Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Ten Years With Chronic Pain and Illness

Today is a weird milestone in my life; one I never thought I'd be marking, one I'm not sure how to feel about.

Today, I have officially been living with debilitating chronic pain and illness for ten whole years. (It isn't the beginning of my chronic pain journey- it actually began twenty-three years ago when I was just thirteen... but that's a story for another day).

I honestly can't believe that this milestone is a part of my life. I can't believe I'm sitting here reflecting on a decade of living with life-changing chronic pain and chronic illness. If you'd told me ten years ago that I would still be in severe pain ten years later or how much my health would change my life, I'm not sure I would've believed you. I wouldn't have been able to comprehend it, and if I had, I would probably have just given up the fight there and then. I couldn't imagine lasting another week in pain, let alone another decade, and didn't think I'd have to. Back then, I assumed I'd just injured myself somehow, and thought I'd be as right as rain in a few days if I ignored it, and just kept going. 

Boy, was I wrong!

The pain didn't just continue but grew worse as the days blurred in to weeks, months and years.

Now here I am, a decade later, still in pain and diagnosed with multiple chronic illnesses- Ankylosing Spondylitis, Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, Bertolotti's Disease, Degenerative Disc Disease, and Tachycardia, plus a naturally fused spine, and a facet fused to my sacrum. Even though the warning signs were there, I never imagined for a moment how extensive my problems would turn out to be. It didn't even enter my head.

A decade ago, I was just a normal, able-bodied twenty-six-year-old, working as a visual merchandiser in retail, and spending my days off going shopping, to the cinema, and to concerts with friends. I got mild aching pains in my bones and joints (undiagnosed Arthritis), but they hadn't so much as slowed me down since my mid-teens. Then one September morning, I woke up with back pain, and in less than a fortnight, my whole life was turned upside down. Now I'm a disabled and chronically ill thirty-six-year-old with multiple conditions, living mostly housebound, and spending much of my time in bed alone riding out the pain and fatigue, or going to medical appointments. (Can you hear that chorus of tiny violins?!) What a difference a decade makes! It's crazy how quickly your entire life can change beyond recognition. If I had known what was coming, I would have tried to live a much fuller life. (Although, life's too short for the shoulda coulda wouldas).

Still, as it's the anniversary, I can't help thinking about everything I've been through these past ten years.

I'm not going to sugar-coat it; the last ten years have been some of the hardest years of my life- not just physically, mentally, and emotionally, but socially, and financially, too. 

I've spent every waking second in extreme pain, getting very little or no relief from any painkillers or treatments. Pain so bad it makes a broken bone feel like a broken nail, and would reduce burly grown men to tears. Pain in my joints and in my bones and in my muscles and in my skin. Shooting pain, stabbing pain, throbbing pain, radiating pain, aching pain, burning pain, I've experienced it all- and then some. Then there's been painful back spasms, stiff and swollen joints, twitching nerves, muscle aches, debilitating fatigue, persistent tachycardia (which has quite frankly been terrifying), challenging brain fog, and a whole host of delightful symptoms I've had to contend with on a daily or regular basis.

The pain has been so overwhelming that there have been times when I've wanted to not be here at all. Thankfully, those thoughts don't happen often now, but it hasn't always been that easy. The first year was definitely the hardest; I can't think how many times I silently cried myself to sleep during the first six months, just wanting the pain to stop, and to get my old life back. Fortunately, I never gave up, and the days got easier as I got diagnosed, and learnt to navigate life with chronic pain and illness, but it was hard-going for a while.

I had to fight to be believed, diagnosed, and be given the treatment I deserve. For years all I heard was that I was 'too young to be in pain', and I'd be 'fine in a week or two', as I was shooed away with another sick note and another prescription that never touched the pain. It wasn't until I ventured in to private health care three years later that I started to get answers and support. Those early years almost broke me.

I've been x-rayed, scanned, and jabbed with needles. I've tried treatment after treatment, and countless painkillers and anti-inflammatories.

I went through one horrific weekend of withdrawal after an incompetent doctor I went to for help yelled at me and took me off all of my meds cold turkey. I've never been so ill in my life. 

I've ended up in A&E twice with ridiculously fast tachycardia and palpitations, and have had several ECGs.

I had to give up my job in visual merchandising, and my dreams of getting back in to animal care. I was making plans to go back to college to study animal care again when I got ill, which sadly had to go out the window.

