2016 Best Places For Family Holidays – London Wetland Centre, Barnes

These wild acres are an oasis in busy south-west London – and even kids left cold by the many migrating birds will love the otters and adventure playground

London Wetland Centre comprises 105 protected acres

 

In a nutshell

A watery world of lakes, lagoons and marsh linked by flat paths, where 180 species of birds have been seen. It’s vibrant in spring and summer with chicks galore, the pond ripe for dipping and meadows bright with flowers and insects, but autumn and winter have their own appeal. Stroll around the main lake and duck into one of the six hides to admire wintering fowl in weak sunlight. It can feel like you have the place to yourself.

Fun fact

A bomb disposal unit had to be called out when an unexploded second world war bomb was discovered during the development of the site.

There are birds from all over the world at the centre

Best thing about it?

There are birds from all over the world, but the biggest crowds gather for the two playful Asian short-clawed otters at feeding time. Little human creatures will no doubt find the adventure playground with its water vole tunnels a highlight.

What about lunch?

This column’s regular bugbear, the options are uninspiring and pricey: mains £8.95, kids’ meals £4.25, tea £2.05. My usual advice stands: bring a packed lunch. There’s no shortage of picnic spots.

 Children’s play area at the centre

 

Exit through the gift shop?

There’s no escape on the way out but plenty of educational and environment-related toys, kits and books.

Value for money?

On a dry day you can spend a good few hours here. The discovery centre, with interactive exhibits, is good on a rainy day but not worth the entry price alone: adult £11.91, child £6.55, family £33.27 (more with gift aid). Annual membership is a reasonable £64 and covers all nine UK wetland centres.

Two boys in the discovery centre

 

Opening hours

9.30am-5pm (6pm in summer) daily, except 25 December.

Verdict

It’s a small miracle to find 105 wildlife-rich protected acres in this city.

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