WE BOUGHT A ZOO Mum needed to downsize. Had Dad still be alive, he would have suggested a quiet flat, walking distance from the library, with no garden to worry about. But mum had always been a bit more adventurous. So when the brochure dropped through her letterbox, describing a 30-acre zoo for sale in Devon, England it couldn’t have landed on a more receptive doormat. For almost the exact asking price of her five-bedroom house, mum could become the new owner of Dart moor Wildlife Park and 200 exotic animals. Quickly, my brother Duncan and I decided this was something for which we would restructure our entire lives. The park sat on the edge of moorland known as Dart moor in Devon. All around were the woodland and beautiful beaches. Our offer was rejected on the basis that we had no real money to invest and no experience of running a zoo. Both fair points. We went back to our lives slightly wistfully. Almost a year later, I saw that the zoo was up for sale again. And this time all the buyer wasn’t found in the next few weeks. I. Dropped everything and focused on overcoming all the obstacles between the park and us. In the end, we bought it in my mother’s name instead of the limited company we had planned, which meant we’d no loan. After pooling our resources, we had $4000 about two weeks running costs for animals and 20 staff. On October 20, 2006, my 76 year old mother, my brother Duncan, my wife Katherine and I, and our children Milo, six, and Ella, four, finally moved in. Though once a grand, 12-bedroom mansion, our new house, with its peeling wallpaper and bad plumbing, needed urgent redecoration. But outside, looking out across 11 kilometers of sunlit hills to the sea, we allowed ourselves a few big smiles.