I've spent most of the last decade bed ridden or housebound, missing out on new experiences and meeting new people out in the real world because my pain has been so debilitating. Living housebound with chronic illness has been extremely isolating, and while I'm an introvert and enjoy time alone, it's been hard not having regular interactions with people outside my own family. I've lost friends since I've been sick, too, and that hurt a lot. 

I've also had to say goodbye to many of the things I knew and enjoyed in life. I had to mourn the life I knew, and the person that I was, as well as the future I'd hoped to make for myself. I'm not going to lie; this has been hard at times. I've missed out on so much during what could have been some of the best years of my life, and sometimes I can't help feeling left behind because I don't have or haven't experienced many of the things society says I should have by my age. Thankfully, I have learnt to make my peace with that, as well as knowing that my future could be very different to the one I'd imagined, but it's only natural to feel sad about that sometimes.

Fortunately, as a socially-awkward introvert, housebound life hasn't been that hard for me to cope with overall. I like my own company, and I've learnt plenty of ways to fill my time. This blog has been a particularly invaluable coping mechanism, giving me something to throw myself in to, and has always keep me busy. I've also found comfort in reading, crafting, watching movies, hanging out with my dog, and all kinds of little things. I've gotten used to a quieter way of living, and have learnt to appreciate the little things in life, and make the most of every day. When I do get to go out and do something fun, I appreciate it so much more.

The last ten years have also been hard financially. I've had to jump through hoops to prove I'm deserving of financial help, and went through a soul-crushing fifteen months without a penny to live on because the DWP decided being able to go the hospital for medical care meant I wasn't sick enough to need help. (Seriously). Luckily, I appealed, and won my case at court, but the whole experience was a nightmare.

I've been through a hell of a lot in such a short space of time, and sometimes I don't know how I made it through.

This is probably going to make me sound like a self-indulgent twat, so feel free to roll your eyes, but I'm proud of myself for getting through the last ten years. I'm proud of the way I've handled every hurdle, from my life being turned upside down to living in constant pain to dealing with each diagnosis. None of it has been easy, but I've got through every day and every challenge without having a break down or giving up. There have been times when the pain has been so overwhelming I've not wanted to be here, but I've somehow found the strength to keep going, to keep fighting through the pain and the fatigue, the stress and the isolation, and I'm proud of myself for that. 

I know I must be coming across as incredibly negative today, but I don't think about the last ten years in a negative light. I've always just accepted my life for what it is, and tried to make the best of every day. Sure, there have been plenty of awful days, but there have been plenty of positives, too. The journey has taught me so much. I've learnt so much about life, and about myself as I've navigated this unconventional life with chronic illness. I've learnt what I'm capable of, how strong I can be, and just how much I can endure when pushed beyond my limits. I've learnt to appreciate the little things in life, and make the best of every day, with what I have. I no longer take life for granted, like I used to. I know how quickly everything can change and be taken away from you. I'm grateful for everything this experience has taught me, as I wouldn't be the person I am now if I hadn't gone through it all.

I don't know where the future will take me- and I don't really like to think about it, as thinking about the future with chronic illness scares me- but wherever the next ten years lead me, I know I'll get through it. If the last ten years has taught me anything, it's that I'm stronger than I give myself credit for, and if I can get through all that I have, I can get through anything. 

Even though I'm being reflective and letting my feelings out here today, I don't want to focus on the negatives today, nor remember what I've lost or what I've been missing out on. (I wrote this post a few days early to process my feelings ahead of time). I'll of course be acknowledging what this day means and will be giving the last decade some head space, but I'm hoping to make today a positive one so this date isn't just 'The Day My Back Pain Began' or 'The Day My Life Changed Forever.' I'm currently in one of my favourite places enjoying a week's holiday, so I'm hoping to make some nice memories today to cancel out the bad ones. I want today to be a good one. I don't know where the day will take me, but I'm hoping I'll be well enough to take a short day trip or at least go for a walk on the beach. I'm going to eat some good food, breathe in the sea air, let the sea breeze carry away the stress, and relax to the sound of the seagulls. It's going to be a better day than this day was ten years ago, I'll make sure of it. I've not come this far and gone through what I have to let one bad day a decade ago spoil another day of my life.

Life is far too short for that.

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Monday, 9 August 2021

An Accessible Birthday Trip To Whipsnade Zoo

On the second of July, I turned another year older, and decided to seize the day with an impromptu trip to Whipsnade Zoo. 

A photo of African black-footed penguins at Whipsnade Zoo.

