Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Manor House Wildlife Park

Manor House Wildlife Park
This summer I have been drawing at Manor House Wildlife Park which is a small zoo set in 52 acres of rolling wooded countryside near the picturesque village of St Florence (near Tenby, Pembrokeshire).  In 2008 the zoo was bought by a celebrity TV presenter called Anna Ryder Richardson, it was in a very dilapidated state.  Anna and her husband Colin have worked hard to create a modern forward looking zoo. 
The smart Georgian Manor house is entirely given over to a Cafe-Restaurant complex where they sell pizza, chips, tea and cakes to the crowds of summer tourists.  On sunny days the visitors mostly eat their food under a covered terrace at the back of the house, others take their food to picnic tables on the spacious lawn in front of the house. 

The Manor House


This lawn is the main communal area with many children's facilities: a bouncy castle, toys that have been provided by the venue and a huge dragon carved out of the remains of an old tree that stands on  a raised dais with tunnels underneath through which children can crawl and play hide and seek.   

The Dragon

there is also a friendly ginger cat that visits the tables and peacocks that ask to be fed scraps of food


  and shed feathers which the children then collect

Stella with an Ostrich Feather in her Rucksack

The majority of visitors are young families with children, these people provided me with endless drawing opportunities.

Sasha and her little boy Grayson
Grandfather and a little Boy

On one side of the lawn is a life size model of a rhinoceros over which children are allowed to clamber.
Little Girl on a Rhinocerous Statue
There are Hoola Hoops
Hoola Hoop

Girl on  Tricycle

and bouncers

and for £3 the children can have their faces painted
Girl with a Painted Face

by Gemma
Gemma looking after the Visitors
Whilst the children play the adults mostly sit at the tables
Picnic Table

nearby is the only remaining cage from the old zoo where for many years (under the management of the previous owners) a gibbon called Steve was confined  in lonely isolation.    

Steve's Old Cage

This bleak and claustrophobic cage is now only being used as the temporary home for a pair of Macaws who are being acclimatised to the zoo

Steve the Gibbon now lives with two other gibbons on an island with high trees.  Watching the lugubrious movements of the three animals as they move through the branches plucking leaves to eat is one of the most evocative sights at Manor House Park.

Gibbons at Manor Park
Not far from the lawn are spacious enclosures for the smaller animals.   This little girl
Little Girl watching the Meekats

was watching a colony of meerkats.

Nearby are more enclosures with farm animals that the children can pat and stroke.   There are goats

A Girl and a Goat at Manor Park

and three hairy spotted pigs

A Pig at Manor Park
There are also walk-in enclosures where lemurs walk up to the visitors, but we are forbidden to touch them.

Lemurs at Manor Park

nearby there is a sandpit for toddlers

Toddlers in the Sandpit at Manor Park

 and tyres on ropes

Tyre on ropes at Manor Park

and beams for the boys to dangle from

Boy dangling froma beam at Manor Park

Indulgent mothers watch their children from benches

Mother watching her child at Manor Park

 or tend their babies

Mother feeding her Child at Manor Park

Mother and Child at Manor Park

To see the bigger animals you take path through a little grotto with outcrops of rock.
Walking Through a Grotto at Manor Park
This leads to another wide path that makes a big loop that is perhaps 1/2 of a mile long.  This footway is lined with rich vegetation

 and summer flowers

Willowherb and Meadowsweet

 that buzz with hover lies and bumble bees

Insects on Hogweed at Manor Park

The disabled use motorised buggies that are provided by the zoo and some children take the trikes from the lawn.  The big animals each have several acres  with facilities that are considerate to their needs. 

Where the hills are steep the father carry their smallest children

There are zebras and camels

Camels and Zebra at Manor Park

Three white rhinos

White Rhinoserouses at Manor Park

three elegant oryx with majestic long horns

Oryx at Manor Park


Ostriches at Manor Park

and a friendly pair of emus that make a booming sound

Emus at Manor Park

There is a tapir that has a pond in which it wallows (it has a baby which I have not seen)

A tapir that wallows in a rush lined pool

and two scruffy Llamas which the tapir chases away when it feels they come too close to her baby

Llama at Manor Park

and at the end of the walk is a woodland play areas

Children playing on a rustic See-Saw

Recently the zoo has acquired a Sumatran Tiger as part of an International breeding program.  I saw this spectacular animal climbing a tree but have not drawn it yet.

Dotted along the pathways are educational posters about the animals and International conservation projects that Manor House has become part of.   I am full of admiration for how well Anna and Colin have created this forward looking zoo in such a short space of time.  The staff all seem to be well motivated and enthusiastic, and sometimes on busy days Colin works with them collecting dishes and working alongside them in the canteen. 

Manor Houses is an exciting day out as well as an opportunity for parents to teach their children to respect the environment and be kind to animals. 
I have one suggestion; I personally would like to see Manor Park integrate the abundance of British wildlife that their park already contains with their International conservation ethos.  The mild wet Pembrokeshire climate makes the weeds flourish, I could write several posts on the rich diversity of British birds, mammals, butterflies, bees, moths that share the park with the rare animals from far away countries.  It is ironic that these riches are hardly appreciated by the majority of visitors who have their focus constantly drawn towards the exotic species.

Bumblebee on Napweed
Conservation, like charity, becomes much more interesting when it is grounded in an appreciation of what is happening in our own homes.

The park is well worth a visit.  This is their website address where you can find details of opening times and how to get there:  http://www.annaswelshzoo.co.uk

A comment from Manor Park:  And also you mention about the lack of integration and recognition of native wildlife here at the Zoo. Well we do actively promote our own wildlife which is why we have insect hotels and a whole host of areas where species can flourish and are left natural for this purpose including borders in the car parks.  

Although we are primarily promoting conservation & preservation of the most endangered species from around the world, we also recognise that our own wildlife is suffering too.  Our emphasis here is as an educational resource that schools and groups can utilise for example the Darwin Group run workshops here all year round, and community and disabled groups are encouraged to come along and learn all about our own native wildlife and insects. However, there is always room for improvement!

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