One local place I have always wanted to try is Hanwell Zoo. We headed there on Thursday and had a fun-filled afternoon. The zoo is small and cute, with surprisingly tropical animals in the middle of West London. It’s set in the beautiful Brent Lodge Park, which has a maze and 2 playgrounds as well as the smaller sandpit playground inside the zoo.
Location: Hanwell Zoo, Brent Lodge Park, Church Rd, Hanwell, London W7 3BZ
Opening hours: April 1st to Sept 10th: 10am – 5pm | Sept 11th to Mar 31st: 10am – 4pm | Closed Christmas Day
Cost: £4.50 per adult, £2.50 per child, under 3s FREE. You need to book your ticket and timeslot online in advance – they are limiting numbers to ensure people can social distance.
– Small FREE car park at the end of Church Road (sat nav postcode W7 3BZ). It was full when we went so we waited until someone left so we could take their spot.
– Limited parking along Church Road itself (check local signs for restrictions).
– FREE parking available at Brent Valley Golf Course W7 3BE (15 minute walk from the zoo).
Public Transport: Nearest train station is Hanwell, which is a 12 minute walk away.
Food: There is the Brent Lodge Park Cafe that is takeaway. Open Apr – Oct 10am – 6pm | Nov – Mar 10am – 4pm
Playground: Yes. Sand playground inside the zoo. Bigger playground just outside the zoo. Another playground in the Churchfields Recreation Ground.
Church Road car park leads you right into the beautiful Brent Lodge Park. A bit of history for you – Brent Lodge Park was formerly the grounds of a large private house of which today only the stable block remains. Now it consists of an area of formal parkland containing the zoo, a cafe, playground and Millenium Maze.
To get here, you need to turn right out of Church Road car park and walk towards a path you will see in the trees. The path is leading right, and you will see the outside of the zoo and come to the Brent Lodge Millenium Maze. It is worth having a quick go before you go into the zoo!
Brent Lodge Millenium Maze
This Millenium Maze was created in the year 2000 (obvs!), and created out of 2000 yew trees. It is really fun and the kids enjoyed doing this before and after our visit to the zoo. Lily was in her element leading the way. At the centre is a wooden house, quite graffitied inside after 20 years of kids playing in there.
Next to the maze is a big playground. We skipped this and went straight to the zoo.
When you get to the zoo entrance, you show the person at the gate your booking reference on your phone. Mine didn’t come through to my email, but the man could see our booking on his phone. Our slot was from 4pm – 5pm. We got there at 3.50pm and were let in. There are arrows on the floor marking a one-way system and hand sanitisers at various points. We had to remember to walk slowly to keep our distance from the family in front of us. We saw ducks, rabbits and an alpaca first, before spotting a small aquarium hut to the left. It is one family at a time in there, so we waited and then were in after a few minutes.
There were fishtanks in there, and well as tubes containing ants that were actually carrying leaves. The kids were very excited to find fish that looked like Nemo and Dory from Finding Nemo.
Back outside, we spotted herons and FLAMINGOES! You know we looooove flamingoes, so elegant and pink. The colour is so amazing when you see them in real like, like a bright coral shade. I could have watched them for ages!
There are lots of different animals in this zoo, some really interesting ones I had never heard of before. We saw a Capybara and a Margay – these are new to the zoo for 2020. The Capybara is like a giant hamster with webbed feet, and the Margay looked like a baby cheetah. There was a Ring Tailed Lemur, Meerkats, a Porcupine and others. Quite a few tropical looking birds too. We saw a Miniature Donkey who was just being led into his shed to be fed. And loads of hens!
Right next to the hens is the playground. It’s a lovely sandpit one with decking and seating. It really has a tropical vibe, and its quite funny watching the children play and hearing the hens clucking quite loudly in the background. There is a sign saying maximum of 10 children in the playground, but there were only a couple of other children when we visited.
Here, behind the trampoline you can see a blue painted wall. There are quite a few bright walls across the zoo with huge paintings of animals.
We let them play 10 minutes before checking out the rest of the animals behind it. The kids found the lemurs particularly interesting, and Lily got excited to spot a goat walking by in the background.
Just after the lemurs is a bridge to the exit, but we still had 10 minutes of our one hour slot left, so we went back to the playground and let the kids play until the zoo closed at 5pm.
Brent Lodge Park
As you come out of the zoo, you are back in Brent Lodge Park. We popped into Brent Lodge Park Cafe next door for some ice creams and the kids ate them in the park. 2 ice creams cost £6.
The bigger playground is here by the cafe, and the maze. We didn’t go into the playground as it was really busy, but we did have one more go in the maze.
Churchfields Recreation Ground
We walked back towards the car and the kids wanted to try the other playground we saw, which is in Churchfields Recreation Ground (see the map above). We walked past the giant viaduct and saw GWR trains whizzing by. This is when I realised that this is the part of Hanwell that we usually see out the window when we are sitting on the train! It really is wow to see the viaduct from this side.
The park is full of ye olde lampposts, giving it an olde worlde feel. I spotted some sunflowers by a wall so I HAD to take a photo.
After about half-an-hour’s play, we headed back to the car to go home, very happy with our sunny afternoon out. I think as long as you lower your expectations and know this is going to be a small zoo, together with the maze, the playgrounds and the scenery, it really is an enjoyable outing. The only negative is the loos being closed, so make sure your kids go to the loo before you leave the house, or bring a travel potty. As they are limiting numbers, it did not feel crowded at all in the zoo and it was quite easy to social distance – and people were sticking to it. Outside though, by the cafe, it was very crowded and people were forgetting to social distance. Just be aware of that.
I hope we have inspired you to visit, and if you do go, let me know what you think!