The Half Round and Bus Shelter

The Half Round and the Bus Shelter, Newquay Zoo,  November 2017




One of the strange buildings from the 1970s near our 1982/3 Dragon Maze is the ‘Bus Shelter’.

For decades this oddly nicknamed little building has kept many visitors dry in the occasional rain that Cornwall gets.

It is built into the woodland bank of what is known to some as The Maze Road  and an older name, The Half Round.

I was never entirely sure why it had this name of old – is it because of its half a circle shape? Is it the  distance round the zoo from the Entrance, halfway round the zoo?

‘Public Shelter’ Newquay Zoo Guidebook map c. 1983 / mid 1980s


No. 23 Public Shelter  on our Children’s Guidebook c. 1989
1969 70 NZ map
Not there yet – the half round, maze  and bus shelter would be built late 1970s /early 1980s to  the left of areas 8 to 11 on this 1969 /70 map. Leopards (9) is where the new Gems of the Jungle now sits, 2017.


The clear plastic ‘Bus Shelter’ roof itself is supported by some old cast iron columns, possibly reused from another structure.


Despite decades of repainting, we can see that the  iron upright  columns are of local manufacture, from Sara and Sons, Redruth.

According to Grace’s Guide,  W. Sara and Sons of Redruth were Brass and Iron Founders. Their other work is frequently seen beneath your feet around Cornwall.

Proudly stamped ‘Redruth’, a relic of Cornwall’s past heavy engineering days.
An informative bit of reading whilst sheltering from the rain – one of our older endangered animal breeding programme sign November 2017.
More handy rainyday reading – a colourful large 2017 update sign on our onsite breeding programmes and  the overseas conservation where Newquay Zoo and the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust works.  It’s what we do …

Some of the stranger sights seen on the Half Round and from The Bus Shelter include the International World Pasty Flinging Championships (event currently resting, 2017).

Running alongside the Bus Shelter on the steep wooded bank above the Half Round / Maze Road is a native wildlife area.

This wild wooded bank area is home at one end to our 2004 / 2009 Newquay Zoo Time Capsule.

The strangest inhabitants along the Half Round or Maze Road in the past were a ‘lively’ family  of free-ranging rare Cotton Top Tamarins, released c. 1996  for a few years on wildness training into the treetops around their house on stilts built amongst these trees. But that is another story …

A little bit of wildlife gardening or leaving well alone …
Stoutly built Rockery beside the Bus Shelter, built c. 2009/10
Temporary sign renaming the Tarzan Trail area 2017
Once the steps (if not the door) to Adventure …
An even quieter edge to the Zoo, the Woodland Walk (Tarzan Trail site) minus the play equipment, Nov. 2017

woodland walk 2 2017 .jpg

Where monkeys once free-ranged c. 1996 … a view from the Woodland Walk (Tarzan Trail) over the Maze Road / Half Round Nov. 2017
And back down again …
A glimpse of some of the Tarzan Trail equipment newly added in this late 1980s / early 1990s Newquay Zoo / Animal World poster.
Half round build (Michael Perry source)
From our website: The half round being built (early 1980s) in a photo from retired Head Gardener Mike Perry.


Another quite little corner of Newquay Zoo’s history explored and recorded.

We will feature the Dragon Maze (built 1982/3) in a future blogpost.

As we approach our 50th Birthday in May 2019, we would love to hear your Newquay Zoo memories and see your early zoo photos. Contact us via the comments box.

Blogposted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo History blog, November 2017.

Material from the Newquay Zoo Archive.


Strange Things Happened on My Way to The Zoo by Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas book cover

A  lazy blogpost for October 2017 – If you want to read one person’s entertaining view of Newquay Zoo’s history from 1993-2003, then this is the book to read.

Strange Things Happened On My Way To The Zoo by Mike Thomas

Published in 2010 by Cornish publisher Alison Hodge, copies are still available on Amazon, your local library and there are some good online bargains on second-hand copies.

