Sunday, September 20, 2009

CRICKET St Thomas Wildlife Park

I note that the shape shifting 'The West Country Wildlife Park', 'Cricket St Thomas Wildlife Park' is to change yet again. This time it will become 'Cricket St Thomas Gardens and Wildlife Park'.

More animals are to be moved on and a number of jobs lost. I never thought for a moment that a purely profit motivated organisation like Warner Leisure Hotels would stick it out with conservation participation. The only surprise is that it has taken them so long to get round to it. Organisations of this genre should never get involved with animals. What they are doing is akin to buying a puppy for Christmas and abandoning it on New Years Day. It is all very well saying "We're looking for really lovely homes for the larger animals." Very noble. But this means captive spaces lost within the various managed breeding programmes. It will be difficult to recover them elsewhere.

Whatever the name, the house and gardens will endure. They are beautiful as is the setting in the valley.

I hold the place with some special affection as I was curator (and elephant keeper) here back in the early 1970's. My wife and I first lived in the 'big house'. The top left hand window in the photograph below.

Back in those days it was very much a family run organisation. It was a nice place to work at. Everyone knew everyone else and for the most part got on very well.

There were three large dairy herds. Pheasant shoots. Fishing and Fox Hunting. It was very much 'country' with capital C.

Later we moved into the Garden Cottage in the Walled Garden. It was the oldest building on the estate with its roots somewhere in the 1500's. Haunted? I don't recollect but if you look at the statue in the churchyard above, that was lying prone on ground when I first moved to the park. It had been layed down as it had scared the beejeebers out of so many people at night.

I recollect it being raised to standing position with some ceremony. After the walled garden was locked up at night the shortcut in and out was to hop over the wall (to the left, where the yew trees are) and through the churchyard. The statue did make me jump on the odd misty night when it seemed to move on its own.

I left in 1973. It was a sad move in many ways and I do have a tinge of regret but I know I could never have faced its later metamorphosis into 'Blobby Land'.

There were other changes of course over the years till it is what it is today. Shedding animals, shedding jobs. It is never a good sign but at least the gardens will endure.

Warner Leisure have milked the 500 Rare and Endangered animals for all they are worth but now it is time to cast them off.

1 comment:

  1. This is such sad news. I loved my visits there to see the animals. I agree they have abandoned those animals and it is awful. Thise porr creatures ahve known that place as home and now they are to (will have been by now) shipped hither and yon!