The Bird Park was created in 1974 by Philip Meigh, a graduate of the Royal College of Art, as an entirely separate enterprise to Prinknash Abbey. Philip was an established cartoonist and artist living locally and had amassed a wonderful private collection of waterfowl.
Philip Meigh was born in 1926, founded the Bird Park in 1974 and continued to run it until his death in February 2008. Philip was born in France and lived there until he was 8 years old when he and his family moved to England prior to the war. After the war Philip went to the Slade (School of Fine Art) at the Royal College of Art where he left with the letters MA RCA (Master of Arts, Royal College of Art) after his name. He then became a cartoonist and drew for many papers including Punch and also drew for British Car Auctions owner David Wickens for many years. It was during this time that his love of waterfowl began and he started to amass a private collection at his home in Cranham. In 1974 Philip was approached by the monks at Prinknash Abbey who asked him to restore the original monks fishponds below their newly Built Abbey as a new attraction. Philip agreed to take on the restoration and after a lot of hard work his birds were moved to Prinknash and the Bird Park opened to the public in 1975. It has developed from those early days and now homes other animals including Reindeer, Fallow deer, Miniature Meditereanian Donkeys, Pigmy Goats and fish, including Carp, Golden Orph, Tench and Trout and it has for many years been run as an independent private business, entirely separate from the Abbey.
In 1974 the10 acre valley that was to become the bird park was scrubland with a stream running through it and the remnants of the ancient monks fishponds that had once supplied the City of Gloucester with its fresh fish. During an 8-week period, following some initial imaginative design and planning and a lot of hard work, the monastic fishponds were restored, the basic shape of a park was formed and the concept of Prinknash Bird Park was born.
Philip’s concept for the park was that birds look beautiful in the wild, but seldom do in captivity. His vision was to give a superb backdrop for the birds, to create an environment in which they were happy and consequently at there best and most beautiful.
In the following years the park developed and became more established, more trees were planted, more ponds were added and new aviaries were created. The introduction of deer and a great variety of attractive birds ensured that the park continued to evolve.
Philip had a great flair for landscaping on a grand scale creating the lovely lakes, ponds and walkways. He began to integrate the design and build follies around the park, forever dreaming up new ones. All the follies were placed for maximum effect, having lovely views and can be seen from various vantage points within the park, but without overshadowing any of the others, which is an art in itself! However, they come together when the Fallow deer walk past and pose.......or the Peafowl display in late afternoon, this is when you see his work at its best.
The park is unique in its concept, inspired by the tradition of 18th Century parkland, where aviaries take the form of romantic follies and the birds and animals are chosen to reflect the beauty of the environment.
Philip Meigh died in 2008 leaving the legacy to be continued by his daughter Melanie Meigh. Melanie shares the same vision and has been carefully adding to the collection with the view to keeping the dream alive.