Battersea’s the sort of place whose name – attached to landmarks in the area – is more famous than the district itself. For while most people in the UK have heard of both the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home or (the now disused) Battersea Power Station, many may be hard pressed to tell you why you might actually give the London area a visit. Well, here’s a good reason to pop Battersea-way if you’re anywhere near it – and if you have the family in tow – namely, it’s spacious and outstanding public park…
The park itself
Blessed with fabulous views of the Thames, an art gallery and a zoo, this gorgeous expanse of green is undoubtedly the pride of the Battersea district. Built on parkland on which the Duke of Wellington, the Napoleon-era war hero, once duelled with a society foe, it was opened by Queen Victoria in 1858 and hosted what many believe to have been the first official football match overseen by the English Football Association (FA) in 1864. Today, the park offers families the opportunity to mess about on the water in pedalos – specifically on its attractive boating lake – and take in the bright, vivid colour of the flora and fauna – including bullfinch and blackcap birds and 20 different butterfly species – of its nature reserves. Meanwhile, the kids especially will be delighted by the adventure playground, which boasts exciting features, including slides and high climbing nets.
The Children’s Zoo
Unsurprisingly a firm family favourite, the Children’s Zoo is arguably the biggest and best of the Battersea Park attractions. Although small by many zoo standards (it’s located in a public park, after all), there’s lashings of charisma to the place – and it certainly doesn’t skimp on the animal front either (so well worth the Tube trip from north of the river if you’ve made your base a hotel like Park Grand London Lancaster Gate). For while the little ones will be charmed by the commonplace rabbits, sheep, goats and chickens to be found on most city farms too, they’re bound to be beguiled by the genuinely exotic – and very loveable – lemurs, Asian short-clawed otters, meerkats, monkeys, emus and talking mynah birds. Just like any decent zoo, this one also offers a coffee shop, picnic tables and indoors and outdoors play-areas.
The Pump House Gallery
Finally, you have to check out this fine art haven set in a grand Victorian building originally constructed to supply the park’s lakes with water. Famed in the art community for supporting local talent, over the last decade or so it’s focused more and more on fashionable and well-received contemporary works – indeed it holds exhibitions featuring everything from photography to performance up to at least six times a years. A place where both culture vultures and the culturally curious can’t go wrong then!