I had a day out at this reserve with my daughter and her two young children, as a birthday treat – for me!
The London Wetland centre, Barnes, is excellent for a day out – the countryside in London! Close to the centre of the capital and easy to get to, it is a haven of tranquillity for people as well as wildlife. There is a network of flat paths weaving through reed beds, and meadows, passed streams and lakes.
Enclosures are the first thing to see – captive birds, but the spacious and varied themed habitats looked natural. My grandchildren were thrilled to see birds close up. We had purchased a map and picture bird guide, so they had fun recognising the birds. One enclosure had otters in – I think they had been primed to amuse the visitors, they were scampering around and swimming quite close to the viewing path!
We wandered around in the warm sunshine, resting on one of the many seats to have a picnic lunch (there is an excellent, but a bit pricey restaurant), admiring a brimstone butterfly. There were six hides, to look at the birds. The main one has three stories and a lift to the upper floors!
The area of the reserve is quite large, so we all got a bit weary. Giving the map to the grandchildren and letting them be group leaders helped. They found the adventure playground, which was excellent -they recovered their energy and grown ups had a good sit down.
There were not many serious birders around, but lots of young families enjoying a day out. One kind birder let us look through his telescope at a snipe, which the grandchildren found fascinating. We went in mid March, a bit early for summers birds, and late for winter ones, with not many migrants. Even so, we saw over 30 species and the grandchildren enjoyed spotting water hens (nicknamed water chickens) and coot, both were very numerous. A southern bird, green parakeets were noisily flying around, looking very exotic.
An excellent place to introduce children to birds in the country side, pushchair friendly with a variety of interesting things to see. Adults who might find the countryside a bit daunting would appreciate the structured environment of smooth, level paths and benches. Older, less mobile people could use mobility scooters and be reminded of the big outdoor of their youth. Birders have the wilder fringes and the bird hides to explore.