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Cotswold Wildlife Park

Address Burford, Oxon, OX18 4JW
Telephone 01993 823006
How to Find it: Off the A361 Lechlade to Burford Road, just south of Burford.
Open: from 10pam, last admission 4:30 in summer and 3:30 from November until March.
Area: 50 hectares / 120 acres
No of Species No of Animals Star Rating
Mammals 42 246 Conservation
Birds 125 532 Enclosures
Reptiles 64 208 Education
Amphibians 11 24 Recreation
Fish 32 134 Research
Total 274 1144
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This critique last updated:  Dec 2010

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GoodZoos.com Reviews

The Cotswold Wildlife Park is set in the grounds of a nineteenth century manor house in the lush countryside of Oxfordshire. One hundred and twenty acres of the Bradwell Grove Estate has been set aside by its owner, John Heyworth, as a fascinating arid extremely beautiful setting for a zoological collection.

A long straight drive leads from the park gates to a car park right in the heart of the zoo. At once there is the impression of a great country estate, given emphasis by the huge trees which dominate the park. One enormous old oak that stands outside the manor is said to be six hundred years old, and a massive wellingtonia behind the house is 130 years old and stands almost 120 feet high. Equally impressive are several huge yews, and giant Californian redwoods which rise high above the park.

The park is flat, and the walk around is pleasant and undemanding despite its size. Most paths are tarmac, and there are plenty of benches for the weary to stop and rest. The zoo is, in a sense, divided into two: there is the park with its huge open paddocks, aviaries, cats, and primates, and then there is the walled garden-almost a zoo in itself.

The tour around the park begins with aviaries for owls and griffon vultures, and a big cage for those acrobats of the monkey family, the spider monkeys. There is a children’s farmyard which has an assortment of farm animals. Then the path weaves away through dense woodland, past a neat tapir house with Brazilian tapirs underneath a dark avenue of overhanging oaks. Here too you might be rewarded with a glimpse of wallabies or of capybaras — the world’s largest rodents — hiding among the trees, and a graceful flock of flamingos wading in a picturesque lake.

The major feature of the park is a magnificent five-acre African exhibit where white rhinos, and zebras graze peacefully together. In front of the manor is a second major attraction, red pandas in a circular moated compound; look out for the delightful little pandas high in the trees.

Nearby there are giant tortoises from Aldabara Atoll, and from the ‘Tortoise Terminus’ alongside, a miniature railway offers one of the best train rides in any zoo (Whipsnade excepted), providing an excellent view of the park.

Despite all the available space, the tigers look rather cramped with no platform or vantage point, but nearby the ostriches have a large wild field where they have successfully bred.

The Gothic style manor was built in 1804, and parts are now open to visitors as a brass-rubbing centre, and a bar.

In the courtyard of the manor buildings are the lar gibbons whose whoops can be heard all around the park, an aquarium, a small reptile house, an insect house with some vivid butterflies, and a splendid new exhibit for Indian and Egyptian fruit bats. Here too is a tremendous adventure playground where the remains of a huge Cedar of Lebanon carries a high tree house and slide.

The walled garden at the Cotswold Wildlife Park is a delight. It combines the quaint old-world charm of a kitchen garden with a whole collect ion of animals in among meticulously laid gardens. Little suricate meerkats stand motionless on little hind legs underneath an open sun lamp; clearly not lovers of the English weather. Here in the walled garden are pink-backed pelicans, Humboldt’s penguins which breed regularly, coatis, otters, and many more smaller mammals and birds. Among the birds are scarlet ibis, kookaburras, and several parrots. A tropical house built in 1982 is the home to Mississippi alligators, a whole variety of birds like tanagers from America, and white eyes from Africa. The building was opened in 1982 and now has a rich luxuriant tropical foliage, hibiscus, bougainvillea, and banana trees, among others. There are primates too in the walled garden — ring-tailed lemurs, squirrel monkeys, and various tamarins, all pleasantly housed, and doing well.

There was once a time when the Cotswold Wildlife Park rather resembled a small zoo that had found itself a home in a big country estate. Huge fields that could well accommodate species of some conservation value instead grazed those ubiquitous domestic creatures llamas, Ankole cattle, and Bactrian camels; hut things are changing for the better. The wide pad- docks alongside the driveway now graze splendid scimitar horned oryx, and animals that were once kept only in pairs now seem to be building up encouraging groups. The Cotswold Wildlife Park would do well to resist the temptation to grow the collection to resemble yet another non-specialist zoo, but to use their space wisely with endangered hoofed mammals, and with primates that seem to do well here. Visitors will always come to the Cotswold Wildlife Park, it is a refreshing and pleasant place to spend a day among some very beautiful animals, and it has the potential to become a valuable conservation zoo.


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