The devastated owners of Roves Farm were left to pick up the pieces today after a huge blaze destroyed the visitors’ centre.

Firefighters were called out at midday yesterday, but it was too late to save the focal point of the tourist attraction from being reduced to charred embers.

The blaze was under control about an hour later after a major response from emergency services at the family-run farm in Sevenhampton, near Highworth.

The centre had hosted the site’s main reception and ticketing area as well as hosting arts and crafts activities.

The farm, run by the Burr family, now faces being shut indefinitely as the damage is assessed and repaired.

Communications officer Pippa Burr had tears in her eyes as she helped evacuate animals which had been housed near the fire-ravaged building.

She said: “We’re very busy. We’re removing all the animals that are at risk from smoke inhalation.”

Pippa, daughter of owner Rupert, wrote later on Twitter: “I’m sorry to report that Roves Farm has been devastated by a major fire. Everyone and all animals are safe.

“We will be closed for the foreseeable future. We will keep you informed.”

Six pumping appliances from Stratton, Swindon, Westlea and Cricklade, two water carriers from Royal Wootton Bassett and Ramsbury, an aerial appliance and a control unit from around the Swindon area attended the blaze at the centre, which is attached to a high bay barn.

Firefighters used four breathing apparatus, two main jets and three hose reel jets to tackle the blaze. A spokeswoman for Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service said the cause of the fire was not thought to be suspicious.

Swindon watch manager Bryan Morris said at the scene: “This is a significant fire further complicated by asbestos in the roofing.

“The fire service is liaising with the borough council as to how to deal with the asbestos. No-one has been hurt and all the animals are okay after being removed by staff.

“The fire was contained to the visitors’ centre, which is severely damaged. The cause of the fire will be established through an investigation after the incident.” Ambulance crews were involved in the response.

The 166-hectare working farm was still turning away visitors even as the smoke continued to rise from the centre. Nicky Rutter, 36, a season ticket-holder from north Swindon, had turned up with her three-year-old son Toby.

She said: “We’ve been here many times. “It’s such a shame for a family-run business.”

Roves Farm offered activities including animal feeding and handling, and indoor and outdoor play areas.