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Cotswold Wildlife Park - the perfect family day out
Cotswold Wild life park (Burford)
Member Name: PaigeTurner
Cotswold Wild life park (Burford)
Advantages: A lovely setting and a wide range of animals in spacious cages
Disadvantages: No clear route to take around the park to ensure you see everything
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.
Summary: A great destination for all the family with a wide range of birds and animals
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