Monday, 4 August 2014

A Day At The Cotswold Wildlife Park

I've had this post in my drafts for almost two months now, and for some reason I forgot to post it. My visit to the wildlife park was so long ago I thought about deleting the post, but decided not to because I wanted to share another of my favourite places.

I took a trip to The Cotswold Wildlife Park back in June, with my older sister and brother-in-law to start off my sister's birthday celebrations- and survived! When she invited me a couple of months earlier, I couldn't see a way that I could possibly manage the visit because being on my feet for even five minutes leaves me in blinding pain, which makes it difficult for me to get about for long. Then the day came, and it was such a beautiful sunny day, that I just thought 'sod it, I'll give it my best shot.' I really wanted to go and refused to miss out on life that day, so I decided to just suffer the consequences and have some fun for a change. So, we made a plan and bundled in to the car.

Fifteen minutes later, we were already walking around the grounds. 

I've lived locally to The Cotswold Wildlife Park all my life, and it's one of my favourite places in the UK. I've visited it dozens of times over the years, and would go at least once a year before my spine raged war against me. It's a lovely place to visit.

It's about twenty miles west of Oxford and set in the heart of The Cotswolds on 180 acres of land. As zoos go, it's fairly small, but they have one of the largest zoological collections (of species) in the UK, and a great variety of animals to see including rhinos, lions and giraffes. The park is also beautifully landscaped with no shortage of lush green lawns to picnic on and gigantic trees to rest beneath. And for the flora enthusiasts, there are well-tended gardens. There's something for everybody.

In the heart of the park, is a Gothic manor house that dates back to the early 1800s, which I think you're free to look around. I haven't been inside since I was little so I can't remember much about it; I just remember doing brass rubbing drawings there in the early nineties. Next time I'll have to go exploring.

On this visit, we started with the larger animal exhibits for a change, getting the longest walks between enclosures out of the way first while I had the most energy. (Enclosures gave me the opportunity to rest). If I'd left this section until the end, I know I would not have managed it.

Here are some of the animals we saw:

Beautiful clouded leopards. We saw three of them high up at the top of their cage.

The giraffes were one of the first enclosures we headed to, as we all love giraffes. They're one of my favourite animals (along with tapirs); they're so beautiful and graceful. We stood watching them from the viewing platform for quite a while, and they were almost close enough to touch.

The wildlife park have only had giraffes for a few years, and it's still a novelty having some so close to home. 

I noticed that the giraffes were different breeds and managed to snap this photo of their different coats when they were close to the viewing platform. It's interesting to see how different their patterns are.

The rhinos are one of the park's biggest attractions, and they currently have a group of four, including a calf called Astrid who was born last July. She's the first calf to be born at the park in its forty-four year history! I was dying to visit last year when she was tiny, because their social media pages kept taunting me with adorable pics.

The rhinos share a large paddock in front of the manor house with a herd of zebras, and I managed to take half-decent photos of them for the first time in existence!

One of my favourite parts of the park is a section just past the rhino house, where you can see wolves, ostriches, wallabies, maras, capybaras, warty pigs, tapirs, anteaters, and various birds. There is also a large pond home to a flock of flamingos, water foul, and terrapins, and you can usually spot a free-roaming peacock or two. The route is so peaceful, it's almost like walking through woodlands.

Maras are so cute. They look like the love children of rabbits, kangaroos, and deer.

The highlight of the day, for me, had to be seeing this anteater taking a stroll with her baby on her back. It was hands down one of the cutest things I've ever seen. It was the first time I'd seen a baby anteater and it made the entire visit worthwhile.

As we turned in to the farmyard area, we were greeted to the sight of this peacock displaying his feathers. I couldn't help myself and took a bunch of photos. I had a rest on a bench opposite this pen, and was able to watch him display for about twenty minutes!

If you've ever wondered what a peacock looks like from behind all those feathers, it basically resembles a goose wearing the ultimate Cone Of Shame.

I think this peahen was the reason Mr peacock was causing a scene. She didn't look particularly impressed.

This albino peacock also ran by our feet around by the pond, although he was moving too fast for a decent photo. I just had time to see that his feathers had the peacock 'eyes', just without any pigment.

Daddy, I want a miniature donkey! There were a group of gorgeous miniature donkeys in the farmyard, including a foal that was following a keeper around as he tended to other animals. I want one!

