Tributes paid to founder of the Bucks Goat Centre

Michael Gaisford, who founded the Bucks Goat Centre in 1991, has died at the age of 81.
Michael Gaisford at the Bucks Goat CentreMichael Gaisford at the Bucks Goat Centre
Michael Gaisford at the Bucks Goat Centre

Mr Gaisford, who moved to the area in 1964, purchased the land which is now the site of the Goat Centre in 1980 for farming, before establishing the popular local attraction 11 years later.

His daughter Ruth said: "My dad established the centre because he had a keen interest in goats which he wanted to share with the community.

"He had opened up his farm at times during the 1980s but the goat centre was different - it was more of a tourist attraction.

"I don't think he envisaged it being as popular as it is today."

The centre averages around 25,000 visitors per year and is home to many other animals besides goats - cockerels, hens, alpacas, ferrets, pygmy goats, rabbits, llamas, sheep and pigs.

Michael first moved to Stoke Mandeville in 1964 to work for the now defunct British Oil & Cake Mills.

In 1968, he started working as a journalist for Farmers Weekly, a publication that covers news from the agricultural industry.

In 1975, he purchased his first business, delivering eggs to homes across Aylesbury Vale.

This led to Michael acquiring four and a half acres of land outside Stoke Mandeville - land that was to become the goat centre.

Ruth said: "The centre has seen a lot of changes - we had a zoo licence at one stage, we have seen our visitor numbers grow over the years, we have helped with work experience placements, we hold birthday parties and our cafe has grown and developed."

In the late 1990s, many of the old farm buildings were rented to a variety of tenants creating the Layby Farm Business Park.

The whole site is now under family control and Ruth says that the Bucks Goat Centre will continue to thrive despite the building of the HS2 line which will run close to the centre's land.

She said: "My dad was a big campaigner against HS2 and went to the Houses of Parliament to speak on behalf of us and other businesses locally that were under threat when the plans were announced.

"Our message is that we will stay open despite HS2 - we want as much support from the community as possible so we can keep going and thriving."

Michael, 81, whose hobbies included wine-making, gardening and brewing, leaves behind two children and four grandchildren.

A funeral to remember Michael's life was held at St Mary the Virgin Church in Stoke Mandeville in the week before Christmas.