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COTSWOLD Wildlife Park is one of few animal attractions that can claim to have the endorsement of the country’s most influential man, writes Chris Smith.
Opened 40 years ago in the heart of one of the most quintessentially English parts of this land, it also just happens to be in the constituency of Prime Minister David Cameron.
And Mr Cameron is no stranger to the park, having opened its new miniature railway station back in 2007 and more recently named two rhinos Nancy and Ruby after his own daughters.
But that is not the only claim the park has to being one of the country’s finest.
It has probably one of the most picturesque, and natural, settings of any animal attraction in the country - if not the world.
But don’t let its quaintness in the heart of the Cotswold’s and in the shadow of a country manor house fool you into thinking this is not an important player in the zoological world.
It was back in 1970 that estate owner John Heyworth open it up to the public. Fast forward 41 years and it now has one of the biggest and most diverse animal collections in the UK with over 280 species now calling this beautiful park home.
My visit on a sunny September day was not our first time here: my daughter’s deep love of animals means there are not many animal attractions we have not been to in the three years since she was born.
And this is one of the best because the focus of this family-run park remains firmly on the animals. There are no neon lights at the entrance and there are no theme park-style rides – mainly because they are not needed.
There is an natural feel to the park with the main enclosures with camels, rhinos and zebras appearing to roam free while the lions' roars can be heard all around.
Visitors really do feel they are on safari as viewing platforms by the giraffe section and through where the wolves live allow you to get up close.
And don't forget to hop on the train for a ride around the outskirts of the park, probably a good idea to to do this first to give you a taster of what to expect and where to go on your day out here.
As with most animal attractions there is a reptile house, café and play area, and you can see the animals being fed regularly throughout the day.
There is also a recently opened walk-through Madagascar exhibit where you can see at close hand the park's ten species of Lemur, Tree Boas, Radiated Tortoise, Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches, Madagascan Teal and the bizarre Madagascan Giant Jumping Rat.
Cotswold Wildlife Park is off the beaten track, located around two miles south of Burford in Oxfordshire between Oxford and Cheltenham - but it is well worth the visit and if you can find it you will be sure to return.
It is open all year round and admission will not break the bank at £13.00 for adults, and £9 for children and 65s and over. There is an additional charge for a ride on the wildlife express train.
Full details of how to get their and opening times are online at ww.cotswoldwildlifepark.co.uk.
A Great Day Out: Truly Britain's ultimate caste: visit www.coventryobserver.co.uk/2011/10/11/entertainment-review-18532.html
A Great Day Out: Youth revisited at Drayton Manor: visit www.coventryobserver.co.uk/2011/10/11/entertainment-review-16766.html
A Great Day Out: Piggy backing the popularity of a child phenomenon: visit www.coventryobserver.co.uk/2011/10/11/entertainment-review-18533.html
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