‘Strange Things’  is the nearest thing we have to a Newquay Zoo history in print so far, albeit only covering the Newquay Animal World / Newquay Zoo years of private ownership from 1993-2003 by Mike Thomas and Roger Martin.

Mike grew up in Wales, taught in Cornwall, ran several businesses and eventually ran the Seal Sanctuary in Gweek until 1993/4. As a result, Newquay Zoo’s part of the Mike Thomas  story only begins 56 pages in but fills the rest of the 100 odd pages of pictures, many of the pictures by zoo photographer Michelle Turton.

There is too much to summarise in these 100 pages but it covers the Foot and Mouth outbreak in 2001, the Red Arrows ‘visit’, the 1999 Eclipse, various famous faces opening new enclosures, several years tracking down the truth behind the local Exotic Big Cat stories, along with many special animal births and a few sad partings.

MIke Thomas book cover back

I knew Mike and Jenny before they took on the zoo and when it first reopened, I was soon added to the small staff team, mostly in my case to set up a Zoo / College partnership and develop the promising schools work.

I’m mentioned in passing and pictured in the book, and was proud  to attend the book’s launch at Fowey Literary Festival 2010 with fellow zoo college colleague and Alison Hodge author Dr. Mike Kent.  Mike, Mike and I worked on the founding partnership of Cornwall College Newquay courses.

Gerald Durrell’s influence from Jersey Zoo is recognised in the book and also in the name of one of our college buildings.

Mike Thomas, ever the former teacher, mentioned on his retirement in 2003 that this college partnership was one of his proudest achievements  of his ten zoo years.

Now properly retired, Mike and his wife Jenny still pop in to the zoo quietly from time to time with various grandchildren to see how things have developed under the charitable trust ownership of the Whitley Wildlfe Conservation Trust, which took over running Newquay Zoo in 2003.  He is especially pleased how Cornwall College Newquay has grown and thrived since its beginnings in the year 2000.

My Amazon review at the time of the launch (2010) proabably says all I have to say about the book:

“Like others who’ve read & reviewed the book, this was revisiting an earlier part of my working life for me too at the same zoo. It’s a highly readable book (and I know a lot had to be left out too in this volume) but doesn’t avoid any of the difficulties we went through redeveloping the zoo. Mike crops up in Ben Mee’s ‘zoo rescue’ book too. Money was often very tight and Mike’s showmanship, gift of the gab, sense of humour and imagination were often needed. Often you can see how these qualities were drawn from his early life and experiences As a result, the book has its fair share of funny stories and character animals too, many of whom I remember (sometimes painfully, I got bitten by a fair few!) just as Mike describes them.”
“Researching the challenges facing wartime zoos as I am at the moment, I’ve read lots of zoo memoirs especially by directors. I know that it must be difficult fitting all one’s own viewpoint of complex, funny and difficult situations into one book and how difficult it is to describe to fit all the unusual characters encountered (zoo animal and human) in one volume, so I look forward to book two!”

Surfing Sue, another former member  of staff,  wrote on Amazon review:

“As a fellow traveller on some of Mike’s strange journey I knew much of the story but by no means all. He has led a fascinating life full of interesting characters, both human and animal. There’s Randy the potato loving raccoon, Peru the streetwise penguin and Exotic Clive the… you’ll have to read the book to find out what or who Clive is. Mike has an entertaining writing style that evokes the feeling of a coffee time chat rather than a faceless narration. His passion for education and dedication to the creatures in his care are an inspiration, as are the accolades he achieved whilst at the helm of the zoo.”

The book is a small tribute to a lot of hard work by a lot of people and to the great support by its many visitors over the years.

Not every event from 1993 to 2003 could have made it into this short book. Not every member of zoo staff  could be mentioned and many were the stories that staff regretted never made it into the book.


After all, it is Mike’s life story and can only be  one person’s view of running the zoo – many of the other  stories are tucked away in our Archive in the pages of Paw Prints our zoo newsletter. Material for future blog posts!

Several of our previous blog posts feature material from “The Mike Thomas Years” (1993-2003) at Newquay Zoo.

