Vision of £7.5m safari park that could bring a touch of Africa to Watlington

An illustration of how Watlington Safari Park could look. Photo courtesy of Rural Solutions Ltd.
An illustration of how Watlington Safari Park could look. Photo courtesy of Rural Solutions Ltd.
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Flamingos, zebras and wildebeest could soon be roaming on a former quarry site in Watlington if a vision of a £7.5m safari park is realised.

A brochure sent to residents in the village says that Watlington Safari Park would bring 237 full-time construction jobs and £3.57m to the local economy every year.

A statement in the brochure says: “We want to create an exceptional wildlife experience, with birds and animals alike behaving naturally, and enjoying life, despite some being thousands of miles from their native lands.”

If the project does become a reality, it will be “not only unique to West Norfolk but also the first of its kind in the United Kingdom”, it adds.

Edward Pope, who is behind the proposals, said: “I am passionate about the conservation of endangered animals and birds.

“For several years I have provided a refuge and breeding program, mainly for grazing African species, at my home near Watlington in Norfolk, many of which are endangered.

“Now, I want to build on that work by expanding this refuge to form a visitor experience that people can enjoy and which can become a centre for education and extraordinary wildlife experiences.”

As well as hundreds of construction jobs, the park would create 14 full-time positions, and other part-time opportunities.

The proposed site is a large, open area of land, which was formerly a quarry, on the eastern edge of Watlington.

The brochure, produced by Rural Solutions Ltd, says the park would be a “centre of conservation excellence”, where visitors could see non-predatory wildlife in a “natural, open environment without cages or pens”.

Plans for the main visitor centre, called The Stingray, include an education room, café and function facilities.

Any guests wishing to stay overnight would have the opportunity, as two holiday lets and log cabins are also included in the proposals.

“It is planned to include education visits for local schools and for some local children to be given free access via a golden ticket system,” the brochure adds.

“In this way the park has the potential to introduce the next generation to extraordinary and varied wildlife that they would otherwise not have the chance to encounter.

“The park will be a special form of arcadia and coming to visit it will be a treat.

“So, it is the intention to carefully control visitor numbers by limiting car parking availability and utilising an on-line booking system so that the impact on the local area is properly managed and the specialness of the experience is preserved.”