As a big animal lover, I love a good trip to the zoo, and used to visit Whipsnade almost every year before I developed chronic pain a decade ago. I even did work experience there for two weeks when I was seventeen and studying animal care at college. I hadn't been back since I got ill in 2011, as I couldn't see a way to manage the two hour journey (each way) with my chronic pain, let alone how to walk around an enormous zoo all day. I'd resigned myself to never being able to go again, and mentally added it  to the list of 'things I can't do anymore', which made me sad as I've always loved visiting the place, but it's just one of those things you learn to accept with chronic illness. 

However, one of the great things about Whipsnade Zoo is that you can pay to take your car in, which allows you to drive around the zoo, and park up at various sections. It saves a hell of a lot of walking, and makes it much more accessible. We'd talked about attempting a visit this way for a while, so when my sister suggested a trip to Whipsnade at 10pm the night before, I jumped at the chance. Sometimes you just have to push through the pain to do something fun, and deal with the consequences later.

We prebooked our tickets online the night before, which wasn't cheap at £30 each plus £25 to bring the car in, but I promise you, it was worth every penny. The zoo is huge (600 acres), filled with awesome animals, and you really get your money's worth.

We arrived at the zoo at around 1pm, and the first thing we did was drive a lap around it to get our bearings and remind ourselves what animals we particularly wanted to see. I'd forgotten just how big the place was, and wondered how the hell I used to walk around it all when I was able-bodied. We didn't have time or the spoons to see everything, so we prioritised our favourites, and tried to fit in as much as possible. We drove around, parked up near animals we wanted to see, and walked around small sections at a time, which made our visit so much easier. We even just watched some animals from the car, which felt like being on safari without the fear or being eaten alive or having your car stripped for parts by monkeys. 

A photo of a white rhino grazing at Whipsnade Zoo.
A photo of a sleeping white rhino at Whipsnade Zoo.

Taking the car in gave us the ability to cover a huge area we would never have managed on foot, and made the place far more accessible to us. It made such a difference to my pain and fatigue levels, and my sister's leg injuries, and I coped so much better than I'd expected to. In fact, the car journey caused me more pain than the actual visit! I would recommend it to anyone with chronic pain or mobility issues, as well as for people visiting with young kids or elderly relatives who tire easily- especially if you can't use a wheelchair or rent a mobility scooter to help you cover more ground. Trust me; your body will thank you for it later.

A photo of wild boar piglets at Whipsnade Zoo.
A photo of a cheetah at Whipsnade Zoo.
A photo of a cheetah at Whipsnade Zoo.

My sister and I had such a lovely time wandering and driving around in the scorching sunshine, watching so many weird and wonderful animals, eating ice cream, and enjoying the views of the downs below the zoo. We got to see so many awesome animals, including elephants, hippos, white and one-horned rhinos, tigers, cheetahs, lynx, sloth bears, wild boar, penguins, chimps, oryx, flamingos, and so much more. We also saw plenty of wallabies and maras, which were free-roaming all around the zoo.

A photo of a wallaby at Whipsnade Zoo.

Whipsnade has an incredible collection of animals, with over 200 species and more than 9,600 animals to see, and no shortage of mega fauna and rare creatures to interest every animal lover. Whether you're in to big cats or primates, giant mammals or tiny insects, there's something for everyone.

A photo of wooden rockhopper penguin statues at Whipsnade Zoo.
A photo of African black-footed penguins at Whipsnade Zoo.

I think my favourite part of the day was getting to see the rare greater one-horned rhinos, which I love because they look like adorable armoured-dinosaurs! Just look how cute they are! I could've watched them grazing all day.

A photo of a greater one-horned rhino at Whipsnade Zoo.
A photo of a grey greater one-horned rhino at Whipsnade Zoo.
A photo of an adult greater one-horned rhino at Whipsnade Zoo.
A photo of an adult greater one-horned rhino grazing at Whipsnade Zoo.

We also really enjoyed the Passage Through Asia section, which is a huge drive-through exhibit of green space filled with different types of deer, camels, and yaks. There's a big lake in the middle, and there are no barriers separating you from the animals so it feels really natural, and like being on safari. The animals kept their distance, but it was amazing to watch huge herds of deer grazing, resting, running, and drinking from the lake, and getting to see lots of stags and fawns. We enjoyed this section so much, we went through twice. If you don't take your car in, don't worry; you can also view the Passage Through Asia on The Great Whipsnade Railway, which I believe has just reopened now that Covid restrictions have lifted.

