By Neil Mumby
In The Beginning
It all started in the late 1960’s when at the age of eight, complete with short trousers and a snotty nose, I was given a copy of the observer’s book of birds and the observer’s book of birds eggs.
This inspired a lifelong interest in amateur bird watching, falconry, botany, entomology and pretty much anything to do with natural history.
Following a very enjoyable career in the poultry industry, a redundancy was the swift kick needed to change direction and turn a lifelong interest into a business.
1999 – 2004
Wood Farm was purchased in 1999 as a completely derelict farmhouse with buildings, which were falling down and a grass paddock.
It took two long, hard, but very enjoyable years to renovate the house so it was suitable to live in, and convert the buildings to a standard where the doors could open to the public.
Woodside Falconry and Conservation Centre opened on 12th April 2001, right in the middle of a foot and mouth epidemic, which closed down the countryside of Britain.
2005 – 2008
We very soon realised that although birds of prey were a passion of ours and fascinating to many, their appeal was very limited.
So, in 2005 we ventured into tropical butterflies and reptiles, which have proved to be very popular with visitors.
Following on from this initial boost, we decided to continue this diversification program and create a Wildlife Park from the Bird of Prey centre. We found help through BIAZA (British & Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums).
2009 – 2013
In 2009 we changed our name to reflect the new direction and Woodside Wildlife and Falconry Park was born.
The park continued to grow in both collection size and visitor numbers for the next few years, with the UK’s first, and still Lincolnshire’s only, pack of Hudson Bay Wolves arriving in 2012.
The wolves were our first large carnivore and proved to be a big success.
2014 – 2016
With the arrival of Wolves, Lynx and Tigers in 2014, we dropped the word ‘Falconry’ from our name to become Woodside Wildlife Park. Our new species have almost doubled visitor numbers and is the largest increase we have seen.
2016 saw a big change for the park with full EAZA (European Association of Zoos and Aquariums) membership. The application process was a lengthy and onerous one, but after six months of paperwork and a very intense three day inspection, Woodside was accepted, bringing our standards and practises in-line with some of the largest zoos in Europe.
We are extremely proud that Woodside is still Lincolnshire’s only member of EAZA. With the direction of our park now focused entirely on conservation, over the next few years we are striving to ensure 50% of our species are part of the International Breeding Program.
2017 – 2018
For those of you local to the beautiful city of Lincoln, the Sir Joseph Banks Conservatory may mean a lot to you. Destined to be demolished in 2016, to make way for a new car park, this iconic building was about to be lost forever.
A plan to save this building was hatched, and a small, dedicated team of employees and volunteers disassembled the entire building and rebuilt it at Woodside.
We re-opened the conservatory in 2017, which now serves as our conservation building, Endeavour; now home to some of the world’s most endangered species. We have kept as much of the building’s original heritage and design as possible, whilst utilising modern heating systems and conservation methods.
2019 – present
2019 saw the arrival of a colony of thirteen young Humboldt penguins, all of whom are part of an International Breeding Program, and continue to be our most popular visitor attraction.
The penguins are settled into a custom-built, state of the art enclosure, with free-flying birds and a large pool with an underwater viewing area. We plan to start our own breeding colony at Woodside over the next few years.
2019 – present
Along with our penguins, we also introduced two Red Panda sisters here at Woodside Wildlife Park; again, as part of the International Breeding Program.
In future, we hope to introduce a male red panda too, which will enable us to contribute to conservation efforts for this incredibly cute, but sadly endangered species.
Throughout the continous, successful growth of Woodside Wildlife Park over the years, we constantly strive to develop and improve, adding exciting new species every year, but rest assured, no matter how big our park grows, we will always retain our family-run, friendly atmosphere, with conservation and education at the heart of everything we do!