Alliums and Rhinos

The Cotswold Wildlife Park – A celebration of the gardens. A book by Harriet Hycroft with Tim Miles.

Alliums and Rhinos, Oaks and Giraffes. Great combination plantings don’t you think? The humble onion family and some of the most endangered animals? Both may make you tearful in one way or another. Well, welcome to The Cotswold Wildlife Park, near Burford, where you will find the most beautiful mix of wild and formal. Where Safari meets Sissinghurst, Madagascar meets The Manor House and the Lemurs meet the Lawns.


This weekend just gone, I was very lucky to be invited to visit the wildlife park by kind invitation of Harriet Rycroft who is a whizz at all things container related. Not only does she have a fountain of knowledge in this area, she also takes some cracking photographs and has just published her first book with Tim Miles. It’s full of great imagery and describes all the details of the gardens within the park. The gardens are incredible and are as equally just as important as the park animals themselves. There are grass borders, formal borders, an arid garden, a walled garden and tropical house. There is so much here, it is like you’ve opened an incredible tub of ‘Quality Street’ which has plenty of everyone’s ‘best ones!’ If you are a plantsman the collections are diverse from trees, palms and the Poaceae family of beds, lawns, meadows, and bamboos!

All aboard the ‘pink knuckle ride’

The book launch and tour of the gardens started with a talk by Reggie Heyworth, managing director and son of the park’s founder the late John Heyworth. He explained the history and the vision: To make it the most beautiful wildlife park. It is so lovely to see the vision being fulfilled to this day summed up by three keywords.




Reggie jokes about the nickname of the train that runs through the park. Enjoyed by grandparents and children ‘The Pink Knuckle Ride’ was always full. Anyone want a ride?

Madagascar. ‘Hail King Julian!

Following on from the talk we got the chance to see the opening of Madagascar before the public at 11am. I was particularly engaged with ‘King Julian’ and his tribe of cuddling and sunbathing lemurs. It was particularly interesting to hear the research that goes on in what to plant inside the enclosures. For instance, Eucalyptus trees with higher oil contents are planted to make them less palatable. Mainly planting for the feeling of impact of being in Madagascar. Most plants would be stripped and so it’s a continual development. Life would be boring without a challenge they say!

A taste of Tims tour

After Madagascar, we were privileged to have a tour with Tim miles, Head Gardener. Grass borders, once straight lined and planted with Pampas grass had changed to curvaceous meanders. Stipa and Nasella sway in the exposed open position will the yellow of Achillea and Baptisia and the pop of orange Kniphophia blending beautifully with all creature alliums, great and small. These all blending into the Cotswold hills and hiding the haha and sunken electric fence. The tour continued…

Tim has been Head Gardener for 20 years. He explains that it was the right time to have a book about the gardens and its vast collection. Harriet also explained that she still likes to be hands-on in the gardens as well as publish. I think with any type of journalism: author, presenter, columnist or social media poster, you need to connect with the thing you write about. Ground yourself, get hands on. As a self employed horticulturist who does this 99% of my working time. I find I need this to enable me to type, talk or write.

The Cotswold Wildlife Park – A celebration of the gardens. A book by Harriet Hycroft with Tim Miles is available for £18 inc. delivery.

I wish the book every success if you haven’t been and want to know more about the garden, as they say, it’s all in the book! Please visit if you can and purchase the book. You will not be disappointed!

Rocky 🙂

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