Finishing touches are being made to the UK’s largest and most ambitious brown bear exhibit, which will open next Thursday 25 July.
will be home to four European brown bears, five wolves, two Eurasian lynx and two wolverines.
To celebrate the forthcoming opening, 40 schoolchildren from Bristol’s Redfield Educate Together Primary Academy were invited to travel back in time to 8000 BC and enjoy a sneak peek of Bear Wood.
Our 7.5-acre exhibit, which is nestled among ancient woodland, features a ‘time chamber’ which transports you back in time to when these magnificent creatures were once native – and lived in and around Bristol.
It also features an immersive bear viewing den, with 180-degree and floor-to-ceiling glass windows and a raised wooden walkway, which will take you on a journey through the trees at heights of up to several metres – offering a truly unique view of the animals.
The pupils, who were aged between five and nine, also enjoyed the exhibit’s two natural play areas, one of which includes a giant bird’s nest.
Ros Farrell, headteacher of Redfield Educate Together Primary Academy, said: “We are so excited to have been invited along to experience the new exhibit and see its new animal residents.
“Being outside and within nature is so important to children and something we strongly encourage at our school. Bear Wood is such a fantastic addition to the south west. I’m sure our pupils will be taking their families back to experience it too.”
Dr Justin Morris, chief executive of Bristol Zoological Society, which operates Wild Place Project, said: “We are delighted to be just a week away from the grand opening, after so much hard work and preparation.
“Not only is this the most significant new addition to Wild Place Project that we have created to date but we are confident that this will be the best and most immersive bear exhibit in the country.
He added: “Bear Wood tells the story of the UK’s ancient woodland and the charismatic species that once inhabited it – now brought back in one spectacular immersive experience. We hope Bear Wood will also inspire visitors about the woodland and wildlife we have left, encouraging them to protect what remains.”
A team of rangers will help you get the most from their visit to Bear Wood, pointing out the native species at home in the woodland throughout the year. Den cameras and monitors will also offer secret insights into the wildlife living in the exhibit.
A giant woodland calendar will also show the seasonal habits and variations of different animals, and plants, highlighting the changing dynamic of the woodland throughout the year
Woodlands, similar to those here, covered Britain thousands of years ago but have been steadily cut down for building, housing, fuel, growing crops and making paper. Today ancient woods – described as having existed continuously since 1600 or before – are home to many threatened species and cover only two per cent of the UK.
Earlier this year, the government's advisory Committee on Climate Change (CCC) recommended a "net zero" target to reduce emissions from homes, transport, farming and industry by 2050. One of the ways they have reported the UK can achieve this is by offsetting emissions by planting trees and creating woodland.
“Ancient woodland is one of the richest habitats for wildlife in the UK, providing a home for hundreds of species of animals and plants,” explained Dr Christoph Schwitzer, chief zoological officer at Bristol Zoological Society.
“In order to protect what remains, we need to inspire the next generation about the importance of this unique habitat. We believe that the best way to do this is to immerse people in these woods and show them the amazing diversity that is at stake.”
, the Bristol-based, plastic-free and organic period product company, is headline sponsor of Bear Wood.
Part funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas. The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) is contributing towards the costs of fencing for the bear, wolf, wolverine and lynx enclosures.