WWT London Wetland Centre

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We had 2 visitors from Canada to amuse for a day, one of them has mobility difficulties so we needed somewhere that wouldn't be a challenge for her, but would give all of us a very English day out.

The London Wetlands Centre at Barnes proved to be ideal, We drove, and there is plenty of free on-site parking, but for people travelling by bus there are four routes within a short distance of the entrance, all of which connect with the London Underground at Hammersmith station. South West trains from Waterloo also has two stations within a reasonable walking distance.

Because the centre is built on the site of former water reservoirs, the terrain is flat, with firm footpaths. The Centre has recently acquired a family of otters, which are great fun to watch. Unlike most otters (which are nocturnal) these are sun-worshippers so ideal for a visitor attraction.

The other sun-worshipping creatures we saw on our visit were a grass snake and a common lizard. Apparently, they also have slow-worms. But the main reason for a visit is the birds. Following a chilly, wet May, our visit in June was full of ooh,aah, sweeeeeet !!! moments as we admired the ducklings and goslings. Fluffy little bundles, chirruping away to their anxious parents who hollered back at them.

A warm week-day proved to be perfect for a visit. Plenty of parents and grandparents with toddlers, and not too many twitchers with over-sized cameras. For the bird-watching enthusiasts there are hides dotted about, with bird-spotting books to borrow. Enthusiasts try their luck in looking for the bittern known to reside in the reeds. For the reluctant family members who are just trailing along, there are plenty of garden areas with specialised plantings to attract birds and insects. When we went in June, the water-lilies were beautiful.

There's only one cafe, but it's located centrally, so is easy to come back to at any time. The food is fine – not gourmet, but fresh and pleasant, and the prices won't max-out your cards. The shop might, though ! We did think the prices there were a bit steep, but the quality of goods on sale was excellent.

Because of the function of the site, it's probably best to go on a dry day, as there's not a lot of shelter from rain, but apart from that, it's not a weather-dependent day out. For somewhere only 10 or 15 miles from central London, it's like a visit to the peace of the countryside. We had a relaxing and thoroughly enjoyable day there and would recommend it wholeheartedly.

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