Posted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo history blog, October 2017.


Two by Two into the Newquay Zoo Ark

ark entrance 1997
The Newquay Zoo entrance Ark c. 1996/7 (Mark Norris pictured right with David Woolcock from Paradise Park Hayle – for some forgotten occasion?)


If you have ever wondered why our Newquay Zoo Ticket Office and Entrance are called the Ark, here is why!

Around 1993/4 the original zoo entrance was remodelled by Mike Thomas into the shape of an Ark, complete with dove cot above (not fun to clean out).

The symbolism of the zoo as an Ark for endangered species was obviously the idea, based on Gerald Durrell’s book The Stationary Ark (1970s, still in print, still a good read).

ark gates mural 1997
Sadly there is no record of who these young people are! c. 1996/7


These gate murals of  animals going into the Ark, painted  to celebrate  the rebuilt ARK entrance at Newquay Zoo, caused  occasional confusion amongst visitors.

ark-gates-mural-1997 crop
Fuzzy blow up of the Ark gates mural of animals we had and noticeably didn’t …


“Where were the giraffes, the rhinos, the elephants shown on the gates?” asked slightly annoyed or puzzled visitors.

It would be another ten years, a change of name  and another change of ownership before we sort of did have giraffe, rhino and elephants – by joining up with Paignton Zoo as part of the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust (WWCT). If I now  get asked where our elephants or giraffes are, I usually now point helpfully in the direction of Devon.

David young opening Ark 1994
TV’s David Young, new zoo owner Mike Thomas and Deputy Mayor of Restormel Mrs Avis Job (previous operators of Newquay Zoo / Animal World) outside the newly constructed Ark entrance c.  1993/4. Note the old logo and the New Arrivals at Animal World sign – Damara Zebra on to our ‘old’ African Plains in the centre of the zoo. This is probably lovely old Etosha the Zebra.


David Young, who is seen in our  press cutting (c. 1993/4) opening the new Zoo entrance, was the host of the TSW show on South west television called Oliver’s Travels, after his dog Oliver (which makes him one of the few non-assistance dogs to have been allowed on site).


Then 1996/7 and now 2017 …


The heritage rust of our gates have recently been renewed with new gates for the first time in at least 25 years, maybe even 48 years …

Our shiny new Newquay Zoo gates and the Ark entrance, 2017.


The old pigeon or dove cot (note the Biblical Ark story symbolism) is now quiet, claened out and boxed in.

Where pigeons once cooed … inside the zoo and the Ark entrance 2017.

So that is the story of the curious ongoing name of the Ark?

Some staff might remember an attempt to rename this area in a staff suggestion / competition when the murals,  pigeons and doves  had gone and the Ark shape had been partly removed.


The winning suggestion was “The Lodge”, but many years later this has never really caught on. The Ark it still is then …

Cheski (keeper Mark Tomaszewski) mentioned on our phone list above is another big chunk of Newquay Zoo history, whom we will feature in our November or December Newquay Zoo history blog post.

Posted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo History blog, September / October 2017.

Newquay Zoo Fossas 2003 to 2017


Newly arrived Fossa, our cover animal for the 2003/4 Newquay Zoo Guidebook.


Whoops! We forgot to do a Newquay Zoo history blog post in August and September 2017, so here is another passing bit of Newquay Zoo history to enjoy.

A busy few months. So here is the August blog post in October.

This month’s photo shows the new 2017 sign on the old small 1970/1 African Lion House at Newquay Zoo.

This enclosure also once housed rescued Pumas Shane and Tina (1990s) and then from 2003,  a pair of rare Madagascan Fossas called Mavis and Harry, pictured on our 2003/4 Guidebook.

The Fossas were named after local early adoptors Mavis and Harry Everitt. Their baby Litle Geoff was born 2007 (named after staff member the late Geoff Gerry) and later went off on breeding loan to a zoo in Poland.

Mavis died a year or two ago. The ageing Harry patiently waited for a suitable female to become available somewhere in the UK or Europe  – then a new host zoo and prospective partner turned up in the U.A.E.

