slightly tricky aspect comes on the very last leg: going south on the A381 it can be quite easy to miss the right turn to the park approach, as there is only one brown sign and this is a little difficult to see from some angles.
CWP is decidedly not an easy place to get to by public transport, rather a shame given that it is basically a safari park you don't need a car to explore! The nearest railway station with more than a very limited service is Charlbury, ten miles to the north-east on the "Cotswold Line"; there are trains roughly every hour between Worcester and Oxford. By bus your best bet is a service from Oxford to Burford, but it remains to be seen how the current public spending cuts will bite.
** Verdict **
I was very impressed with Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens, and am now surprised that it isn't a little bit better known; perhaps a little more advertising wouldn't go amiss. The experience of four decades (the park first opened in 1970) has clearly stood the management in good stead as far as actually running the place goes though, and it was very noticeable that everyone I saw seemed to be having a good time, despite the indifferent weather. I'm no expert on animal behaviour, but the animals too looked as though they were contented and well cared for.
CWP is a very large park to get around on foot - there are any number of interesting creatures here that I haven't even mentioned - and if you tried to see it all in a single day you'd be there for many hours and still be rushed off your feet. Luckily the combination of reasonable admission charges and twelve-month season tickets makes repeat visits a practical proposition if you live within a sensible distance. I would certainly very much like to go back, and can highly recommend the park for all ages.
I have been to the park many times as a child and recently returned with my own family although not the warmest of days we had great fun and for myself I enjoyed visiting a place which held wonderful memories for me and hopefully creating memories for my own children.
The park is open every day expect Christmas Day from 10am. Admission is £10.00 per Adult and £7.50 for a child (3-16) and £7.50 for OAP. Although these prices are fairly expensive I believe that the Park does offer value for money as there is an awful lot to do and you can easily spend the whole day there.
There are so many Animals to see from Wolves to insects The park has Rhino's camels and Big Cats a reptile house and insect house Birds Penguins which my Daughter adored especially at feeding time.
For Children there is the farm area where they are actively encouraged to touch the animals or at least approach them here they have Skunks and Guinea Pigs, Rabbits and real Pigs. This area is out of bounds for Dogs.
Within the Park are the Gardens which are magnificent and even with little ones worth a look, situated around the park are various options for eating from snack Kiosks to the main restaurant on our last visit as it was so cold we opted to eat in it was nothing special and fairly pricey so I would recommend taking a picnic and enjoying this in many of the nice areas around the Gardens or indeed by the Adventure Playground which was a great hit with my Daughter so much so that it was hard to persuade her to carry on around however a promise of a trip on the Train soon persuaded her.
The Train is an additional £1 for Adults and 50p for Children but it is an excellent way to see the whole park and take a rest at the same time as the day really does involve a lot of walking.
For those in pushchairs it is accessible and if you are doing a picnic its somewhere to store it however on our next trip I will be taking the Backpack as even easier.
I hope you have decided to take a trip to the park if so you can get directions from their website www.costwoldlifepark.co.uk or just put postcode OX18 4JP into your sat nav and it should take you to the park in Burford.
I will be returning to the Park again in the Summer months and really do recomend it for a whole day's entertainment for all ages it is hard to beat.
I was invited out for the day with my friend, her husband, her friend who I had never met and her daughter who was 3. I don't get out much so jumped at the chance. I had previously been to the Cotswold Wildlife Park but not since a school trip when I was at primary school. So I knew that I'd not remember any of it so it would be a good day out.
The Cotswold Wildlife Park is 2 miles from Burford on the A361. It is easy to find and there are plenty of brown signposts pointing you in the right direction. Those coming further afield than me would need to know it is off the A40 half way between Oxford and Cheltenham.
On entering the park you pay at a kiosk. When we arrived there was a bit of a queue but at least you're sat down! Once you have paid you can then park. We were lucky, as we got there not long after it had opened and we managed to park in the tarmac car park. They have an overflow car park, which is grass, but there weren't many cars there throughout the day. I'd imagine that during the summer and at half term this wouldn't be the case. We went at the beginning of June and had just missed half term I was told.
