With the weather hotting up we’ve been making a concerted effort to explore the often-overlooked attractions right on our doorstep (why is it we never seem to visit places close to home?) including Drusillas Park in East Sussex.
Dubbed the ‘best small zoo in the country’ with animals including monkeys and penguins and attractions including a Hello Kitty Secret Garden and a Thomas the Tank Engine ride-on train (pictured), even Misery Guts had to admit it sounded like a fun day out.
Of course it poured with rain on the day of our trip, but as I always like to say there’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing. So we donned our macs and set off for the ‘small zoo’ – which is actually rather extensive with more than 100 species of animals from farmyard cows to red pandas.
From the moment you enter the gates there’s a clearly signposted zoo route which is easily navigational with a buggy. The path weaves its way around the park with plenty of opportunity to divert from the trail and take in some of the zoo’s other attractions before picking it up again later on – perfect for shorter attention spans or little feet in need of a rest.
Attractions include a brand new Hello Kitty Secret Garden – the first permanent Hello Kitty attraction in Europe – set in a perfectly manicured English country garden (pictured) with, unusually, specially designed children’s rides suitable for toddlers and up including Hello Kitty cars (pictured) and Tea Cups.
On the day we visited Hello Kitty herself was even on hand to welcome guests in her bedroom and, like Thomas the Tank Engine’s Fat Controller, will make further appearances on set dates throughout the year.
A purpose built Hello Kitty Parlour with face painting, tattoos and hair braiding offered welcome shelter from the showers (pictured), as did a ride around the park on Annie and Clarabel pulled by none other than Thomas The Tank Engine himself. This was such a hit we actually rode the train twice, and I’m not sure who had more fun – BB or Misery Guts and I.
Although the zoo is predominantly outside, the route is partly covered with strategically placed foliage so even in wet weather you’re unlikely to get really wet, and can still enjoy peering through the cleverly designed windows at the animals at your own pace.
One attraction which will appeal to everyone from 8-month-old babies to 80-year-old grannies is the child-friendly walk-through rainbow lorikeet enclosure, where for £1 for a pot of food you can feed the parrots from the palm of your hand (or head). However, enter at your own risk – if you’re going to feed the birds, you may well get pooed on too.
When it came to lunch I was particularly impressed with the canteen-style restaurant, which as well as the obligatory sausages, beans and chips has a well-stocked salad bar and baked potato station for mums and dads seeking healthier options (pictured) as well as a good range of kids’ food from cold pre-packed lunch boxes to chicken nuggets and pizza.
Like BB’s great granny I always judge a place on its loo (when she recounts a trip to Buckingham Palace to see my dad awarded his MBE one of the highlights is how ‘marvellous’ the toilets were – more than 10 years later she still raves about them) and I was particularly impressed with Drusilla’s offering. Each loo comes with a child’s seat attached (even in the men’s), locks that are lower down for little hands and a sink and soap dispenser that even a toddler can reach.
As days out go Drusillas Park isn’t cheap: entry for two adults and a toddler costs £49.50, and we then spent a further £25 on lunch and face painting. That said, the park does offer a host of deals including discount days and online discounts, as well as annual membership for £59 per person. On dry summer days a homemade picnic would also bring down the overall cost.
We were asked to review Drusillas Park by parenting website Made For Mums. To read my full review or for more information click here