Pea and I had a lovely day gallivanting around Battersea Park on a chilly but sunny day in late January. This is a great destination for a family day out as it’s bursting at the seams with things to do with a zoo, gallery, boating lake, several playgrounds, mini golf and cafe spread out over the 200-acre grounds.
The main reason for our visit was to check out the Children’s Zoo. I harbour fixations with certain animals. These include but are not limited to lemurs, badgers, meerkats, sloths and dugongs. When I looked up the zoo’s website, it said there were lemurs and meerkats. I was sold on the lemurs alone and excited to see how Pea would react to them.
At some point on the way there Pea, as is his wont, passed out in his pram. I only noticed this just as I was walking up to the zoo entrance. Its quite a small zoo and I was able to walk around most of it while Pea was sleeping so it was looking like it might be a very short visit. The lemurs were in hiding when I arrived, but I did notice that their feeding time was coming up soon. So I waved at the wallabies, stared at the squirrel monkeys and marvelled at the teeny weeny harvest mice before circling back to the lemur residence.
By this time the three resident lemurs where parading around in anticipation of the lunch service. And perhaps Pea has picked up something of his mother’s affection for lemurs after all because when I glanced over at his pram, he was sitting up looking wide-eyed and alert. I took him out and we were able to get really close up to the enclosure as the lemurs tucked into their lunch of sweet potatoes, sweetcorn, carrot and pak choi. They really are such beautiful animals and it was great to get so close you could almost touch those magnificent tails (which they use as scarves to keep warm).
After feeding time, we spent the next hour and a half or so tottering around the zoo with me pointing at wallabies, meerkats, emus and monkeys like a loon to a mostly ambivalent Pea. He did seem quite taken with the donkeys but the many play areas were the real draw for him, as was climbing aboard the stationary fire engine and trying on a selection of hard hats. I had to curtail his fun in the water play area because he kept trying to eat the sand. In fact, he got really filthy here. I’d had the bright idea that we were going to spend as much time on walking practice as possible. Even though he can take a few independent steps at home he was having none of it here. Every time I’d try to encourage a few steps he’d just drop to his bum, throw his hands up in the air, chirp “Mamma” and generally just look like a helpless baby bird. If I didn’t pick him up he’d just crawl straight towards some dirt or a puddle and then sit there and refuse to move. Naturally, he also refused to get back in his pram so it was all a bit knackering carrying him around, pushing the pram with one hand. We eventually left when Pea succumbed to another hangry rage.
This is a really good option for younger children (and crowd-phobic adults like me) as it’s considerably cheaper than its Camden based rival, small enough not to overwhelm but there’s still a good amount of animals to see. I imagine it gets busy in summer and during half term, but on our visit we practically had the place to ourselves, meaning there was no need to jostle for a good position to see the critters. For those nippers that are nonchalant towards the meerkats and the monkeys then the fire engine, swings, or various play areas should provide sufficient distraction.
Admission is £9.50 for adults, £7.50 for kids, and under 2’s go free. Battersea Park is the nearest station (National Rail) but there are steps galore. Clapham Junction (National Rail, Overground) is step free and about a 30-minute walk, about half of which is through the park. There’s a cafe and baby change on site, although we didn’t use either so can’t comment on the quality of those but I can recommend the Pear Tree Cafe by the boating lake in the park – plenty of high chairs available, kids menu, loads of other mums and babies and the coffee hit the spot for me.