A photo of two Bactrian camels at Whipsnade Zoo.A photo of a Pere David deer stag at Whipsnade Zoo.
A photo of deer drinking from a lake at Whipsnade Zoo.
A photo of a doe at Whipsnade Zoo.
A photo of a doe and a stag at Whipsnade Zoo.
A photo of a herd deer at Whipsnade Zoo.

Sadly, we didn't have time to see everything, and missed out a lot of animals in the middle of the zoo, where there's everything from giraffes and lions to wolves and monkeys, but we were more than satisfied with our visit, and it just gives us a good excuse to go back again, and cover what we missed. I particularly wanted to see the bird gardens, seals and sealions, and the children's farmyard again, as they were three of the sections I did work experience on all those years ago (the others were the chimps and elephants), but just being there brought back so many memories. (And we did drive past the farmyard, so I got a good glimpse of the animals around the outskirts). I'll definitely check them out properly next time. 

A photo of an adult chimpanzee at Whipsnade Zoo.

If you want to see all the animals Whipsnade zoo has to offer, I'd recommend getting there when the gates open at 10am to give yourself  a fighting chance. There's a lot of ground to cover.

Of course, we couldn't leave without checking out the gift shop. It only took me a minute to discover that they sold Kimchi and Coconut jewellery, and I came away with a galaxy-effect whale brooch that I instantly fell in love with. Well, it would've been rude not to treat myself on my birthday, right? Right!

A photo of an amur tiger at Whipsnade Zoo.
A photo of an Amur tiger at Whipsnade Zoo.
A photo of an Amur tiger at Whipsnade Zoo.

As for visiting during the pandemic... we visited on a weekday during term time, so it wasn't too busy, and we rarely needed to wear a mask outdoors, which was a relief as the weather was so hot. I just popped mine on whenever I got close to a crowd, which wasn't often. Face coverings were required in indoor exhibits, and in the gift shop, as expected, and it's something they're still encouraging now that legal restrictions have officially lifted, so remember to pack a mask. You'll find more information about visiting during Covid times on their website.

A photo of Asian elephants at Whipsnade Zoo.

We had a great day out at Whipsnade Zoo, and couldn't have asked for a nicer day. Cool animals, nature, sunshine, fresh air, ice cream, a new brooch... what a perfect way to spend a birthday. I'm already looking forward to our next visit, and now I've found a way to make the trip more manageable, I know it won't be long until we're back.

Well, you know me; I love a good trip to the zoo!

When was the last time you visited the zoo?


Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Erstwilder Dinosauria

My Erstwilder jewellery collection has really flourished over the last few years, but until recently, I didn't have any dinosaur pieces in my collection. Not a single one. I knew that was totally unacceptable, so when Erstwilder launched their Dinosauria collection last month, I made it my mission to fill a few gaps.

I could have happily bought the entire twenty-four piece collection, but money doesn't grow on trees like it does in Animal Crossing (if only!), so I limited myself to two brooches, and a pair of Essentials earrings.

My first choice from the collection was the Neck and Neck brooch- which was a no-brainer since long-neck dinosaurs have always been my favourite kind of dinosaurs. (They were the best; don't fight me on this)! Erstwilder released this design in two colour variations; a softer lilac and green, and a deeper emerald and teal, and I went for the latter because I'm a sucker for emerald green. This beautiful brooch features a pair of green and blue brachiosauruses standing back to back with their faces together, creating a cute heart cut-out between their incredibly long necks. The dinosaur on the left is made from a gorgeous emerald green glitter resin, and the other an incredible mottled mix of teals, lavender, lime and grey- a new resin for Erstwilder that fans have been going crazy for. I was sold on the colours of the resins alone... I mean, just look at how pretty this brooch is! I can't get enough of it. If you're swooning, too, both colour ways are still available from Erstwilder and some of their stockists, so snap one up while you can! 

If I had to pick a favourite piece from the Dinosauria collection, it would probably be Peter Plant Eater. Peter is a pretty purple plant-eating parasaurolophus (try saying that three times fast!), and while it's never been one of my favourite dinosaurs, it's definitely one of my all time favourite brooches. The striking green and purple marbled resins lured me in online, and blew me away in person. The dinosaur is a shimmering mix of lilac, lavender, mauve, and pistachio, with an apricot crest, purple legs, and a pearlescent belly, hidden in a tangle of vibrant spring green leaves, with an olive-green palm tree in the background. It's so beautiful, and such an underrated piece from the collection. The resins (especially the purple) are some of the loveliest I've ever seen. It's still available from several UK stockists, so if you've been sitting on the fence with this one, just take my word for it, it's perfect, and you need it!

