Yesterday, at their invitation, I drove to The Cotswold Wildlife Park near Burford in Oxfordshire. I hadn’t been before and only a complete cupcake would say no to an invite for a free lunch, a guided tour by head gardener, Tim Miles, and free access to the Park, its marvellous animals and lovely grounds.
Lunch and tour marked the publication of a new book by Harriet Rycroft and Tim – ‘The Cotswold Wildlife Park, A Celebration of the Gardens.’
Harriet had invited twenty or so social media and blogging types to the event, and that was another good reason for me to attend. Seeing bloggers I know, or otherwise putting a face to a blog title or Twitter handle, is always enjoyable – and for the latter, somewhat intriguing.
After coffee and introductions, we set out into the wilds on an in-depth tour of the grounds. Since the Park’s foundation in 1970, the aim has been for the gardens to be as integral a part of the visitor experience as the animals are, especially since Tim joined 20 years ago. The book describes this aim, “to develop planting which gives an immersive experience to the visitors and a sense of security to the animals …. planting must, of course, let the visitors see into the enclosures but we also use plants to blur the lines between visitors, animals and the wider landscape.” Having visited many zoos, I know too well how their vistas can consist of little else than the odd tree, paving, concrete and steel.
The gardening team at Burford have met their brief with gusto, flair and, I think, great success. Yet it’s a tricky goal to score. The flora mustn’t detract from the main event, the fauna, nor overly compete with it.
After all, the majority of visitors come to see rhinos,
rather than elegant drifts of prairie planting – however stunning the latter might be.
Tim and his team have created an amazingly rich and varied landscape – which adds a layer of complexity to the place which I certainly don’t remember from Whipsnade, for example. And if the plants managed to pull this particular animal lover’s eye away from the lions, leopards and red pandas it was as an added bonus rather than a distraction. There is ambitious container planting, an envy-inducing hot Med courtyard, fascinating cacti and succulent collections, new vegetable beds, tropical planting, a planned arboretum and loads more.
And now, Harriet and Tim have written a fascinating and beautifully illustrated book about the gardens, with 475 photographs and plenty of detail on the planting. Each of us lucky ‘Social Media Event’ attendees were presented with a copy. Jim, who came along too – if not quite believing his luck that I hadn’t left him at home – also picked up a copy.
And now I feel bad that we have two copies and you have none. So, in a rebalancing of karma and shamed into action by The Zen Lemur, I’m offering one of our copies – unopened and without food stains – as a giveaway. Heck, I’m even going to pay the postage myself. If that’s not worth a few extra points on the good karma scale, I’ll want to know why.
‘The Cotswold Wildlife Park, A Celebration of the Gardens’ by Harriet Rycroft and Tim Miles is printed by The Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens and available from their WEBSITE for £18 inc p&p. (Overseas postage varies – please enquire on website).
But if you’d like to win an unstained copy of this beautiful book, a book responsible for the longest post title in history on The Anxious Gardener, here’s all you need to do:
say you want to enter in the “Any Thoughts” box below
um, that’s it. No conditions, no trade-off, no pay-back. Because I for one just say no to bad karma.
Please note that the prize can only be posted to a UK postal address. My bounty doesn’t extend to worldwide shipping. Sorry.
The competition will close at midnight on Sunday 16th June 2019.
I’ll draw a name from my prettiest hat, contact the winner by email and add the result to the bottom of this post in a week’s time.
And for those of you who don’t win, here’s some lemur consolation.
And a photo of a baby black-tailed prairie dog … just, well, just because.