In 1897 a Manchester Surgeon, Dr Walter Whitehead, purchased 37 acres of stunning woodland above the new and expanding resort town of Colwyn Bay, with the intention of retiring there.
The layout of the new estate was designed by renowned Victorian landscape architect, Thomas Mawson.
He based the project on idyllic woodland walks, herbaceous borders, formal rose gardens as well as homes for staff. More details of which can be found in his book on the subject, ‘The Art and Craft of Garden Making’.
After Dr Whitehead’s death in 1913, the estate changed hands several times, until the site was taken over by the Jackson family in 1962 and formally opened as a Zoo the following year in 1963.
With its ever-expanding plant collections, some of which are considered rare and endangered, the Zoo sees itself as a conservation centre for flora as well as fauna and recognises that the gardens are part of the Zoo’s overall educational resource. The Zoo’s gardens are made up of plants and seeds from around the world, from Chile, Central America and the Himalayas.
Working alongside major botanical institutions ensures the correct identification of plants. Hardy Geraniums, Aquilegia and various forms of Welsh Poppy (Mecanopsis Cambrica) all grow well on this hillside site. Ferns, Bromeliads and a host of other unusual tropical plants can be found in the Reptile and Alligator Houses. The diverse nature of the botanical collections creates a keen interest for gardeners, botanists and anyone with a passion for plant life.
With its ever expanding collections of both hardy and tropical plants, some of which are rare and endangered, the zoo sees itself as a conservation centre for flora as well as fauna.