I know I've said it before, but today was a beautiful day. 21 degrees in late October insists that you must be outside. The children and I consulted. London Zoo was mooted, but quashed by me due to travelling time. We would not leave until after lunch and it closes at 4.30pm, meaning a three hour trip to the zoo would work out at over £10 per hour - too much even for a half term treat.
I have been wanting to visit the Wetlands Centre ever since it was opened. We often pass its brown sign as it is on our route out of London to Taunton. I am a sucker for brown signs. For those of you outside of the UK, brown signs generally indicate a tourist/family attraction and are placed in strategic points on main traffic routes in order to entice you in. They raise opposing feelings in Toby and me; I want to go, he doesn't. Most drives en famille are punctuated with me crying, 'We should go there', with him countering, 'We don't have time/it's too expensive/it will be too crowded'. Up until now, my strongest brown sign feelings have been aroused by the Wetlands Centre and Longleat - also on the way to Taunton. I am still working on Longleat and am confident I will succeed, but it seemed that the Wetlands Centre would have to be accomplished on my own. Longleat will require Toby's cooperation as we need the car in order to survive - I will persevere.
I was able to lure the children into my plan by judicious showing of the website, so off we trotted after a hasty cheese sandwich lunch.
We weren't disappointed. If you live in London I highly recommend a visit. It is a 10 minute train ride from Clapham Junction, followed by a 10 minute walk or 5 minute bus ride. Once you're inside the 105 acre site it's hard to believe you're in London, such is the feeling of space.
One part of the centre is divided into various habitats, providing you with opportunties to see the birds close up. Sam and Josie had taken sketchbooks and made good use of them.
We also took photos. These were our favourite birds. Josie thought, 'They were trying to look smart as they knew they were having their photo taken'. She wasn't far wrong, as the information board said, 'Watch them spend hours preening themselves and each other'.
The centre makes good use of the natural materials found in wetlands. This is the fence round one of the lagoons.
Most of the site is taken up by a vast manmade wetland, with a variety of habitats designed to appeal to native and migratory birds. Dotted around it are hides of different shapes and sizes from which one can observe the birds. These aren't just for show, there were lots of serious 'twitchers' there, kitted out with high spec telescopes and cameras. Strict 'hide rules' had to be observed - no loud noises, no running etc. Josie and I were so engrossed we didn't even notice Sam taking this picture.
I even managed to get a little knitting done while the children sketched. We stayed until 20 minutes before closing and I had to be strict to get the children to leave. What better recommendation can there be?