An official history of Cotswold Wildlife Park
Rhinos on the Lawn is the first official book to be published about the Park. It is a rich and heart-warming account of the Park’s unique spirit and evolution over the past four decades.
The Park is the remarkable brainchild of one man, John Heyworth, who in 1969, transformed the bramble-strewn wilderness of Bradwell Grove Estate into a wildlife park visited, loved and appreciated by over 12 million visitors since it officially opened on 27th March 1970. From the late 1970s, the Park had an excellent reputation for its reptile collection, second only to London Zoo.
The great joy of this book is that it is an extraordinary tale of commitment, not only of John Heyworth, whose vision it was, but also of the dedicated and passionate keepers and staff who over the years have contributed so much to the Park and its continuing success. John’s son Reggie now runs the Park, with a vision for the future whilst continuing his father‘s life’s work.
The foreword was written by David Cameron, Prime Minister and MP for Witney. He said, “When Samantha and I first moved to the Cotswolds all those years ago, one of our first family explorations was to the Cotswold Wildlife Park. It was a trip down memory lane as we had both been there as children and had very happy memories of all it had to offer.”
The Prime Minister continued: “Having the Park in my constituency means that I have also occasionally had official dealings with it. I was invited to open the Park’s new train station in 2007, a rare event for an MP. Two years later, the Park wrote to me about the bureaucracy involved with importing two young female white rhinos. I must have helped somehow, because one of them on her eventual arrival at the Park was named Nancy, after my daughter.” The white rhinos bonded so closely with their keepers that they would let them ride on their backs.
The book was written by Matthew Jones who started the project in 2010. While researching the book Matthew discovered many previously unseen photographs and archive documents which will be seen for the very first time in the new book, along with some amazing animal tales. He interviewed over 30 people who had worked and lived at the Park over the past 40 years, recording 30 hours of material.
Matthew said, “I really like the story of the Park’s opening day on Good Friday 1970. Mr Heyworth and the Curator Brian Sinfield were really worried that no one would turn up, but word had got around. They weren’t prepared for the number of people that came and, as the public kept turning up and the traffic queued up to Burford roundabout, everyone including the keepers had to be drafted in to help with ticket sales and clear the backlog, so their pockets were bulging with shillings and pence. Exhausting day.”
“Mr Heyworth would always try to find new animals for the Park when he went on holiday. On a trip to Thailand in 1977, he once tried to bring some snakes home in his hand luggage - he made it onto the plane but his cargo was removed before it took off.”
The book concludes with a quote from John Heyworth, who said, “I’ve had a wonderful life... I’ve enjoyed it all.” And to quote the author: “Cotswold Wildlife Park is his beautiful legacy and it will hopefully continue to delight visitors and create fascinating memories for many more years to come.”
The Book is on sale from 31st March for £12.99 from our Gift Shop, Blackwell’s in Oxford, Waterstones in Witney, and Burford Garden Company.
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