We were given a free family ticket to review Drusillas Park in Alfriston, East Sussex as part of MoneySupermarket’s Britain’s Best Days Out competition. Over the last couple of months, bloggers have been visiting attractions around the country to find the best family days out.
Small one loves a zoo (as do the rest of us), so we jumped at the chance. Rather than going straight away, we thought it would be nice to wait for her big brother to arrive home from university, and of course we wanted Grandma and Grandad to come too. I was going to buy the extra tickets online, but decided to just get them on the door as after the booking fee there was no real price advantage. Despite our best laid plans we ended up going, big-brotherless after all, on the coldest, windiest mid-January day imaginable.
The visit didn’t start well. There are good points and bad points to visiting attractions in mid-winter, the best of which is no queuing – lucky, as the combination of freezing rain and biting winds meant that standing still was extremely unpleasant. It did feel as if a lot of things were unavailable though, and had I paid full price for all of the tickets, which would have been charged as peak-season, I would have been disappointed, especially as the fabulous looking adventure playground was far too slippery for a rainy day.
Arriving at 11:30, we skipped straight to lunch in the cafe, which served pretty uninspiring fast food and had no toilets, meaning that midway through eating I had to get all dressed up in rain gear again to deliver a small child to the loo. Having said that, there is usually an alternative restaurant, which was closed on the day we visited, but may well have been more what I was looking for. The younger members of the family, who are less fussy than me, enjoyed their lunch thoroughly, especially the self-fillable individual tomato ketchup pots.
The zoo itself was deserted, with the exception of a couple of other families who I suspect had also made foolish promises to their small people. Despite the weather, there was lots to see, and I cheered up as we followed the map in the guide book to find monkeys, penguins, bats, and my personal favourite, the binturong.
A lot of the animals seemed unimpressed by the rain, and I didn’t blame them. I gave up on any pretence at style early on, when my lizardlike circulation demanded that I borrowed hats and snoods from all my near and dear, layering them attractively over a metallic knitted boob tube, a relic from my mispent youth which has since served as belly band, doll’s blanket and most recently scarf. Curly one advised me I looked like a “ninja nun”, which I chose to take as a compliment…
The otters, on the other hand, were completely in their element and we waited with them for their lunch, as they ran up and down like mad things, squeaking aggressively and demanding meals with menaces from anyone who came near. When their keeper eventually arrived to feed them, an adorable baby stole the show, as he tried to get the hang of a boiled egg.
Despite my early misgivings, there were lots of things to keep kids of all ages busy and interested – more than enough to fill a day. Small enjoyed the spotter books and stamper stations where you could keep a record of all the animals you’d seen and we all had fun doing the “Zoolympics”, where you could compare yourself to a variety of animals for speed, strength and volume. The highlight of this was the phonebox where you had to shout as loud as possible, proving beyond doubt that the curly one is the loudest of us all. We all competed, but none could come close (unsurprisingly – she burst her Dad’s eardrum as a baby!).
We thought the animated displays and talking bins were well thought out, encouraging kids hygiene. Unfortunately, small isn’t fond of ”pretend animals” so we had to move away swiftly whenever one started.
We finished the day with hot ring donuts and an exciting ride on the Thomas the Tank engine train, which took us all around the park.
All in all it was a great day, and would have been even better in the sunshine. Well worth a visit if you’re in the area.