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Cotswold On The Cheap!
Cotswold Wild life park (Burford)
Member Name: MollyWH
Cotswold Wild life park (Burford)
Advantages: Loads of animals, cheap, they are involved in conservation projects
Disadvantages: Dogs are not allowed in all sections
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!
Summary: Cotswold On The Cheap!
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