Our spring visit, late March 2016
On a fairly warm, sunny day last week, I brought Little T to the nearby WWT London Wetland Centre in Barnes. Up until the end of this week (10 April) they are running the Easter GIANT Duck Hunt, which is a trail you follow around the reserve, looking for large ducks that have been disguised as ducks that live at the centre and collecting clues to win a Cadbury’s Freddo Frog. Participating in the duck hunt costs £1 per person, including the prize, and it was fun involving Little T to scan the areas looking for these hidden ducks – he did a great job and certainly enjoyed the chocolate prize at the end!
We also visited the London Wetland Centre in August and Little T had such a great time at the Explore adventure area. While we didn’t make it there this time, I’ve included photos from that summer visit in the second half of this post so you can see that play area too. We’ll definitely be heading back again in warmer weather to enjoy the outdoor water activities!
I ordered our tickets online (10% off on the website) and showed the print out copy at the entrance. There was a bit of a wait entering the centre, understandly as it is busier due to school holidays, but once we were through the entrance, there’s loads of space to move around and explore. We went straight for the duck trail, on the lookout for those hidden ducks!
The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) is a conservation charity that saves wetlands in the UK and around the world. WWT has 9 Wetland Centres in the UK and manages 3,000 hectares of prime wetland habitat, much of it designated as nationally or internationally important to wildlife. Every year, 50,000 schoolchildren learn about water and the natural environment at WWT’s Wetland Centres, including 15,000 from disadvantaged areas through their free school visits scheme.
At the London Wetland Centre, there are several different wildlife habitats to see throughout the reserve, including lakes, marshes, reedbeds and gardens. Following the duck trail was a fun way to explore these areas and learn interesting facts about some of the inhabitants such as black swans, eiders and herons.
The Duck Hunt trail eventually brought us to the Headley Discovery Hide, where you’ll find a room with large windows for watching and photographing wildlife. There are telescopes plus books and other resources to help identify birds and animals. The staff at the centre were very helpful, setting up the telescope for us and pointing out interesting sights.
This is the view of the nature reserve through the window at the hide. There are six hides scattered throughout the centre, and in addition to birds, you have the chance of spotting reptiles, amphibians and water voles.
Back outside and on the trail, one of the highlights of our visit was seeing a mother duck surrounded by at least twelve adorable fluffy ducklings.
After pecking about at the grass, they were soon all in the water. At one point the duck shown with his head in the water ventured too close to the ducklings, and Mama Duck was right there snapping him away. Little T is usually rather prompt to move on to the next sight, but even he stood there for a while watching these ducklings in action. And of course we couldn’t leave the gift shop without two little plush ducklings of our own to bring home!
We took a lunch break at the Water’s edge cafe before stopping at the Duck Hunt table to hand over the clues we found in exchange for a chocolate prize. We then went to the Discovery Centre, which features an exhibit on the wetlands around the world downstairs, and upstairs, an area with interactive water games where children can learn more about what it’s like to live in wetland areas, and some challenges people face such as building homes on flood plains or creating irrigation systems.
The water guns were certainly very popular! Visiting the Discovery Centre was a fun way to end our day at the London Wetland Centre. It is an excellent place for older children to be interactive and learn more about these unique environments. And the water activities and arcade ball game are great fun for the little ones!
Our summer visit, mid August 2015
Our visit last summer started off with watching the otters. They are so much fun to watch as they dive to catch their food and I highly recommend stopping by for one of the feeding times which are posted on the website.
Over the summer, the reserve was a beautiful lush green dotted with vibrant flowers…
After wandering around the reserve taking in the gorgeous scenery, we made our way to the Explore adventure area. I didn’t realise how big it was! First, there was a playground that is great for the little ones. We spent some time there, with Little T enjoying the slide…
And the riding toys… There were actually a few showing the various stages of a frog’s life cycle, from tadpole to froglet to adult.
Then at some point, Little T ventured into this tunnel. I ended up having to crawl through after him and there are a few exits, one of which takes you to an adventure playground for older children with a zipline…
And an unexpected surprise, a long water table! Little T was thrilled! You use the water jets to help the rubber duckies race their way down this long table. This area kept him entertained for ages and one reason we’ll definitely be coming back to the Explore adventure area on a hot day.
Overall, I highly recommend visiting the WWT London Wetland Centre. It is an excellent place, so peaceful with beautiful scenery and popular with birdwatchers, photographers and families, with plenty of space to explore and many indoor and outdoor activities for children. Little T loved the play area and interactive displays, watching the otters and wandering down the paths through the reserve, spotting the wildfowl along the way. It’s close to where we live and has made for a fun day out that Little T enjoys each time, which is why I plan on returning in the coming months – especially on a hot day so he can play at that outdoor water table again!
WWT London Wetland Centre, Queen Elizabeth’s Walk, Barnes, London SW13 9WT
Opening Hours: Open from 9.30am everyday (excluding Christmas Day) with seasonal closing times. Summer opening times – from 1 March until 31 October – are from 9.30am to 5.30pm (last admission 4.30pm). Check current opening times here.
Tickets: Prices (with Gift Aid) are £13.10 for adults, £7.20 for child 4 to 16 years and children under 4 enter free. Buy your tickets in advance online for 10% off and remember to still include any free tickets for under 4 children in the booking.
Parking: Parking is free for visitors – make sure to pick up a token to open the car park gate as you drive out. I was given my token at the cashier at the entrance.
Good to Know:
Remember to bring along a spare set of clothes for the kids.
Have some cash on hand, to pay the £1 if you’re visiting this week for the Duck Hunt or to pay for snacks or drinks at the Explore adventure area kiosk which at last check was cash only.
The Water’s edge cafe is located near the entrance and offers plenty of options, from picnic boxes with a sandwich, fruit, juice and snacks, to hot meals, e.g. chicken goujons, jacket potatoes and soups.
Membership options are available to enjoy unlimited free entry to all nine wetland centres across the UK. You have 30 days from the day of your visit to submit your admission receipt and have the admission fee deducted from the membership cost if you decide to join the WWT.
PIN IT FOR LATER