VISIT: The Horniman Museum + Gardens, London
After what felt like an impossibly long, hot summer here in London, we now find ourselves quickly approaching winter. As I type this, thick heavy clouds are forming, as gusts of wind shake leaves prematurely from their branches, and I feel myself longing to seek out every chance we have to enjoy Londons' myriad of outdoor spaces. Such was our motivation when we recently went to The Horniman Museum and Gardens, in South London.
The Horniman truly feels like one of the citys' best kept secrets. Away from the hectic buzz of central London, the museum is situated on extensive grounds that feature; a working garden bursting with fruit and vegetables; an incredible array of plants; pleasant garden walks; and lush green lawns to stretch out on to enjoy a picnic lunch when the weather permits. There are small installations for making musical sounds, an animal walk, and a butterfly house.
There's no denying that warmer weather will allow you to fully appreciate the surrounds. However, the museum itself boasts a collection of over 3,000 artefacts on display; all carefully curated, and a formidable testament to what can be achieved in a relatively small space. Anthropology enthusiasts will find much to enjoy, especially in the recently opened World Gallery; a wonderful celebration of cultures from around the world. Plus there's indoor buggy parking, baby change facilities, an onsite cafe and gift shop, as well as a small childrens' library which includes gorgeous picture books about archaeology, diversity and history (and can provide some new inspiration for those wishing to add to home libraries).
I personally don't care much for taxidermy, especially when one considers how these animals were obtained, yet there is an interesting display of wildlife from around the world, as well as a feature on Londons' non-human inhabitants (which my three-year-old son adored!). In the World Gallery, the interactive underwater display in the Oceania section (see photo below) causes many a young child to ignore the surrounding artefacts (including my own about my birthplace) but will buy you a few precious moments should you wish to examine the displays in quiet repose.
The beauty of The Horniman is that it can be enjoyed all-year round, particularly for those of us who enjoy the clear definition of British seasons; flowers blooming, leaves changing colours, the hopeful possibility of snow in winter; all can be savoured here. In the warmer months,the best part of a day could be spent viewing the collection and enjoying a picnic outside, exploring the beautiful surrounding parkland. However, on those days where the weather necessitates indoor activities, a pleasant morning can be spent amongst the curios making the visit worth the journey.
Address: 100 London Road, London SE23 3PQ
Opening Hours: Check the information listed on the website, as seasons affect the gardens' open hours.
Entry: General admission is 'free', while temporary exhibits are ticketed.
Facilities: Indoor buggy parking, baby change rooms, cafe, gift shop
Access: Easy navigation for both buggies and wheelchairs.
Transport: A half-mile (somewhat uphill) walk from Forest Hill train station via the London Overground, plus a bus stop is conveniently located outside the main gates. TFL is a fab resource for anyone wishing to navigate this sprawling city, whether as a resident or visitor.