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18 October 2019

The Barn doors open at Kingston Maurward Animal Park & Gardens

The Barn doors open at Kingston Maurward Animal Park & Gardens

The Barn, a brand new indoor activity centre and café at Kingston Maurward Animal Park & Gardens, Dorchester, officially opens today.

The new environmentally friendly structure means the park is now a year-round attraction for Dorchester and central Dorset, providing an educational space for visiting schools and members of the public.

The launch event marks project completion for Dorset LEP which allocated £250,000 of the government’s Growing Places Fund loan to pay for the build of the centre.

Ian Girling, Dorset LEP Board Member and Chief Executive of Dorset Chamber of Commerce and Industry, represented the Dorset LEP Growing Places Committee at the unveiling by cutting the ribbon. (as pictured)

Dorset LEP Director, Lorna Carver, says: “Within our emerging local industrial strategy, cultural excellence, skills and tourism are of high importance. Enhancing the park will be a great asset for Dorset and the College.”

Kingston Maurward College is a specialist college which delivers training in subjects such as agriculture, animal welfare, conservation and construction. The College is Dorset’s only land-based provider for students from the ages of 16 in these subject areas.

To provide some extra revenue for the College, and to educate students and visitors on rare animal breeds and sustainability, the Animal Park & Gardens was established in 1995 on the College land.

The attraction offers visitors the chance to meet rare animal breeds through partnership with the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. The park is home to animals such as Shetland ponies, alpacas and wallabies. Visitors can also take a walk to enjoy 35 acres of formal gardens within a 750-acre estate.

Kingston Maurward College Principal, Luke Rake, says: “The Barn is a fantastic new addition to the Animal Park & Gardens at Kingston Maurward. From a fairly decrepit polytunnel, alongside no undercover seating or play space, this new facility transforms the park as a destination and also allows us to teach primary school groups undercover and provide an enhanced café experience for all our visitors.”

The Barn boasts environmentally friendly features such as low energy lighting, rainwater harvesting and sustainably sourced construction materials. As well as a café, it contains a wooden play zone with tactile and sensory elements. Every aspect of play is designed to develop motor skills, problem solving and social skills, particularly for children from pre-school age up to key stage 1, in addition to a wider age range of young people with special educational needs. Adjacent to the play zone is a seating area which can be quickly converted to indoor classroom space for visiting school groups.

Tom Reynolds, Centre Manager at the Animal Park & Gardens, says: “School visits take place all year round, but are currently particularly active in the autumn and late spring. The introduction of this new facility will enable the College to guarantee a sheltered education base, whatever the weather. Local primary schools are really excited to hear that we have this new resource, which highlights the demand for a covered area in this kind of learning environment.”

In addition to more school visits, the park has already been contacted by individual families who provide home educations and by organised groups such as Beavers, Cubs and Scouts. The Barn, therefore, has the capacity to create a unique learning environment without the usual surroundings associated with a conventional school classroom. Combined with the benefits of having this facility within the Animal Park, in heart of Kingston Maurward’s diverse estate, The Barn will provide a varied rural education for Dorset’s young people, whatever their background.



Notes to Editors:

Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership is a business led private and public sector partnership, promoting local economic growth and prosperity. Dorset LEP deliver projects that support and develop infrastructure, housing, skills, enterprise and business growth to achieve long-term economic benefit for all in Dorset. For more information visit the Dorset LEP website

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