Living in London with small children can get a little claustrophobic at times. We are lucky that where we live there are numerous playgrounds near by, however we have witnessed over the last few, rainy weeks each of them being slowly transformed into giant mud baths. I have lost count of number of times I’ve fished one of my children out of a puddle or had to do a swift full outfit change for either one or both of them as a result of covering themselves from head to foot in mud within minutes of arriving at the park (always the one that’s the furthest away from home). The icing on the cake for me was last week, whilst on yet another quest for fresh air and an energy burn off session, we inadvertently caused a group of shivering parents huddled by the climbing frames to hold back tears of laughter. I’d like to think that none of them knew the big yellow curly slide had filled up with enough water at the bottom you could do widths, because no one stopped the 3 of us clambering up there and then merrily sailing into the murky drink at the bottom. Who knew things were getting so bad that I would have to start taking an outfit change out for myself.
It was with great relief last weekend that finally, in the small window of sunshine that briefly hovered over London, we managed an afternoon out. I mean out out. Not to soft play or a playground but to an oasis in the mud: Battersea Park zoo. This place is listed in London's top 10 sites for kids and quite rightly so.
I have come across other ‘zoos’ found in parks and they generally consist of a few chickens and temperamental llama. However, Battersea Park Zoo blows all those mundane token animal enclosures out of the water.
Just the animal repertoire of this place is beyond genius. Of course it has all your usual chickens, ducks and guinea pigs but if you could hand pick the animals that you know will go down a storm with your little ones these are ALL here. But it’s not like a zoo, it’s totally designed for kids and adults with kids, in mind. I have always struggled to find anything entertaining for toddlers outside of soft play or a trip to feed the ducks, as quite often even some playgrounds are just a bit too oversized. So you end up spending the entire time trying to empower your little one, lifting them up ladders or guiding them over ropes, constantly reassuring them they’ll be able to do it soon. How soon? Once they’ve grown a few inches and grasped the concept of gravity. However, this place has a playground for every age.
Where do I start? Apart from the multitude of playgrounds, a giant real fire engine and a sit on tractor and trailer, there is a giant sandpit full of ’sand transporting devices’ which is a stand alone feat of engineering with buckets and spades provided. There is a pond full of remote control pirate galleons. Then there are the animals. This is not an exhaustive list however, these include: Capuchins, Yellow chested Bolivian Squirrel monkeys, Lemurs, Rabbits, Donkeys, Miniature Shetland ponies, Chinchillas, Bearded dragons, Giant African Land Snails. There are Meerkats, Wallabies, Emus, Miniature Shetland ponies, Kune Kune pigs (Kune in native Maori on New Zealand means fat and round) Turtles and Corn snakes. Also did I mention there are Miniature Shetland Ponies?
There are prehensile tailed field mice and Emperor Tamarins, named after Kaiser Wilhelm II, who apparently had a similar moustache. Not to mention it’s close proximity to Heathrow, ensuring a constant stream of aeroplanes and helicopters, a brilliant distraction which I never thought I’d be grateful for.
All of this for the bargain fee for a family of 4, of £28 (I have paid nearly double this amount for lesser zoos!). On a bright day this place is pure delight that I cannot recommend highly enough.