“As for me, when we moved to Oakfield in 1930, I was more of a nuisance than a help. But once my dad learnt the value of marketing, and how a photo of a little girl with an animal would melt a newspaper editor’s heart like nothing else, I earned my keep.”
This last weekend I spent the day in Chester seeing one of my best friends and visited Chester Zoo. After watching the tv series ‘Our Zoo’ and hearing all about it, I was eager to visit and let me tell you, it didn’t disappoint! When I realised that ‘Our Zoo’ was a book as well, I couldn’t wait to read it and what better time than when visiting the zoo itself.
Chester Zoo itself is one of a kind. At least I’ve never seen a zoo like it. Counted among the top 10 zoos in Britain, Chester Zoo was created by a working-class mans dream; a dream to create a zoo without bars. Instead using moats or ditches or wire/mesh fencing to use as their enclosure.
“He was going to build a zoo, he said. A zoo without bars.”
When George Mottershead realised this dream in 1930 and opened the zoo, his youngest daughter June, was 4 years old and little did she know how amazing and eventful her life would become.
With no real friends and her sister being 10 years older than her, the animals became her friends especially becoming close to a chimpanzee called Mary and a tapir called Minnie. Bears tucked into a bed, lion cubs and parrots vying for attention, pelicans, penguins and polar bears all became a part of everyday life and at Chester Zoo, you may even call them part of the family.
“This issue of animals v. entertainment was a problem…”
80 years, since June and her family set foot in Oakfield, the estate at the heart of Chester Zoo, she chronicles her heartbreak, humour, trials, tribulations and triumphs as well as the characters both of the human and animal variety’s that helped shape her childhood and adulthood.
“My father was the most inventive person I have ever known. If a problem needed solving, he’d find the answer. If it worked, then good. If it didn’t, he’d try again. And again, and again. He never gave up.”
This is the true story of one man and his family, his steely determination to do what’s right and his realisation of a dream come true and how even in the darkest of times during the Second World War, he didn’t give up and brightened people’s spirits with the zoo.
I think he’d be mighty proud that 1) Chester Zoo is still keeping his legacy going and 2) may other zoos are following suit, for example, I recently visited Longleat also in Britain and that is also one of my favourite zoos primarily because it is a zoo without bars.
If you are ever in Britain, I would highly recommend visiting both Longleat and Chester Zoo.
Something else I would highly recommend is this book! I can’t recommend it enough! Wonderfully written so much so that you can imagine being June herself and living at Oakfield. 5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for sure!
If this sounds like your kind of animal related book, then check it out on Amazon below:
Until next time,