Harry left Newquay Zoo on April 7th, 2017.

We are told that  Harry  has settled well into his new zoo and some of the pictures of him settling in  are used on our  colourful temporary sign “Bye Bye Harry!”

The near 50 year old enclosure is currently empty, awaiting redevelopment over time as funds become available. Watch this space.

Another little snippet of Newquay Zoo history.

Posted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo History blog, August / October 2017.

Newquay Zoo Pocket Pictures 2001

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThere must be few sets of these Newquay Zoo Pocket Pictures from 2001 remaining intact.

Produced by our enterprising zoo photographer and Marketing Manager in 2001, Michelle Turton, these were sold in the zoo shop.

The fact that my complete series one set includes a free ‘Special’ Ronnie and Lizzie the Lions card  marked in red ‘this card only available with the full set’  suggests that Michelle’s attractive mini-photograph cards might have been on sale individually too in our zoo shop.

Set One header and special Ronnie and Lizzy Card 2001

The cards as you can see were highly educational as well as highly collectable with a few animal facts on the back.


Mammals and reptiles card fronts …


… with educational facts  on the back.

A wide range of species were featured in Set One of 18 cards (plus Special).

Mammals and birds …
… with mammal or  bird facts on the back of each card.  

I photographed these cards in low light to prevent glare from the shiny cards and their protective plastic sleeves. This makes them a little fuzzy, whilst respecting the copyright of Michelle Turton’s original pictures.

Something links these 10 of the 18 cards – they are all animal species here in 2001 that have moved on or are no longer found at Newquay Zoo today (2017).  

The cards show the changing species at Newquay Zoo since 2001.



It is interesting to look at the cards close up. Snowy Owls or Hedwigs were highly popular in 2001, several books into the Harry Potter series (which began around 1997).




Problems with pet reptile keeping or unwanted pet reptiles at this time (c. 2001) are reflected in the message on the back of the Iguana. Both these common reptile pets  grow quite large, become strong  and even grumpy and so were then frequently offered  to Newquay Zoo by their despairing or even desperate owners.

Our Tropical House used to be full of Common Green Iguanas. Only one of those, no doubt called Iggy, was friendly and chilled out enough to use for animal encounters, if you wore a protective leather jacket to protect your skin from claws. Responsible reptile pet ownership or reasons for not having one was a frequent theme of our reptile based talks, events and animal encounters between 1996 and 2001.


Big Cats, Beasts and free ranging Cotton Top Tamarins …


In 1996 we started preparing our Cotton Top Tamarin small monkeys for release from the Tropical House out to free range in the trees along the Maze Road and Tarzan Trail. They remained free-roaming like this for several years, presumably at least until about 2001, until several years of births later, they were becoming increasingly tame in the trees and venturing down to inspect visitors on the ground.  Unfortunately some naughty visitors kept trying to photograph them up close with a bit of food bribery. Later I think they might have moved onto one of our tamarin islands.

The Puma card also mentions ‘The Beast’ stories that were prevalent at the time circa 2001. Two pumas Tina and Shane arrived from Haigh mini zoo which closed somewhere around 1993-96, to live in the old Lion House whilst we fundraised to build the ‘Puma House’, where our lovely Carpathian Lynx now live.  The last of these now elderly Pumas died in the mid 2000s.

Many were the tales or sightings of exotic big and small cat species roaming the Cornish and British countryside. Almost forty years on from the Dangerous Wild Animals act of 1976/77, which allegedly saw many exotic big cat pets released into the wilds of Britain, people telling me of these sightings after a big cat talk here at Newquay Zoo is quite unusual and rare occurrence now.

Free spirited Raccoons …


Our Newquay  raccoon  story was told in an earlier blogpost


The ‘Special’ Series One card in 2001 tells a little bit of our Lion Story here at Newquay Zoo – Ronnie and Lizzy – our lions being a subject surely worth a future blogpost in itself.


Sadly I don’t think there was a Series Two of the Newquay Zoo Pocket Pictures. If there was, they sold out in our zoo shop before I could buy them.

