Home Animals Zoos Search Zoo Mall Contents Feedback
Welcome to The Good Zoo Guide Online (goodzoos.com), the essential guide to the best zoos, wildlife parks and animal collections on the planet
Now more than 200 Pages of Zoo Reviews and discussion - and growing with the help of Internet Zoo Critics from all around the world
And while you're here - check out our world famous 'Zoo Noticeboard'  Can you help zoos and animal lovers from around the world with their zoo enquiries?

wpe73.gif (2084 bytes)

West Midlands Safari Park

goodzoos logo.gif (3461 bytes)

West Midlands Safari Park

Address West Midland Safari Park, Spring Grove, Bewdley, Worcestershire, DY12 1LF
Telephone 01299 402114
How to Find it:
Open: See website
Prices:
Area:
No of Species No of Animals Star Rating
Mammals Conservation
Birds Enclosures
Reptiles Education
Amphibians Recreation
Fish Research
Total 0 0
Click here for a Link to the Zoo's own Web Pages
Write a review of this zoo
This critique last updated:  Dec 2010


Official Description

Visitor Reviews

This review submitted by Vikki Burrows, July 2005
Been to West Midland Safari Park, UK, fantastic place, one of the best I have ever been to. Nice, friendly staff, all animals look in great condition, good value for money. I will certainly visit again. Only one complaint, a keeper was seen to be relieving himself behind a bush whilst we were driving around the reserves, and we don't think this is appropriate behaviour in front of children.

GoodZoos.com Reviews

One man has been responsible, more than any other, for introducing the ‘safari park’ concept to Britain, life was the late Jimmy Chipperfield. Chipperfield came from a family of itinerant entertainers. He was born in the back of a circus caravan outside the Wiltshire village of Corsham in 1912, and he grew up among performing bears, monkeys, clowns and acrobats, as his family travelled the highways and byways of Britain. His colourful career took him from being a tight rope walker and a clown, to becoming a fighter pilot, a farmer, a circus owner, and an impresario. Many zoo people regarded him, and still do, as a gypsy, a man to whom animals were commodities, a man who must have grown up with the cruel excesses employed by many circuses to train their animals; and Chipperfield’s own early attempts to open zoos in Southampton and Plymouth did not prove to be a success. But that was before he met the Marquess of Bath, and before their joint cooperation had led to the opening of The Lions of Longleat Britain’s first drive through animal park. 

Longleat had been Chipperfield’s brainchild, and he followed it with similar ventures at Woburn, Knowsley, Blair Drummond, Larnbton near Newcastle, Loch Lomond, and in several estates in Holland, France, Spain, Germany, Canada, and Japan. But none of these belonged to Chipperfield himself. His involvement was that of an international safari park consultant, travelling the world, setting up for wealthy landowners the sort of park he would much prefer to have run for himself. The opportunity to do just that finally came in the early I 970s when he bought a 200 acre estate of rolling parkland at Bewdley, less than 20 miles from Birmingham and set about landscaping his own new safari park. 

The estate at Bewdley was founded by Samuel Skey, a Bewdley grocer who made his fortune manufacturing dye stuffs and sulphuric acid. He bought the land, a parcel of 270 acres from Lord Foley in 1775. A regular visitor was the artist John Constable, who courted his wife here. The gently rolling Worcestershire fields may well have provided inspiration for Constable, just as they inspired Chipperfield two centuries later.

But perhaps Chipperfield had been too successful with all his earlier ventures, and perhaps the public appetite for safari parks was not what it once had been for, despite the huge population within only a short drive from the gates, the West Midlands Safari Park was not a runaway success. The early years were a struggle, and visitor numbers fell steadily after the optimistic opening of the park in 1973. The land was leased to an American company in 1976, and management changes were made. The park was renamed the ‘West Midlands Safari and Leisure Park’ to reflect the new emphasis upon the growing fringe attractions of the park, and slowly the people of Birmingham and the West Midlands were wooed back through the gates. 

The safari park occupies around one hundred acres of the estate, just off the A456 between Kidderminster and Bewdley. The entrance is impressive, with bold signs and colourful pictures that recur throughout the park. So in the first reserve, the African Reserve, there is a large clear sign that tells you what to look for — lion, eland, giraffe, brindled gnu, zebra, ankole cattle, white rhino, and camels. For once the lion reserve is not a drive-through section of the park. Instead they have their own fenced stretch of pasture, from which they can look out at the potential prey species which graze alongside. This is a deliberate feature of the West Midlands Safari Park, and the three main reserves (the African, American, and Eurasian) each have a central compound that holds a predator native to the respective continent. There is some economic sense behind the policy too, because it means that no special gates have to be operated between the reserves, with the animals kept apart by simple fences and cattle grids. This saves staff from having to manage the gates, and it also saves the staff who would inevitably have to patrol the lion and tiger reserves. 

