Cotswold Wildlife Park

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Coordinates: 51°46′25″N 1°39′15″W / 51.77361°N 1.65417°W / 51.77361; -1.65417

Cotswold Wildlife Park & Gardens
Date opened 1970
Location nr Burford, Oxfordshire, England
Coordinates 51°46′25″N 1°39′15″W / 51.77361°N 1.65417°W / 51.77361; -1.65417
Land area Wildlife Park: 48 acres (0.194 km2), Gardens: 160 acres (0.647 km2)
Number of species 260+ species (2012)
Major exhibits Walled Garden, 'Madagascar', Woodland Walk, Reptile House, Bat House, Insect House, Tropical House, Train, Adventure Playground, Restaurant, Gift Shop, Brass Rubbing.

The Cotswold Wildlife Park & Gardens exhibits over 260 different species of animals and is the largest privately owned zoological collection in the UK (by species). The park is set in 160 acres (0.65 km2) of landscaped parkland and gardens 2 miles south of Burford on the A361, Oxfordshire, England. Around 350,000 people visited the park in 2012.[1]


The Bradwell Grove area which surrounds the Cotswold Wildlife Park has known human habitation for more than 4,000 years. A visit to the nearby village of Broadwell will reveal a small cluster of houses and a farm around a disproportionately large parish church. It is here that the estate's history is centred, for Filkins, Kencot and Holwell, together with their adjacent villages and surrounding farmland, were all part of the parish of Broadwell. This ancient parish existed from pre-Norman times until the Victorian era.

In 1804 the estate's owner William Hervey had the current Manor House designed by William Atkinson and built by Richard Pace of Lechlade, in the then fashionable Georgian Gothic style. This followed the example of Strawberry Hill, Horace Walpole's masterpiece at Twickenham. The house replaced an original 17th century Jacobean residence, part of which was incorporated into the North service wing. Hervey also planted a great number of trees in the park, many of which can still be seen including a huge Wellingtonia tree on the west lawn. This tree is over 40 metres high and can be seen on the skyline from many miles away.

In 1923 the house and estate were purchased by Colonel Heyworth-Savage, and on his death in 1948 the estate was passed to his grandson John Heyworth. The house was rented out for twenty years to Oxford Regional Hospital Board, until in 1969 Mr. Heyworth decided to open the gardens to the public, and since 1970 the house has been the heart of the Wildlife Park.

John Heyworth was born in the Manor House in 1925 and mainly brought up at Bradwell Grove. When he left school he served from 1943–1947 in the Royal Dragoons. This regiment had been commanded by his father, who was killed in action in North Africa in 1941.

John Heyworth has many memories of his early years in the 1930s living in the Manor House. What we now know as the Walled Garden, in those days the kitchen garden, was brimming with fruit and vegetables; the area which now houses the marmosets and tamarins contained cold fruit frames full of parma violets and other delicate plants, and on the site of the gardeners' greenhouse stood two structures reputed to be the oldest greenhouses in Oxfordshire. The Tropical House has taken the place of three adjoining greenhouses, the first for carnations, the second for rare hot-house plants and a fig tree, and the third for nectarines and peaches. The water supply for the Walled Garden came from a central well now covered over but still marked. There was a cricket pitch on what is now the grass car park, and two grass tennis courts outside the drawing room and brass-rubbing room. Many years ago there was even a private nine hole golf course covering what is now the ostrich enclosure and surrounding area

The Manor House now has various roles, with its many rooms being used as visitor areas. The old dining room, still with its original curtains, panelling and fireplace, has become the brass-rubbing centre; 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; and other rooms are used as administration and maintenance offices, storerooms and staff accommodation. Even the maze of cellars is used for hibernating certain species from their reptile collection! The old stables and other out-buildings now the reptile and bat houses, classrooms, offices and the quarantine area, and the billiard room (which is now the restaurant kitchen), housed a billiard table which was used to form the lower tier of the waterfall in the penguin enclosure.[2]

Animal exhibits[edit]

The old Manor House

The entrance driveway to the park passes by paddocks where herds of scimitar-horned oryx and llama graze.

Walled Garden[edit]

The Walled Garden (behind the Gift Shop) houses aviaries, including a Humboldt penguin enclosure and a Tropical House with exotic plants and free-roaming sloths, and tropical birds such as great blue turacos, Bali starlings and bleeding heart pigeons. Penguin feeding and talk is held daily at 11 am and 3 pm.

Mammals in the Walled Garden include meerkats, yellow mongooses, prairie dogs and a breeding group of Oriental small-clawed otters. There is also a collection of small primates, including squirrel monkeys, pygmy marmosets, red-handed tamarins and emperor tamarins.

