One to one time with my big girl is a rare occurrence these days. It was lovely to have the opportunity to enjoy a day out with Jessica on a recent Girls’ Brigade outing to Brent Lodge Park Animal Centre while Sophie and hubby enjoyed some daddy-daughter time.
Brent Lodge Park Animal Centre is a small zoo in Hanwell. It’s home to a variety of different animals including meerkats, prairie dogs, goats, pigs, chickens and turkeys and some exotic birds. Entrance was free when we visited. However, there will be an entrance fee from April 2017. There will be more animals at the centre and it will be renamed Hanwell Zoo. Tickets will cost £2.50 for adults, £1 for children aged 3-16 and season tickets will be available for £15.
This was Jessica’s first experience of a group trip with her peers. The girls were travelling to the animal centre by bus. The letter about the trip had stated there also would be some walking involved. I wasn’t sure how well Jessica would be able to manage this which is what had prompted me to ask to come along too.
The next question was whether to bring the buggy with me. We still use the buggy that we’ve had since Jessica was a baby for long trips. I was reluctant to take it though for several reasons. It would be a pain to manage on the bus. It doesn’t fold very compactly and is awkward to carry when folded. I also wondered if being in a baby buggy would be embarrassing for Jessica given some of her Girls’ Brigade friends are a couple of years older than her. Plus I know from experience that if the buggy is available, Jessica is much more likely to take the easy option even if she does have the energy to walk! With that in mind, I decided to take the toddler carrier instead.
The leaders were very considerate of Jessica’s stamina levels. While the rest of the group took slightly longer walks to use the crossings to get across roads, Jessica and I were able to take short-cuts and more direct crossings and wait for the others. Going on the bus was a bit of an adventure for Jessica in itself. It was a bit of a novel change from the usual car journey!
The walk from the bus stop to the park took us along a little lane. Jessica started to tire about halfway there and asked to be carried. She quite enjoyed her ride on my back until we reached the entrance to the animal centre where we stopped for a picnic lunch.
Having realised that the toddler carrier was an available option was a bit of a drawback though. Jessica would have been happy for me to carry her for the rest of the day after that! It took a little persuading to encourage her to walk for a while.
Trying to judge whether Jessica’s reluctance to walk is down to tiredness or unwillingness is not always easy. I try to encourage her to walk, constantly assessing whether she really is getting blue or breathless. Sometimes I don’t get it right though. When Jessica suddenly burst into tears after a little encouragement to walk, I realised that this was one time when she really wasn’t coping. She also felt a bit hot. Fortunately I always have Calpol in her medicine bag. She perked up once I’d dosed her up and put her on my back again.
Brent Lodge Park Animal Centre was a lovely place to explore. It was clear that changes were underway though. There were quite a few empty areas being prepared for the arrival of new animals. We did see lots of other animals though. Jessica quite enjoyed seeing the turkeys and chickens, the goats and the meerkats.
It was lovely to see all the signs of Spring everywhere too – the beautiful blossom on the trees, daffodils, crocuses, pansies and even a few bluebells.
Although Jessica had struggled with her energy levels going around the animal centre, she managed to find some reserves when it came to the playground! She wasn’t quite as energetic as usual but still had fun with her friends on the climbing frame and slide.
We took a slightly different route back through the Brent Lodge Park to catch the bus home, spotting some frogspawn in a stream along the way. I didn’t manage to find any for the girls to see last year, so I was glad to spot some this year! I had a very tired little Jessica on my back as we walked back to the bus stop. She was very subdued and snuggly on the bus ride home.
It was a lovely day out. The animal centre is somewhere I’d like to go again for a family day out. This time though it was good just to have that time with my big girl, to be able to focus on her and her needs completely, to be able to listen to her chatter and have some wonderful mummy-daughter time. It made me realise that I should make the effort to do so more often.