Many thanks to Michelle Turton for permission to show these images – a tiny snapshot of Newquay Zoo 2001 – again.

Blogposted in July 2017 by Mark Norris  for the –   sharing tasty nuggets and tiny morsels of Newquay Zoo history as we head toward our 50th Anniversary in May 2019.

Got something interesting to share or celebrate about a past visit to Newquay Zoo since 1969? Contact Mark Norris  via the Comments page or via the website.









A Tyger at Newquay Zoo?

Newquay Zoo’s only ever Tyger …

This Tyger poem by William Blake was one of several animal poems put up in 2003 just before or whilst the Zoo Federation  (now BIAZA) held its AGM here at Newquay Zoo in 2003 (the same year the Fossas arrived).

Fourteen years later this poem and its Rousseau painting of a Tyger has survived, the other animal poems from Walker Books’ anthology Birds Beasts and Fishes have all faded and gone, whilst  our last Fossa Harry left for the UAE this year …


An ivy clad aviary wall with Tyger … just round the corner from Tippy’s,  Penguins / Lions / Former Fossa house areas  June 2017.


Bye Bye Harry marking Harry the Fossa’s departure for the UAE Summer 2017.


This summer  Tippy’s  our top small cafe was renamed the Lazy Lion(s) Grill (c. June 2017) .

Another bit of Newquay Zoo history …


Tippy’s is named after the white tipped ears of our first male Tapir who arrived c. 1995/6 and lived next to Tippy’s where our Tapirs still live and breed.

tippys 1999
Tippy’s the small cafe as it was when first built c. 1996


I have  tracked down a picture of Tippy the Tapir to post here from our 1996 Guidebook


tippy the tapir 1996 guidebook
Tippy our first young male Tapir who arrived c. 1995/6 gave his name to our smaller café – based on the white tips on his ears!


Blogposted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo History blog, June 2017.

Newquay Zoo in the early 1970s

1976 NZ listing Int Zoo Year Bk
International Zoo Year Book Listing for Newquay Zoo,   1976  (vol 16) Curator Norman Marshall. 8 staff.


This month’s Newquay Zoo History blogpost celebrates our 48th Birthday, marking  the opening of Newquay Zoo on May 26th 1969.

First is  a short listing in the International Zoo Year Book 1976 with visitor figures for Newquay Zoo 1973 of an impressive 300,000, almost twice what we see now! Our sister zoo since 2003, Paignton Zoo saw only 341,743 (1974/5?) at the time, today they might see almost three times our average 150,000.

Why the change in visitor numbers?

The answer partly lies in a slightly more colourful publication, no doubt read by many of the 300,000 paying visitors to the zoo in 1973. The listings book “Where to Go, What to Do in the SW” was subtitled ominously  “500 places to visit in the wet or dry“. This popular guide by R.L. and M.J. Elliott was already in its 6th annual reprint edition by 1975.

1975 SW listings book
1975 SW listings book cover: Is the lion on a car a jokey reference to The Lions of Longleat, rather than ours in Newquay Zoo?


The Zoo entry for Newquay in 1975 is brief:

1975 NZ Newquay listingOur Zoo listing: Newquay Zoo. Daily, 10 am to dusk. Trenance Gardens. Attractive selection of animals, birds and reptiles in ten natural acres.  

Looking through the listings book it is no surprise tht we had such record visitor numbers as there were in 1973/75 very few of the familar visitor attractions that we know today.

1975 NZ advert

The 1970/75 zoo advert is simple and very 70s. Lions and monkeys again!

1975 listings SW foreword

Interestingly the 1975 foreword announces the imminent arrival of the M5 motorway.

For many visitors to Cornwall, this cut the original  two day journey from upcountry to a more manageable one day for the growing car-owning, holiday making families of Britain.

Only two years now until our 50th anniversary on 26 May 1969.

Look out for more random monthly Newquay Zoo history snippets each month.

Blog posted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo for the blog, 25/26 May 1969.