I also came away with the Triceratops drop earrings in emerald. I don't wear drop earrings often, but I just couldn't resist them. They're the coolest earrings ever! They're made from chunky ripple glitter resin in the most amazing shades of teal and emerald green, and have a generous scattering of fine gold glitter running through them. (If emerald isn't your thing, they also come in a few other colours). The resin is mesmerising. I'd love to see more pieces made from it in the future. The best part about these earrings is that they were so affordable at just £5.50, so they allow you to indulge your love of dinosaurs and funky accessories without breaking the bank. They're great quality, too, but at the same time, they're nice and light-weight, so they don't make your ears ache when you've been wearing them a while, which is awesome. Ain't nobody got time for that!

There are still quite a few brooches, earrings, and necklaces from the Dinosauria collection available from Erstwilder and their stockists, so if you're a fan of dinosaurs, I'd definitely recommend you check them out. There are so many awesome designs in this collection, and trust me, you're missing a treat!

Did you buy anything from the Dinosauria collection? Which piece is your favourite?

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Thursday, 1 July 2021

Birthday Wish List

I can't remember the last time I blogged a wish list, but as it's my birthday tomorrow and various family members have asked me for present ideas, it seemed like a good time to put a new one together.

I like to put a birthday wish list together on the blog every year, and have done for as long as I can remember. It's not a wish list I demand my family buy me things from, but I might direct them to it if they ask for ideas, and shop from it myself should I be given any birthday money. (Or if I just fancy treating myself to something because it's my birthday, and can't stop myself because it would be rude not to). Mostly, it's just for fun.

This year, my birthday wish list features a predictable mix of some of the fashion and beauty items at the top of my lust list, along with a few random things like books, craft kits, and geeky collector's toys. Some things never change!

1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 6 // 7 // 8 // 9 // 10 // 11 // 12 // 13 // 14 // 15 // 16 // 17 // 18 // 19 // 20 // 21 // 22

1. I recently discovered that Joules do plus sizes up to a 26(!), and have fallen in love with their purple leopard print Yasmin shirt dress, after buying the same dress in a strawberry print last month. It looks perfect for autumn.
2. I also really like the green smudge print version of the Joules Yasmin dress, and think it would be great all year round.
3. These Erstwilder Purple Prose hollyhock earrings are so pretty. 
4. I'd love to get my hands on some of the Too Faced Love Flush Water Colour blushes. They look like Polly Pockets!
5. This green Joe Browns spot maxi dress looks gorgeous. I can't resist a good polka dot dress.
6. I've been coveting the Vendula Seaside Souvenirs backpack for over a year, and I'm so excited that my parents have got it for me for my birthday, after it went on flash sale a couple of weeks ago. I can't wait to get it, and know it's going to be perfect for holidays to Cornwall. (It's on sale again now, by the way)!
7. The Erstwilder Duck, Duck, Splash! brooch is just about the cutest brooch I've ever seen in my life. Look at his little rain coat!
8. It's not often you see emu jewellery designs, and I think the novelty makes The Enchanting Emu brooch from Erstwilder and Pete Cromer extra awesome. I love this design so much.
9. I don't need any more eyeshadow palettes, but damn, the Too Faced Born This Way palette is tempting.
10. The Yves Saint Laurent Touche Eclat Blur Primer is the best primer I've ever tried, and I'd love to get myself a full size pot to replace the mini one I used up months ago.
11. How cute is the Loungefly Disney Cats wallet?! I think I need it in my life.
12. I've been admiring the Zatchels Sugacube bag in red for years, and would love to add it to my collection. I have one in oxblood, and it's the perfect small day bag for almost every outfit, but the colour's too harsh for spring and summer. I'd love to get the red to fill the gap for the warmer months.
13. After trying the Too Faced Better Than Sex mascara and being impressed with how much it lengthened my lashes, I really want to try the waterproof version so I can get the same results without panda eyes in the heat.
14. This blue rose print Chantilly 50's Dress from Hell Bunny looks stunning. Did you know they've extended their sizes to 6XL?
15. Another Erstwilder x Pete Cromer brooch I've been lusting after for months is The Coy Cockatiel brooch. It reminds me of the cockatiels on the animal units when I was studying animal care at college. They could both sing the theme tunes to The Addams Family, and Laurel and Hardy.
16. Alice in Wonderland has always been one of my favourite Disney films, so the new Caterpillar Funko Pop is naturally amazing.
17. This parrot print Hepburn swing dress from Lady Vintage would make a charming addition to my wardrobe zoo.
18. I haven't done a jigsaw puzzle since I was little, but that doesn't stop me wanting this Animal Crossing jigsaw. It's so cute!
19. Stephen King's The Stand is one of my favourite books, and the Barnes and Noble edition looks stunning. I definitely need a copy in my life.
20. What I wouldn't give to play with all the colourful eyeshadows in the Urban Decay Wired Pressed Pigment Palette right about now. It looks like a colour junkie's dream!
21. The Adventure Awaits embroidery kit from Cotton Clara looks like a great embroidery to make to mark the ending of Covid restrictions, and the optimism of adventures being possible again after a turbulent sixteen months.
22. And last but not least, as a bit of an Animal Crossing addict who wants to attempt more embroidery, I'd love to make this adorable Celeste embroidery from Fawn Floss on Etsy.

