Craig recommends… Here’s my latest Battersea Park Children’s Zoo review. If you love animals then don’t miss London Zoo. The London Aquarium is worth a look as well, and if you don’t mind catching a train then Chessington World of Adventures is even better because it’s got rollercoasters. You could give Spitalfields City Farm a try if you’re happy with farmyard animals.
This review originally appeared in his London blog
I’m normally a bit of a cynic when I see a sign like ‘Children’s Zoo’. I just assume that it’s a cheapo zoo. A zoo with no animals in it. A zoo where they’ve taken out all the lions and tigers and replaced them with a load of pigs and swings and slides.
That is what I was expecting this morning as I was walking over the Albert Bridge. I thought it would be a quick half hour of me dodging a load of hyperactive school kids tearing around screaming their heads off, and then I’d go back into Chelsea for something to eat. So I wasn’t expecting much of Battersea Park Children’s Zoo.
My hopes were kindled a little as soon as I entered the gate, because the first thing you see is a big yellow monkey cage. I couldn’t find any monkeys in it, though. Maybe they were having a lie-in or something. I even made some ooh-ooh noises to tempt them out, but to no avail.
And that’s the big problem with zoos (it’s the same thing with London Zoo as well) – half of the animals in them don’t want to do anything. Presumably they get paid a lot of peanuts and bananas to put on a show for the punters, but they are taking us for fools.
If it was up to me then I would sack the lot of them. There are plenty more monkeys in the rainforest who would love to be locked up in Battersea Park in a little 10-foot by 10-foot cell, so shape up or ship out!
I was quite surprised by the number of monkeys they’ve got on display. Considering that it’s such a small zoo they’ve actually got quite a large collection. But they are all tiny little fellas: capuchins, tamarins and squirrel monkeys… no chimpanzees. No orangutans or gorillas. We’re not talking Planet of the Apes here. These guys aren’t going to take over the world any time soon.
They’ve built some runs from one cage to to another as well, so you can see them clamber across a wire bridge to their little hutches out the back, and see what they’re doing when they think they’re alone.
In the centre of the zoo is a big grass enclosure with a couple of miniature little nissan huts in it (that’s what they looked like to me anyway – those places where they parked Spitfires in the war). I stood there for two minutes scanning the scene for enemy animals, until eventually one decided to poke his head out of the door.
It was a wallaby. Or maybe it was a kangaroo. It was definitely something with big feet, anyway. He didn’t do much hopping around or jumping about either, not even when the zoo-keeper tipped in a load of food. So there’s another animal getting paid to sit around all day doing nothing. Sack him!
The only animal that actually engaged me in conversation was an emu. One of them tried to stare me out as he followed me around the fence, strutting his stuff, but I was equal to the challenge. I stared into his eyes for five minutes (deep into his soul) until eventually he had to admit defeat and skulk away.
The only other ‘zoo-like’ animals they’ve got are meerkats which are quite cute, I suppose. But apparently they can rip your head off in two seconds flat. If you stumbled into the meerkat enclosure by mistake then you are basically dead – they will strip your skin like a pack of piranhas until all that is left is a pair of dry eyeballs. That is what someone told me down the pub anyway.
The rest of the animals on display are pretty tame. In London Zoo they’ve got penguins and flamingos, but in here they’ve got ducks. London Zoo’s got lions and tigers, but in here it’s two fat pigs and some ponies. They’ve even got a pen full of rabbits – the same kind that you might find in a pet shop. I reckon they probably caught half of their animals from the park next-door.
The rest of the zoo is filled with kiddie swings and slides, and a couple of cafes for a drink. It’s not the biggest place in the world, and you’ll probably be done inside an hour.
So is it worth checking out? Well, it’s not something that I’d recommend for a tourist (they are definitely better off visiting London Zoo). But if you’ve got some restless toddlers or children of primary school age who are stuck for something to do during half-term, then you can probably wile away an hour or two here quite happily. It’s definitely one for the little kids, though – if you drag any teenagers along then you’ll embarrass the hell out of them and they won’t talk to you for weeks.
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You can find some more family-friendly things to do in our big list of children’s events in London. There are events today, tomorrow and at the weekend. You can also look for events in January, February and March
If you enjoy this then try: London Aquarium (catch the tube from Sloane Square to Waterloo); London Zoo (catch the tube from Sloane Square to Camden Town) and Natural History Museum (walk it in 30 mins or catch a train from Sloane Square to South Kensington).