Once we had parked and met up with my friend's friend and daughter we decided going to the toilet would be the first port of call. Just by the car park there is a toilet along with some shops so that was handy. Those of you with small children (or weak bladders!) will be glad to know there are plenty of toilets dotted around the Wildlife Park. I counted 3 but after checking for this review there are in fact 4 toilet blocks.
***The Walled Garden***
Then we decided to head off towards the Walled Garden. This area is surrounded by a wall, no surprises there then! The reason for heading over this area first was this was where the penguins were and it was feeding time soon (11am and 4pm for those who are interested). We were a bit early so we had a look at them for a while and then decided to investigate some of the animals first before going back to see them get fed. When we did come back to see the penguins there was a huge crowd of children. The penguins were excited so they must associate the crowd with getting fed. The chap feeding the penguins was hooked up to a microphone and he told us all a few penguin facts. This was interesting but I don't remember them all. One that I do remember is that the species they have come from South America.
We went to the meerkats but they were well hidden so we didn't see them straight away. It was a hot day so they were asleep and cuddled up in a bundle when we saw them eventually. I have seen them in TV programmes where they stand up on their hind legs and looking but we saw none of that!
The otters were adorable. As soon as they saw us approaching they ran over to us and loved the attention. I'm sure they were posing when they saw us trying to take pictures. They seemed to enjoy the hot weather and were running about and jumping in and out of the water that was in their pen area.
Inside the Walled Garden is a Tropical House, which provides a home to a few strange looking birds. I had no idea what they were but a quick look on the website tells me they were Crowned Pigeons. There were others but I can't tell what they were as no picture was provided of all the birds. The sloth is well worth going in to see although they don't do anything. I over heard someone who worked for the Park say they had been popular since Ice Age and Sid the Sloth.
For those that like parrots there were a couple of Macaws here. When we were looking at them a group of children were having a talk by someone that worked there. He was saying the reason they are brightly coloured was to attract the opposite sex.
There were various other animals and birds in this section such as lemurs and mongooses. They were asleep though. I'm assuming this is because it was a very hot day.
This section is in a very shaded section of the park. Although I have no real interest in pheasants we did look around them all as we were so glad of it being so cool. It was so shaded by the trees is was dark. If only there had been a bench I said to my friend and we would have stayed there a bit longer! There were various different species of pheasants and I learnt that there is a difference between the male and females (apart from the obvious!) The males tend to be brightly coloured (like the parrots to attract the opposite sex) and the females were mostly a dull brown colour.
***Birds of Prey***
We spent ages looking at the owls as they are so cute. There were several different species (e.g. the Spectacled Owl and the Brown Wood Owl) as with most of the other animals. In one cage they had what looked like Mum, Dad and a chick. The chick was near the front of the cage and it was watching us. One of the parents was very unsettled at this and was protecting it, which I thought was sweet. For those that are queasy they do feed them things like mice and we saw many dead and half-eaten small mammals in with the owls. It didn't bother me but I'm sure this could upset small children who have something like a mouse or a gerbil as a pet!
There was also a huge aviary with vultures but we never stopped to look as we all agreed they were ugly looking!
Located in several areas of the park you'll find lemurs, gibbons and monkeys. As mentioned earlier the lemurs are featured in the Walled Garden. The Gibbons are near the restaurant and were swinging about from the branches and the rope nets they had in their enclosure. I saw the Spider Monkeys several times as we had to pass them more than once and we found ourselves watching them for quite some time.
Cats are my favourite animals but this section was a bit disappointing really. They have an Amur Leopard, which is rare. There are only thought to be less that 200 left in the wild which is sad. We almost didn't spot it as it was high up on a platform on a tree. The same happened with the Lion (Asiatic). They are in such huge enclosures it was like playing Where's Wally. To be fair to the park both the enclosures were large enough for the cats. In the lions one there was loads of long grass for it to hide in. It was sprawled out at the back sleeping in the sun though. Both the leopard and the lion are in their captive breeding programmes along with 20 other animals. This has been set up to ensure that certain animals don't become extinct and to keep the numbers of the particular breed in safe numbers.
