If you live in London, or plan to visit, and you haven’t been to the Horniman Museum and Gardens then I really recommend you do so, especially on a sunny day.
It’s one of my favourite places in London; close to Forest Hill overground in South East London, it is a charming and very child-friendly space filled with displays and objects which will entice children of all ages.
Our plans for Monday had to be cancelled at the last minute and the sun was shining as if to chase away the dregs of winter, so I took Frida on an impromptu trip there. She has been before but she’s now old enough that she could really engage with the place.
We had lunch when we arrived – our first alfresco lunch of the year! Frida seemed utterly thrilled by it, I think mainly due to the pigeons which crowded around her highchair to collect croissant crumbs. She spent the whole meal craning round to look at them, beaming down and waving, then looking back at me as if she couldn’t believe her luck.
After lunch we had a brilliantly sunny walk through the gardens. The gardens are fantastic and well worth the trip alone; there is a well-kept herb garden, beautiful flower beds, well kept lawns for playing, and (the highlight) a livestock section with glossy coated goats, sheep, alpacas and chickens. We spent a long time looking at the goats chewing some hay, Frida peering over the top of the fence and waving at them and me talking about what they were doing and what noises they make.
There is also an outdoor music area with big xylophones and glockenspiels which we played with and made some loud noises. I love the sound of kids playing on these, which carries over the gardens on the breeze.
It almost feels a shame to go indoors but it’s worth it. When we walked in there was a little table set up for children to handle some natural objects – a turtle shell, an ostrich egg, a snake skin and a blue tit nest a box. I was impressed that the staff manning the stand were enthusiastic about a baby in a sling handling the objects, and it was a lovely sensory activity for Frida.
The Horniman is famous for its grotesquely overstuffed walrus, and the whole natural history section feels a bit like a relic of a by-gone age, which hilariously terrible taxidermy and yellowing signs.
Frida liked looking at the displays though, and was particularly taken with a big cabinet filled with green parakeets – she knows about these from reading Mr Magnolia. She was also quite interested by some monkeys, though as always the best attraction was the group of school children who were on a trip.