This surge of support coincided with a dramatic government u-turn – and this week, Chester Zoo was given the green light to welcome back guests from 15 June.
“When social distancing eases, we’ll take the opportunity to celebrate,” Jamie says.
“Perhaps next year when it’s our 90th birthday.”
“We’re absolutely bowled over by the fact the government has changed its mind.
“Up until earlier this week, the messages suggested it could be July, August, September or even October before we could reopen – which would have been catastrophic for us.”
But the hard work hasn’t stopped yet. There’s plenty more to do. And things will be a little different around the zoo to start with.
“For us, the main thing is controlling capacity and numbers coming into the zoo,” Jamie explains.
“Normally on a day like today we’d be welcoming about 10,000 people into the zoo. We’re going to scale the capacity right back to 3,000 to start with and guests will need to book online.
“There’ll be hand sanitiser stations around the zoo, over one hundred wash basins to keep hands clean, and a welcome team in place to make sure people are adhering to guidelines and protecting themselves, as well making sure they’re having a great day out.
“The indoor exhibits will be closed, but there’ll still be more than 16km of footpath and beautiful gardens for people to walk around and see all the animals out in their respective habitats.”
Despite the limitations, Jamie emphasises the zoo is still ready to offer people a fantastic visitor experience.
“The priority for us is making sure our visitors, our staff and our animals are all safe,” he says.
“The gift shop at the front of the zoo will have to remain closed, but kiosks will be serving and we’ve got a large outdoor 400-seater restaurant which will be open too.
“People will still be able to buy food and drink or bring their own picnic in. We’ve opened some additional green space around the zoo to allow people to spread out and enjoy their lunch whilst they’re here.”
However, with funds severely depleted after months of no income, Chester Zoo is still relying on support from anyone who can provide it.
“Even though we’re reopening, we’re only set to bring in a quarter of what we usually would around this time of year,” explains Jamie.
“So, there is a need for more fundraising.
“We’re asking people to donate, take out a membership at the zoo, adopt an animal; anything like that would really help us.
“To anyone who has already donated, our message is a massive ‘thank you’.
“We don’t get funding normally, so we’ve just had to continue with the reserves we’ve got. Without those pounds that people have been giving us, we might have disappeared.
“As it stands, we have a lifeline.”
Chester Zoo staff won’t be the only ones happy to see guests returning, either.
The animals will, too
“Some of the more social species such as primates have been aware of a lack of people,” Jamie tells us.
“When I’ve been walking around the zoo they tend to come to the edge of the habitat and wonder what you’re doing.
“I’m sure some of them have missed interacting with people.
“We’re never going to give up on animal welfare or high standards.
“We’ve got about 600 staff here at Chester Zoo, about two-thirds have been furloughed and the ones who’ve remained are primarily our keeping staff who make sure all 35,000 animals here are well looked after – as is our huge plant collection.
“Even though the gates are closed and we haven’t been making any income, we’ve still been doing the same as we always do.”
Finally, Jamie wants to extend his gratitude to everyone who has done their bit to protect the zoo from extinction.
“It’s been people power that’s convinced the government to let us open again,” the zoo COO says.
“It’s all down to those people who have written to their MPs, signed petitions, donated to us who’ve shown there’s huge love for us – and other zoos in the UK.
“We’re not a sector that can stay shut.
“We’re doing great things for conservation around the world and that needs to continue.”
You can learn more about supporting Chester Zoo here.
This hidden Manchester pasta and dumplings restaurant has just made the Michelin Guide
Michelin has just added some new additions to its guide, and one of our favourite Manchester restaurants has finally made the cut.
Loved by locals for its continental pasta and dumplings, gorgeous European wine list and sake collection, The Sparrows in the Green Quarter is something of a hidden gem – tucked in a disused railway arch on Red Bank.
It received rave reviews from local and national critics alike when it first opened in 2019 in a tiny space with room for just 12 covers. Since then, it’s relocated to a bigger home and its following has grown significantly.
After spending years wowing foodies in the know, the restaurant has made it onto the radar of Michelin’s inspectors at last – and we have to say, the accolade is well deserved indeed.
