What?: Perfectly proportioned for little monkeys, packed with playgrounds and positioned on the Thames side of family-friendly Battersea Park, this magical zoo is an ideal day out for tot-toting Londoners who can’t face the hordes, cost or vastness of the tourist trap that is ZSL London Zoo. This mini menagerie might lack the crowd-pulling lions and penguins possessed by its more famous sibling, but there’s still an interesting variety of creatures to meet, from rodents and birds to otters and meerkats, as well as larger mammals including wallabies, pigs and donkeys – all of which you’ll comfortably fit into your day with plenty of time left for play.
This is just as well, as play will likely occupy a considerable chunk of your outing thanks to the copious and impressively imaginative play areas that pepper the western portion of the zoo. Think tractors to clamber on, a red fire engine to commandeer, old-school arcade games, interactive sand-diggers, an enormous sandpit filled with water-play apparatus, pirate ships, trampolines and a fort – in addition to the conventional swings and things. There’s also an admittedly rather Blair-Witch-Projecty learning hut for rainy days with some fairly weird stuff chalked across the blackboard-clad walls, including several affirmations of “POOPOO”. Poo is a bit of a theme here actually – aside from all the animal dung, the (actually very clean) changing facility is called the Pooh Bear Room, plus Bab did the worst poo manufactured by anyone ever whilst on site.
Poo aside though, the thing I really loved about this little zoo was the incredible level of interactivity and attention to detail. While this is a lovely chilled day out for grown-up Londoners looking to escape the urban jungle and allow their kids a bucolic frolic, the space has clearly been designed with tiny people front of mind. Aside from the myriad play zones, picnic areas and toddler-height enclosures, BPCZ is packed with ingenious touches such as meerkat flumes, which kids can shoot down before popping their heads up into their den (via transparent domes) for a closer peek; scattered ride-ons for tiny totterers; and even a colourful ‘birthday bricks’ wall decorated with previous visitors’ names and DOBs. And let’s not forget the all-important public feeding times, which happen every 30 to 60 minutes (thankfully most of the animals here are herbivores so you needn’t worry about them gnawing on your offspring).
Where?: The zoo is situated at the northern end of Battersea Park and is a 13-minute walk from Battersea Park (mainline), 22 from Sloane Square (District, Circle) and 32 from Imperial Wharf (Ginger).
Best Bits: Whether you’re one or 101, it’s actually impossible to get bored here.
Worst Bits: Obviously a portion of the animals are nocturnal, so while you might have time to pay everyone a visit they might not always be particularly hospitable.
Facilities: Buggy parking, baby changing, feeding room, cafe, step-free access.
Cost: Adults £9.50, children £7.50, under-2s free.
Would We Come Back?: We’ll leave it until next summer, but yes.
Bab rides the tractor at Battersea Park Children’s Zoo, Battersea.