Home to one of the most brilliant views of the London skyline, Horniman Gardens is worth a visit in its own right. Often overshadowed but its rather fabulous sibling, the gardens of this much loved local treasure are more than just the greenery that surrounds the buildings.
The display gardens provide hours of fun for children as they run between continents, ducking and weaving amongst plants from around the world. The gardens are at several levels, making them great fun to explore for mobile people, but a bit more difficult for anyone who struggles with steps.
There is plenty of open green space for a picnic either before, after or instead of a trip inside the museum.
The garden also houses an outdoor music area incorporating a huge metal xylophone and set of plastic tube drums that my kids insist on sitting on. There are slopes for scooting down, trees to play underneath (but not climb), plant beds to explore and grass to cartwheel on. There is even a small farm area where all ages can meet the residents.
MUMMY’S GIN FUND SAYS:
The grounds which surround the Horniman museum are as much of a treasure trove as the museum of curios itself. Children and adults alike will be delighted by the outdoor musical instruments to bash to high heaven and a small animal farm to enjoy. The parkland itself is well kept and never too busy for a picnic. Hell, there’s even a mini-football pitch that’s perfect for an energetic game of 5 aside if you still have energy to run off. A great place to wile away a couple of hours without even venturing into the musuem itself.
Address: 100 London Road, Forest Hill, London SE23 3PQ.
Playground: No, but it has outdoor musical instruments and a mini farm featuring llama.
Cafe: Not in the garden, there is a lovely cafe in the museum (see separate listing).
Toilets: Yes, clean and wheelchair accessible – half way up the hill, opposite the animal area.
Pram / wheelchair / mobility friendly: Yes, very smooth, wide paths but also extremely steep hills so you need good muscles to push anyone around!
Parking: No official parking, and driving to the museum is actively discouraged! However, you can normally manage a sneaky little park in the roads surrounding Horniman Drive.
Train: The Horniman is a five to ten minute walk from Forest Hill station and is signposted from the platform 1 exit. Please be aware this walk is uphill, although there are several bus services which stop at both the station and museum.
Bus: 176, 185, 197, 356, P4 – stop outside the Museum and Gardens on London Road; 122 – stops on Dartmouth Road; P13 – stops on Underhill Road; 363 – stops on Sydenham Hill Road.
Phone: 0208 699 1872.
The gardens also play host to the oldest nature trail in London: The Horniman Nature Trail. This provides roughly half a mile of unspoilt wild woodland, created organically along the site of the original Crystal Palace and South London Junction Railway.
www.horniman.ac.uk/visit/displays/gardens tells us: ‘Today, the trail is managed carefully to encourage a wide variety of plants, birds, insects and other animals which depend on each other for survival. Pond and meadow habitats have been introduced to attract new species, and a log pile area is home to dozens of different mini beasts, including the endangered stag beetle’. Dogs (other than assistance dogs) are not permitted.
A farmers market and other events frequently make this one of the best day trips around.
Review by Sadie Ladd