2023 has given Paignton Zoo much to celebrate.
Our centenary year has provided countless opportunities for us to look back and reflect on our history, as well as allowing us to finalise our plans for the zoo we aspire to become in the future. The zoo owes its existence to its founder, Herbert Whitley, and although our centenary celebrations have focussed their attention on the zoo itself, we must also remember that the zoo was just one of several ‘nature spaces’ that thrived under Herbert’s care.
Paignton’s green escape
One such space is Primley Park. Wild Planet Trust have been managing the nature reserve as a public access green space since the mid 1990’s, but in Herbert’s day, the park formed part of the gardens for Herbert’s home; Primley House. Photos of the park as it once was are few and far between, but if you know where to look, eagle eyed visitors might still spot signs of old walls, kerbstones, and gateposts, offering a glimpse into how the estate will have looked a century ago.
It’s fair to say that no-one knows Primley Park better than our Reserves Warden, Dave Ellacott, who has been looking after the site since 2000. In recognition of the zoos centenary, Dave has been hard at work this year, clearing brambles and vines to carve out a new pathway through the park; one of historical significance.
A walk back through time
In the early years of Paignton Zoo, the Whitley estate extended far beyond Primley House. Our archival photographs show farmland all the way from Tweenaways, along what is now Penwill Way, down to Goodrington Sands, and along towards Broadsands. Much of this area has since been developed into housing, but it is easy to imagine the zoos founder gazing out to sea across acres of rolling pasture from viewpoints along this path.
Now, visitors can once again take in these views, which have become accessible thanks to our newly reinstated ‘Centenary Way’. Like many of the paths in Primley Park, this route is somewhat muddy underfoot, but we hope to introduce signage and seating over the coming months so visitors can take in a view from the past, and see the bay from a perspective few others have seen for several decades.