This guy had an impressive pair of horns.

As we left the farmyard, we headed across this big lawn where dozens of people were picnicking. It's dotted with dozens of enormous trees that dwarf the buildings, including this giant that is over two hundred years old! Many of the trees were planted when the manor house was built at the start of the 1800s.

Across the lawn you'll find the insect, reptile, and bat houses which are always fun to look around. There are also gibbons and tortoise pens among them. I was hoping to see the new armadillos, as I've never seen one before, but they were all hidden in their nest boxes. I did see a teeny tiny mouse lemur in the bat house, though, which was adorable.

We saw all kinds of reptiles, including these bearded dragons and iguanas, plus chameleons, crocodiles, and a variety of snakes, including enormous anacondas, pythons, and a viper in a tank within a tank... dangerous, much?

Afterwards, we headed off to grab a drink and an ice cream, and I took another rest while the sis and bro-in-law queued for them. I was pretty much engulfed with pain by that point. Thankfully, the queue was long, so I managed a ten minute break before we headed off to take a train ride around the park.

Yep, you heard that right; three grown adults aged 28-35 took a train ride around a zoo. It has to be done! You can't visit the wildlife park in the summer without going on the train. It's the law. For a £1 it takes you around the park, which is a good way to see many of the animals, while resting your feet after a long day of walking. It's also mandatory to enjoy an ice cream on your leisurely journey.

Once we were back off the train, we went to see some of the birds of prey...

I loved seeing these vultures. They get such a bad rep, but I think they're beautiful.

We missed out quite a few areas, including a woodland area and another set of aviaries, and headed over to the Walled Gardens. We missed out quite a lot of that, too. I was struggling.

A visit wouldn't be complete without going to see the Humboldt penguins. Who doesn't love penguins?!

The Walled Gardens are obviously not just home to animals. They're landscaped with all kinds of plants and flowers, and there are a number of green houses, too. There are also landscaped aviaries, and a tropical house.

I can't remember what type of duck this was, but I saw it in the walk-through aviary.

These adorable little ducklings were lying in the sun next to a pond.

We stood watching the Prairie Dogs for a while. There were several of them, including a couple of babies.

What Pet Sematary did this yellow mongoose get out of??

I sense this sifaka is accustomed to sitting for oil paintings... He posed like this after jumping around his enclosure on his hind legs! (And not a single fuck was given!) I'd never seen a sifaka in real life until the wildlife park got some a few years ago. They're a type of lemur native to Madagascar.

The wildlife park also has a great lemur exhibit you can walk through, where several species of lemur are free-roaming. There was a huge queue of Brownies waiting to go in, so we skipped it this time. We missed out about half of the walled gardens, too, and many of the aviaries near the exit, but we managed to see the tamarins, otters, and parrots, and then headed back to the car.

By that point, I was barely able to put one foot in front of the other for the pain in my back and legs, and I realised I had pushed myself far too much in going, but I did it! I managed to make it around three quarters of the park, and I managed to spend three hours out of bed. It may not seem like a big deal, but to me it was a bloody miracle! The pain I'm in prevents me from doing so much; from doing so many things my healthy old self used to take for granted. Even though I was left in a lot of pain and could barely move for ten days afterwards, I don't regret going, and I'm pleased I was able to spend some quality time with my sister and brother-in-law at one of my favourite places.

If you're ever in The Cotswolds, make sure to pay a visit to The Cotswold Wildlife Park; it's well worth a visit and makes for a great day out! I've been visiting it all my life, and still enjoy every visit.

When was the last time you went to the zoo? 


  1. Oh, these photos are fantastic Louise! I'm so glad you got a lovely day out, even though you ended up in so much pain. :/

    I love the close up of the giraffe coats. LOL at the cone of shame!!

    I really want to go there. x x

  2. You got some amazing photographs! Perhaps you could be a pet/wildlife photographer in the future. It's interesting you seem to have some animals we don't seem to have in zoos in NZ - like the anteater - so awesome and I've never seen one in a zoo here! I'm really glad you shared these with us and I'm sure your sister really appreciated you made such an effort for her birthday.

  3. What fabulous photos!!

  4. This looks like an amazing place and your right tapirs are the best ever! Xx


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