Front of house is headed up by Polish-born Kasia Hitchcock with her chef partner Franco Concli at the helm in the kitchen. Plates celebrate Franco’s Tyrolean heritage, with their signature dish spätzle, a rustic fresh egg pasta from which the restaurant takes its name, sitting front and centre.
Traditionally made by scraping dough from the wooden board straight into a pot of boiling water, these irregular-shaped delights translate from Swabian-German to mean “little sparrows.”
Served in multiples ways, they can be enjoyed either savoury or sweet – mixed with braised onions into a creamy gruyere and Emmental cheese sauce, as is traditional, or transformed into a pudding with a touch of cinnamon, brown sugar and butter.
Joining the now seventeen Manchester restaurants to be featured in the prestigious guide, its description reads as follows: “Nestled under the railway arches in Manchester’s Green Quarter is a restaurant whose name is (almost) the English translation of the word ‘spätzle’ – which gives some clue as to the style of food on offer here.
“The dumplings and assorted pasta dishes are all made in-house and include excellent pierogi. The focus on Eastern Europe carries through to the wine list, which has a leaning towards Polish wines.”
A welcome new addition, if you haven’t yet visited then we recommend you book in swiftly. No doubt the news of its conclusion in the Michelin Guide will send reservations filling up pretty sharpish.
Feature image – Google Maps
New DNA evidence could clear ‘innocent’ man who spent 17 years in prison for Salford rape
A man who spent 17 years in prison for a rape he has continued to claim he did not commit has now been granted a fresh appeal after DNA was linked to an alternative suspect.
57-year-old Andrew Malkinson from Grimsby was convicted by a jury verdict of 10-2 of strangling and raping a woman in Little Hulton in Salford back in 2003, and was jailed for life following a trial at Manchester Crown Court in February 2004.
The victim – who had been walking home alone in the early hours of 19 July 2003 – was sexually assaulted after being throttled until the point of unconsciousness, and also suffered a broken neck and a fractured cheekbone during the attack.
There was no DNA or other forensic evidence linking Mr Malkinson to the crime at the time, and the prosecution case relied mainly on identification evidence from eyewitnesses.
This is why he has always maintained his innocence and insisted it was a case of mistaken identity.
Mr Malkinson had twice been refused an appeal in the past after applying for his case to be reviewed by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) – which is the body responsible for investigating alleged miscarriages of justice – but after being released on license from prison back in 2020, scientific techniques have advanced, and this has potentially lead to some new evidence.
The legal team at the charity APPEAL was able to commission new DNA testing that revealed the presence of unknown male DNA in samples taken from the victim and her clothing, and this “breakthrough” has therefore cast doubt on Mr Malkinson’s conviction.
APPEAL Director Emily Bolton said “the battle for justice is not yet over”, adding that the CCRC “will now form its own view of the fresh evidence and we hope they will agree that Andy’s conviction cannot now be regarded as safe.”
Mr Malkinson says he “finally has the chance to prove his innocence”.
“I am innocent,” Mr Malkinson questioned in a statement provided by his legal representatives.
“Finally, I have the chance to prove it thanks to the perseverance of my legal team at APPEAL. I only have one life and so far 20 years of it has been stolen from me. Yesterday I turned 57 years old. How much longer will it take?”
As well as the case having being referred back to the CCRC this week, in light of new information, Greater Manchester Police (GMP) confirmed last month that it had arrested a 48-year-old man from Exeter on suspicion of rape, but he has since been released under investigation.
Addressing Mr Malkinson’s case, CCRC chairwoman Helen Pitcher said: “The new results raise concerns about the safety of these serious convictions.
“It is now for the Court of Appeal to decide whether they should be quashed.
“New evidence can come to light years after a conviction, and in the ever-changing world of forensic science, it is crucial an independent body can undertake these enquiries and send cases of concern back to court.
“Following Mr Malkinson’s application, we used our special powers and expertise to re-examine this case, instructing experts to undertake state-of-the-art DNA testing.”