And those are some of the things on my birthday wish list.

If you'd like to see more of the fashion, beauty, and miscellaneous things on my wish list, check out my wish list boards on Pinterest. You can also find all my previous Wish List posts here.

What's on your wish list right now?

Sunday, 27 June 2021

Another Socially Distanced Trip To The Cotswold Wildlife Park

I just wanted to quickly share some photos from my recent visit to The Cotswold Wildlife Park. I know, I know, I've blogged about my visits there so many times already, but I enjoy taking photos of animals, and wanted to add some of my favourites from my visit to gather dust in my archives.

My sister and I visited the park on her birthday at the beginning of the month, on a gorgeous, scorching hot weekday. It was my first visit since September, but my second trip there during the pandemic. I definitely enjoyed this visit more than the last one- probably as it wasn't so busy and crowded, and we didn't get close enough to other people to need to wear face coverings as we wandered around outside. We just needed to wear them in the indoor areas, like the reptile houses and gift shop, due to current guidelines in England. It felt like a perfectly normal pre-Covid trip to the zoo, and we were able to relax and enjoy ourselves as we dawdled around the park looking at all the weird and wonderful animal and plants in the blistering sunshine. 

Highlights for me included seeing the tamanduas (tree anteaters) for the first time (oh my God, they're so cute!); watching the capybaras swim (they were as agile in the water as beavers); seeing a peacock display his feathers; spotting a wild heron flying over the lake and in to a tall tree after an altercation with a pelican; and getting to watch the rhinos and giraffes for ages while I took chronic pain rest breaks. 

We also enjoyed ice creams from their kiosks in the sunshine, which let's be honest, has to be done when you visit the zoo in the summer, and it was just lovely being outside close to nature, doing something normal again. At that point, I'd only left the house a couple of times all year, so it was all the more enjoyable.

We had a wonderful visit as usual, and I love that we saw some new animals and made some new experiences at the Wildlife Park, even after a life time of visits. I just could have done without coming home with sunburn as a souvenir, but I only have myself to blame for that one. Guess which idiot forgot to apply suncream to her face and neck? Yep, this gal. 

If you've never been to The Cotswold Wildlife Park, or haven't visited in a while, I'd totally recommend you pay them a visit. They've got great measures in place to keep everyone safe during the pandemic, and almost all of the park is open to visitors again. The tropical house and walk-through Madagascar exhibit are still shut to the public, and their iconic train is currently out of service, but other indoor sections like the reptile, bat, and insect houses are open, and you're allowed to go in to pet the goats in the farmyard again. The gift shop, kiosks, and restaurant are also open for business, but remember to bring a face covering as you will need them to access any indoor spaces.

I should also mention that you can't currently buy tickets to enter the wildlife park at the gate or on the day, since visitor numbers are restricted due to Covid-19. You have to prebook your tickets online from their website the day before you wish to visit- although, they've just began releasing tickets up to a few days in advance, which makes life a little easier. In any case, I promise you the minor inconvenience is worth it for a lovely day out at a unique wildlife park filled with amazing animals, beautiful plants, and an impressive gothic manor house out in the beautiful Cotswolds countryside. I've lost count of how many times we've visited The Cotswold Wildlife Park over the years, but we always have a great time, and can never resist going back for yet another visit.

Have you been to The Cotswold Wildlife Park yet? When was the last time you visited the zoo?

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