In 2008, the park opened "Madagascar", a walk-through exhibit at the bottom of the Walled Garden which draws attention to the plight of endangered lemur species.[3] The mixed exhibit features ring-tailed lemurs, collared lemurs, mongoose lemurs, crowned sifaka, Madagascar teal and radiated tortoise are also on show, and were brought into the collection especially for "Madagascar". The breeding record of the lemur collection is very good with the ring-tailed lemurs giving birth regularly since their introduction in 2009, and the red bellied lemurs also having bred successfully. Lemur feeding and talk is held daily at 12 noon.

Woodland Walk[edit]

A number of larger animal species from South America are here, including Brazilian tapir, capybara, Visayan warty pigs, Patagonian maras and giant anteaters. Canadian timber wolves moved into a wooded enclosure in 2006, with an undercover viewing platform. Other enclosures in the walk-through include white-naped cranes and parma wallabies.

The entrance to the woodland walk is via a bridge over the lake, which has a wide variety of ducks and Chilean flamingos.

Domesticated breeds can be found in the Children's Farmyard.

Large mammals[edit]

A small train taking visitors around the grounds

Large moated paddocks are home to a trio of giraffe, a herd of Chapman's zebra, a group of ostriches and breeding groups of white rhinoceros and Bactrian camels. Nearby are the park's big cat enclosures which house clouded leopards and Asiatic lions.

Reptile House, Bat House and Insect House[edit]

The Reptile House is a converted barn formerly used as stables, and is home to species such as black mambas, crocodile monitors, bearded dragons, poison dart frogs, and rhinoceros iguanas. The reticulated pythons, and anacondas are particularly large specimens. The park achieved the first UK breeding for Morelet's crocodiles in 2007 and with 12 eggs hatching successfully. Cotswold Wildlife Park is the only British collection to exhibit this crocodilian which is native to Central America. The Insect House is home to leaf-cutter ants, scorpions and tarantulas and other species of invertebrates. The Bat House holding Seba's short-tailed bats, Egyptian fruit bats and Turkish spiny mice are in the Reptile Courtyard and nearby are enclosures for white-handed gibbons and siamangs.

Around the Manor House[edit]

Next to the 600 year-old oak tree outside the orangery of the Manor House, is home to the red pandas. In front of the Manor House next to the rhino paddock is the Aldabra giant tortoise enclosure.

Around the Train Station[edit]

Birds in this section include a variety of owls and birds of prey such as the great grey owl, snowy owl, and turkey vulture. Nearby is the black-and-white colobus monkey enclosure. Next to the train station entrance is the wolverine enclosure. In 2012 the park's wolverines gave birth to the UK's first ever cubs to be born in captivity, and the only collection in Europe to have successfully bred wolverines. Next the wolverines are the pheasant aviaries.


The 2 ft (610 mm) narrow gauge[4] railway which runs in a circuit around the park is just under a mile long. The station is located on the edge of the woods between the owl aviaries and the Walled Garden. There is a huge pair of Californian redwood trees, imposing tree ferns and giant rhubarb and unusual foliage which gives this area a special atmosphere.

The railway was first installed in 1974, in a horse-shoe shaped circuit from the current station round to the giant tortoises in front of the Manor House. The circuit was completed and the station rebuilt in 2007, when it was officially opened by our local M.P., the Rt. Hon. David Cameron.

The train is called Bella in memory of one of the original white rhinos at the park.

Park and gardens[edit]


The park is well known for its exotic planting, particularly in the favourable micro-climate of the Walled Garden where bananas and cannas are a speciality. The exotic birds and animals are complemented by flamboyant planting schemes. The South Terrace has been given a period feel although in fact the terrace, balustade and pond were constructed in 1989, thanks to a generous legacy from a regular visitor to the park, Miss Daisy Louise Eley. By contrast, the planting around the West Terrace, in front of and around the restaurant is more contemporary. In May the front of the restaurant is draped in Wisteria flowers. The 'Winter Garden', between the owls and the Siamang gibbons is planted with a wide range of perennials, bulbs and woody plants with an emphasis on providing interest in winter.

Bamboo is a particular favourite at the park, cut regularly for browse for the animals, of which they have planted over fifty varieties. The bamboo grows well here because of regular mulching of rhino manure. There is prairie style planting around the rhino paddock to echo the African plains. The remains of a huge cedar of Lebanon in the Adventure Playground, now supports the children's tree house and slide.


As of October 2006, the Cotswold Wildlife Park holds 40 species which are part of either an ESB (European Studbook) or EEP (European Endangered Species Programme). It is the studbook holder for the red-crested turaco and Mount Omei babbler. In addition, both the crested pigeon and blue-winged kookaburra are monitored species.


All photographs were taken in the park.


  1. ^ "Cotswold Wildlife Park". UK Zoo Directory. Retrieved 2007-06-18. 
  2. ^ "A Little Piece of History". Cotswold Wildlife Park website. Retrieved 2007-06-18. 
  3. ^ "News: Madagascar Coming". Cotswold Wildlife Park website. Retrieved 2007-06-18. 
  4. ^ Tourist and Enthusiast Railways - West Midlands
  • Cotswold Wildlife Park & Gardens Guidebook

External links[edit]