The group from Bethany Junior School in Boscombe, Bournemouth, had a tremendous time exploring the park and seeing all manner of exotic wildlife. Zebra, giraffes and rhinos grazing, penguins splashing about in their pool, inquisitive monkeys, colourful tropical birds and farm animals offered a varied and absorbing day to remember.

It was an early start and the excited children climbed aboard their Laguna coach ready to set-off at 7.30am. They arrived at Cotswold Wildlife Park just as it opened. First stop was the penguins that were out for their morning swim. Meerkats, monkeys and small mammals were fascinating to watch too. The goats at the farm particularly enjoyed meeting the children. Before lunch a walk round the park to see the zebra, giraffes and rhinos that looked magnificent as the slightly subdued light showed up their colouring and markings so well. The paddocks are surrounded by ditches, so there are no big fences and the animals can be viewed in the landscape … a superb experience for the young visitors.

The children loved looking at all the animals

Lunch was in the Orangery, a lovely spacious setting, and the food was delicious and well presented. The children really enjoyed the food and after main courses including cheese or tuna jacket potatoes with salad and coleslaw, vegetable curry or chilli con carne with rice and fish and chips with peas or baked beans, had fun cupcakes decorated with lion, tiger and pig faces.

The children enjoyed a ride around the park on the train

Then everyone climbed aboard a little train that went all around the park. There were ice-creams and time on the adventure playground before the journey home. A stop at McDonalds Ferndown insured everyone had supper before arriving back at school. Before going home each child was given a tin of celebration chocolates. It really had been a fantastic day.

Frances Cornelius, chair of Variety Wessex, said:

Our thanks to all those who help to fund our fantastic trips for these very special children particularly Shan and the Bournemouth Boys Club and various very generous anonymous donors. Thank-you too Reggie Heyworth and all the staff at Cotswold Wildlife Park, particularly Matt at the restaurant who made sure lunch was on time and really excellent. Thank you Gill from Laguna and our driver Steve who ensured our safe and efficient travel. Also, Josh at McDonalds Ferndown for sorting out our tables and meals.