I’ve always liked autumn. Even as a child, when autumn meant the end of the summer holidays and a return to school. I think it was the dewy, misty mornings, the conkers and kicking through the fallen leaves that did it.

Autumn at Paignton Zoo is something special, too. It’s the end of the high season holiday rush, a chance for the place to relax and breathe out. The Zoo’s busiest period runs from the end of July, through August and into the start of September. After weeks of two, three or even four thousand visitors per day, the place can seem a little used and threadbare. In places, grass is worn down to dust and ten thousand hands have rubbed the varnish off wooden rails.

Here, Keats’ season of mists and mellow fruitfulness means scenes like this: a tiger in a paddock strewn with fallen leaves. The light and shade and the fading orange and gold resolve themselves into an exotic big cat in a seasonal English landscape. When you introduce pumpkins into the scene, you add another element of autumnal colour and form.

Autumn may be a chance for the place to relax and breathe out, but for so many staff and volunteers, life goes on at the same pace. The animal care, the food prep, the cleaning out and the paperwork all continue.

Autumn is arguably the best time to visit Paignton Zoo. The crowds have reduced but the animals and the plants and often the sunshine remain. Parents bring children here after school just for half an hour in one of the play areas. Others deliberately wait for the school term to start before they visit the Zoo; older people and those without the responsibilities of parenthood can take advantage of anything approaching an Indian summer.

Autumn’s sense of golden tranquillity is broken only by a hurrying keeper, another food delivery truck, an excited school group, a diary of meetings, the ring of a telephone and the roaring of a lion…

Phil Knowling, Communications Manager

Quotes Brilliant, loved every minute of it especially the free activities throughout the day. Quotes