Sometimes London can start to grind down on us and when we are in need of some famous UK bucolic countryside with fresh air, wisteria and stone walls we swap Victorian houses and glass skyscrapers for the trees and fields of Oxfordshire.
On a perfectly autumnal morning in November we decided to leave London behind in search of golden leaves, friendly animals and adventure playgrounds on a visit to The Cotswold Wildlife Park.
Mr John Heyworth started the Cotswold Wildlife Park in 1970 at Bradwell Grove to share his love of nature with as many people as possible and he has certainly succeeded in his aims as his son Reggie now runs this very popular family friendly attraction. The park is now a delight to all with its beautifully landscaped gardens, the imposing manor house and the friendliest of animals.
First up the toddler, who is very much a train enthusiast, is attracted to the narrow-gauge railway and we all climb aboard on a circular route around the Park. We waved frantically at the flamingoes that were having a siesta on one leg and waved hello to all the goats, camels and ponies we could see. The mighty daddy rhino Monty had us gobsmacked by his sheer size (adults included) and we were also lucky enough to be acquainted with baby Stella, the most recent addition to the Rhino family and the park as a whole. The train ride costs £1 per ride with under 3’s going free. Fun fact, the narrow-gauge railway was officially opened by David Cameron back in in 2007 when he was the local MP, and I am told he also named one of the female Rhinos ‘Nancy’ in honour of his daughter.
After our train ride we took a stroll along the giraffe walkway where we made eye contact with several of our most favourite long necked mammals, roamed amongst the bushy tailed Lemurs (all 26 of them) and waddled along with the Penguins in the Walled Garden.
The next stop and most likely the highlight of our visit with a nearly three year old was the Skymaze Adventure playground where we climbed over 20 feet high on to the interconnecting tree houses and walkways with jungle bridges and slides. We zipped around on the zip wires, got sand in our feet in the sand pit and enjoyed running the place down. We tried to outdo the lemurs and climbed up and down the tree house a few times, until grandma’s knees could not take any more climbing, so we moved on to say hello to the friendliest ponies and the African Pygmy Goats.
After much creative outdoor play with the toddler we were all famished so we stopped in the Oak Tree Restaurant for a quick snack and a little rest before we could find our way to join penguins for their dinner time which was a fishy feast. Penguin feeding time is very popular with kids and their families. They are fun to watch and the kids get to observe and learn more about their behaviour, their swimming skills and their waddling walks. We giggled a lot and joined in the fun alongside other kids with the uuuhh, and aaahhs at the penguins showing off their skills.
After dinner with the penguins we enjoyed strolling around the beautiful landscaped gardens and tired the toddler out a bit more. The gardens create a beautiful surrounding for the animals as well as the many visitors to the site and the park is dog friendly too (which means you can stroll along with your pooch and take in the beauty of the changing seasons).
Cotswold Wildlife Park does a lot of conservation work and hosts various yearly events including Lemur Week, Penguin Day and Rhino Month and has raised over £120,000 for conservation work in Africa in the last ten years through various fundraising events.
The Park relies completely on visitors and receives no outside help from other sources and their admission prices remain one of the lowest in the UK with the online e-ticket prices not increasing since 2014.
There are plenty of other activities for children and teens at the park including the Junior Keeper Experience where young people can see what it is like to care for these amazing animals. There are also seasonal events as well as the daily activities that run throughout the year. Check out what is on here (and start planning).
Cotswold Wildlife Park is open daily and entry is £16 at the gate for an adult ticket and £14 for an e-ticket with children from 3 to 16 paying £10.50 at the gate and £9.50 online and under 3 going free. More info and booking here.