The next section of the park is moor-like, a huge open space furnished with gorse. ‘Look out’ reads a sign, ‘there’s a Wallaby about’. There is a lot of shelter here and you may have to search for your wallaby. The first animal you see may well be nothing more than a native rabbit, incautiously grazing among rather exotic company. There are monkeys here too, plenty of them, in one of the best monkey jungles around, and there are deer and camels hidden among the gorse and the trees. The roll of the landscape is deceptive, a testimony to the understanding that Chipperfield had of how these things should be done, and there seems to be a great deal of space. The gorse gives the surroundings the appearance of wilderness, and the whole area seems to be flanked with deciduous woodlands. 

The road winds back into the first paddock, and then over a cattle grid into a wide stretch of grassland with fallow deer, and bison. Like the lions, the tigers are also separately enclosed in this section, but there is plenty of opportunity to watch them from the car. Timber wolves too have a separate enclosure of their own, and they occupy perhaps two acres or more of field, with a few trees, and concrete tunnel-like caves. It is a good sized pack, and there is plenty of group activity to watch. 

The next reserve is the Eurasian Reserve. There are tigers again (in their own cage), surrounded by species that may, in some circumstances have been their traditional prey; yak, for example, looking beautiful with their full, shaggy, coats. There are Barbary sheep, Przewajski’s horses, and deer. 

Finally, back into the African Reserve, the road winds past the rhino house — an interesting enclosure with tree stumps, sand, a pond, and some huge rocks. Some splendid white rhino occupy the compound. 

It has been some decades since zoos began to drop the habit of allowing visitors to feed the animals. For many it was a difficult decision to take. Visitors had grown accustomed to feeding buns to the elephants and peanuts to the monkeys. When the no-feeding rule was introduced the health of the animals increased markedly, but it placed a distance between people and animals that has never really been eroded. The West Midlands Safari and Leisure Park has taken a bold decision and reintroduced feeding by members of the public. To participate you have to buy bags of approved dietary pellets at the gate. This reduces any risk of animals being given inappropriate foods. With the dangerous animals (lions, tigers, and wolves) safely behind chain-link fences, you can feed all of the grazing animals directly; and of course the inevitable consequence is that the animals have learned to take full advantage of the idea, and they flock hungrily around the convoys of cars like Trafalgar Square’s pigeons around a party of tourists. For visitors who have had the foresight to buy the food, this provides a greatly rewarding experience. In return for a few simple pellets you can stroke a Przewalskj’s horse or be nuzzled by a giraffe. Zebras will boldly nose their heads right through the car windows in search of food, while fallow deer delicately pluck the pellets from your outstretched hand. The price we pay for this humbling experience is something of the essence of the very animals that we reach out to feed — we lose their wildness, and their timidity. In return for being able to stroke their noses we turn them into beggars. But the experience of personal contact with the animals is a valid one nonetheless, and if one objective of modem zoos is to encourage a greater empathy and awareness of species other than ourselves, then here is a way of achieving it, and it seems to work. 

The tour around the Safari Park brings you to the car park, where there is a small walk around zoo, and a pleasure park. There is a children’s farmyard, with more opportunities for contact with animals, this time of a wide variety. There is a reptile house with some attractive vivaria, and me monkeys and small mammals, and a sealion show. And of course is the fairground with a host of theme park rides. The West Midlands Safari and Leisure Park is an unpretentious collection with a growing reputation. It offers a rare opportunity to see and touch a wide variety species from three continents. Jimmy Chipperfield died in 1990 aged 78 The West Midlands Safari Park, like so many other parks he created, lives on. 

Species List

 

[Find and Read a Review of the zoo you want to visit ] [Buy Books on Zoos and Wildlife[Zoo Animals] Home ] Up ]
[ About Zoos ]  [ News ]  [Conservation in Zoos ]   [Zoos and Education ]  [Zoos and Recreation ] [Zoos and Research ] [Hotels near Zoos ] [Are Zoos Cruel?]

Become an Internet Zoo Critic and contribute to a worldwide databank of knowledge on mammal and bird conservation. Click Here.

Editor: Jon Clarke    Research: John and Sue Ironmonger, Ray Heaton, and the readers of goodzoos.com   Illustrations by G.L.Grandy. Thanks to John Ironmonger for the original idea of GoodZoos.com.

Send mail to editor@goodzoos.com with questions or comments about this web site.
Site monitored by Website Monitor
Last modified: 03/09/2014 05:32:48