Mole Hall wildlife park closes

PUBLISHED: 17:54 18 September 2008 | UPDATED: 21:34 31 May 2010

Mole Hall Wildlife Park closes.
Widdington.
September 16, 2008.
Photograph by Michael Boyton.
Pic shows: The locked gates and the notice telling customers of the park's closure.

Mole Hall Wildlife Park closes. Widdington. September 16, 2008. Photograph by Michael Boyton. Pic shows: The locked gates and the notice telling customers of the park's closure.

ONE of the area s best-loved and most popular family destinations has closed after its owner was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Mole Hall Wildlife Park in Widdington, a favourite with children since its opening in 1963, closed its doors for the last t

ONE of the area's best-loved and most popular family destinations has closed after its owner was diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Mole Hall Wildlife Park in Widdington, a favourite with children since its opening in 1963, closed its doors for the last time on Tuesday. The shock closure happened after one of the park's owners, Douglas Johnstone, was diagnosed with cancer.

The park's administrator, Caroline Williams, said: "Due to the terminal illness of Douglas Johnstone, it is with great sadness and regret that the Johnstone family has decided to close the park with immediate effect.

"The Johnstone family and all staff at the wildlife park wish to thank everyone for their continued support over the years, and would also like to reassure everyone that the animals' welfare has been taken into account."

Last year Mr Johnstone, who is in his 50s, was diagnosed with lung cancer, but it was believed that he had successfully fought it off. However, a recent diagnosis revealed that this was not the case, and that the cancer had spread to his brain.

"All options have been looked into to keep the park open," said Mrs Williams, "and this decision was not reached easily. Unfortunately our only option is to close the park permanently.

"All animals and birds are in the process of moving to new loving homes, and are settling in well in their new surroundings; the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums and other professional bodies are assisting with the process."

The news of the closure will be very sadly received by parents and schools in the area, many of whom take children to the park regularly.

Saffron Walden Parents' Centre took a group of children to Mole Hall three weeks ago. Wendy Howell oversaw the trip.

"It's deeply sad news," she said. "What a shock. We only visited there last month and all the children and parents had a wonderful time. We were already planning our visit for next year.

"It will be a massive loss for a lot of people - it's such a tranquil place. What awful news; our thoughts are with the family."

Widdington resident of 25 years, Dick Harding, said the closure was "devastating news for the village".

"I thought and hoped that Mole Hall would be there forever; it's a great loss for the village. I would always speak with some pride about how Widdington had such a fantastic wildlife asset.

"It's devastating news, but of course it's especially sad for the family, who I'm sure everyone will be thinking of at this time.

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