Living next to Yorkshire Wildlife Park – The Doncaster estate where residents wake up to lions roaring

Resident Terry Wilson said ‘where else would you get that in Yorkshire?’

In most of Doncaster, you’d expect to hear cars, people chatting on the street, the odd dog barking.

But that’s not just the case for residents living in the village of Branton. Down in this South Yorkshire hamlet, it’s just as likely you’ll hear the roar of a wild animal as it is kids playing outside.

On one side of the village, several of the streets nestle closely to the fields of the Yorkshire Wildlife Park, home to nearly 500 animals. The park includes lions, tigers, giraffes, and even polar bears.

Given it’s not particularly common to neighbour with hyenas in Yorkshire, I headed down to Branton to find out what it’s like to have gardens that practically back on to the Yorkshire zoo.

Once I arrived, I headed to Brockholes Lane, which used to form one of the main entrances to the wildlife park, but is now backdoor access for some pedestrians. If you walk to the end of the lane, you can see the park’s sprawling fields.

It was there I met Mike, who lives on Brockholes Lane, and has done since before the wildlife park was built.

He told me: “We like to go a lot and we’re very conveniently located here! It’s a really great day out – we take the family and you get to see all sorts of animals. It’s constantly expanding too, I think a new bit opened just in April.

“We used to get a lot of traffic up here running through to the park. The entrance moved to the new part and we’ve got much less traffic since then – not that it ever bothered us. On busy days they’ll often have someone on the end of the road redirecting people to the right place so we only get the odd person lost up here now because the SatNav brings them this way.

“We can definitely hear the park too. I used to get up to take my paper out at quarter past five in the morning and all I would be able to hear was lions roaring.

“Occasionally we hear the baboons, and there’s an animal that makes this hooting noise we hear sometimes – I don’t know what it is. We love it – it’s quite beautiful really.

“I remember before it was here – it was a livery farm and I believe they had wallabies that escaped once. Those Wallabies ended up emigrating to Canada if I remember rightly.

“We just think it’s great. All the staff are lovely too and the owners are very friendly. We always enjoy going.”

Mike advised that there were people with gardens on Willow Glen where you “can practically walk from your garden into the park”, so I headed round there next. Willow Glen is a dead-end lead into by Glen Road, that backs on to the wildlife park fields.

There, I met a Glen Road resident who was out watering his plants in the sun.

The resident, who did not want to be named, said: “It’s lovely being so close to the park. I can hear lions from my house. In the winter, I can see polar bears from my bedroom window.

“We’re members of the park so we can go as much as we like. It’s a really big boost for the area too. We hear the lions but it never bothers us. It’s just such a positive for Doncaster.

“When they first mentioned they were going to have the wildlife park we didn’t believe it, but it’s become such a good thing.”

Heading around to Willow Glen, you can indeed see right out across some of Yorkshire Wildlife Park’s fields. The field in question was empty (presumably because of its proximity to the houses) but I spotted two staff members in the distance.

On Willow Glen I ran into resident Terry Wilson, another person out on his drive enjoying the June sun. “Living so close hasn’t been a problem at all,” he told me. “We hear the lions roaring now and again and obviously we hear it when they put concerts on. The concerts can be a little bit loud but they’re okay really.

“It’s funny with the lions – you hear them roaring like anything in the morning and then they go back to sleep for the rest of the day! We got a free trip to the park because we live so close last year and that was fun.

“We don’t really go a lot though. We’ve taken grandkids there though and they absolutely loved it. It’s very quiet here usually though – traffic isn’t a problem and no one ever tries to park on our road really.

“To be honest, it’s quite nice to hear the lions – you wouldn’t get that in many other places. I remember before it was built – I didn’t realise it was going to be so big though – it always seems to get bigger!”

The Yorkshire Wildlife Park works in the conservation and rehabilitation of animals. It first opened in 2009, where Brockholes Farm used to be. It opened its new entrance back in 2021 to ‘The Yorkshire Hive’.

Finally, I headed over to the busy Three Horseshoes pub on the corner of Glen Road, where I chatted to supervisors and assistant managers Alice and Kat.

“It’s such an interesting place to work,” said Alice. “We get a lot of people from up and down the country in here because they’ve come on a trip to the wildlife park. Every time someone comes from there we always ask them what they’ve seen and I swear there’s always something new every time!

“Recently we’ve been hearing about them adding a dinosaur experience – which I haven’t seen myself. I don’t go a lot but I only live around the corner so I could go whenever I wanted.

“They put on a lot of events which is great for us as people will come here for a drink or some food on their way or way back often.

“You can definitely hear the lions, around eight o’clock at night I think. It’s nice to hear because you’re in a village in Yorkshire but you can hear lions, which is incredibly strange but really cool.

“Visitors often comment on it when they’re out in the smoking area. You don’t expect to hear lions but it is sort of normal for the locals here.

“It gets so busy on bank holidays – I always forget that I need to set aside extra time to get to work because I live on the side where the new entrance is.”

Kat added: “It’s only really the lions we hear – everyone loves it and we never get complaints. It’s probably noisier in here!

“We’re a family pub so it’s worked out great for us really. They tell us in advance when there’s events on so we can get extra staff on and we have a lovely time.”


Jasmine NordenReporter

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