*** Larger Enclosures***
There are much bigger areas for some of the larger animals. The largest section of the park is in fact for the rhinos and zebras (unless you count the car park!) There were also bigger sections for ostriches, emus and the camels. With the camels we noticed one was inside its house. There was a sign describing two different species of camels, one from somewhere cold (sorry I forget where) and the Bactrian Camel from warmer climates. So we guessed that either the camel was shut in the house to keep it cool (if it wasn't used to the heat) or it could have possibly been ill or pregnant as my friend guessed. They also had some Giant Tortoises which were HUGE! I have taken a picture but it isn't obvious how big it really is. I was really surprised how quick they were moving as well.
This area is great for kids and those who love to handle animals. When we went the goats were the only ones that you were really able to touch. Be warned though as my friend approached one from behind it farted and then proceeded to have a poo! This was amusing but had she been any closer then I don't think she would have agreed! This was all in an open area where they could move around freely. Enclosed were things like rabbits and guinea pigs and there was a huge pig as well but I forget what breed he was. Also dotted around were enclosures with carious types of goats, llamas and Shetland Ponies. As you enter and leave the Farmyard there is a sink where you can wash your hands if indeed you have touched them.
There is an Insect House next to the children's playground. Inside you'll find many insects from ants, stick insects, worms, scorpions and spiders. We had a good look but for those that find Tarantulas and other creepy crawlies disturbing then you might want to miss this bit out!
***Reptiles and Amphibians***
Next to the Insect House is the bats and the Reptile House. In the Reptile you'll find plenty of snakes, crocodiles, lizards and frogs. As with the Insect House these areas are quite dark so your eyes take a while to adapt. I found going from being outside on such a bright day to the dark quite disorientating at times. On a duller day I'm sure this wouldn't be a problem though.
*** Narrow-Gauge Railway***
There is a train that runs around the park. I personally didn't go on this but I did notice that it cost £1 for an adult and 50p for children. It did look like fun and it would be hard to say no if you had children with you. According to the website this only runs from April to October and is weather permitting.
The Adventure Playground is great. It has plenty of things as well so children won't get bored. They have swings, a slide, seesaw and even a carousel, which was operating when we were there. There are plenty of benches to have a picnic on and for the adults to sit on and relax. The playground is located near the restaurant and has a huge lawn where you can sit and have a picnic if the weather is nice enough.
***Where to eat?***
Many people take a picnic with them and this is exactly what we did. There are plenty of picnic areas throughout the park and you have easy access to your car which means you don't have to carry your food around with you, which I thought, was nice. They do have a restaurant, which sells hot food as well as sandwiches. We popped in for a cold drink and an ice cream and it looked clean and nice enough although it was very empty.
It costs £9 for adults, £6.50 for Senior Citizens and Children (ages 3-16). Under 3s are free. Season tickets are available and can be bought on the day and then are valid for a year from that day. This would only work out cheap if you went more than a few times, as the adult price is £45. I won't list all the prices as these can be found on the website and it is likely that they could change over time.
Guidebooks are available as you enter and at the gift shop at a cost of £2.
The park opens every day from 10am and is only closed on Christmas Day.
***What did I think?***
I enjoyed myself and I really do recommend it to those with children. That's not to say you don't need to have children to enjoy yourself here though. It is more family orientated though and there does tend to be a lot of school trips here as well. The park is spread over 160 acres so it can be tiring for those little legs. It is spread out rather well and you don't really realise how much walking you have done. The train is good for that though as you could hop on it to get back if you were feeling tired.
The animals were all really nice and I was surprised at how many they actually had. Most the enclosures were large enough for the animals but I did feel sorry for the cheetah. There are plenty of information boards about the animals so you can learn bits about them all even if you don't remember half of it like me!
The park does have a good captive breeding system going on as well. They have had plenty of births and if there has been they put a sign up so you can look out for any of the young. There is further information about their conservation on their website and you can also adopt animals from the website as well. So those interested about the well being of the animals in the park can look there for further information. They do take good care of the animals and those of you that are anti zoos will be glad to see that they do have enough room.
Another thing worth mentioning is that dogs are allowed around most the park as long as they are kept on a lead. I noticed an area where they had a tap and water bowls so anyone with a dog could make sure it had plenty to drink. There are a few sections dogs aren't allowed (such as the Children's Farmyard) but this is well sign-posted.
The park is wheelchair and pushchair friendly as well. It is mostly flat so it is easy to get around. Wheelchairs are available which are free of charge which I thought was rather good.
For further info: