The London Wetland Centre in Barnes has long been a brilliant place for a day out with kids in London, year round. But now it feels even more special thanks to the Illuminature light trail, on until the 9th of January 2022. It has a lovely festive feel without being Christmasy, it’s more Mother Nature getting her glow on to brighten up winter.
We were invited to visit the WWT London Wetland Centre and experience the Illuminature light trail, here’s our review of our family day out…
After exploring the WWT London Wetland Centre for a couple of hours whilst it was still light out (see below) we bought some hot chocolates and entered the Illuminature trail (created by Lumagica). There was a stream of families entering, lots of pushchairs, but it all felt quite chilled out and spacious. It is a beautiful trail that lives up to its name, highlighting nature. There are glowing tunnels for kids to walk through, giant vibrant dragonflies overhead, bright birds perched about, and stunning colourful orbs and rain drops hanging from the trees.
Throughout the trail you’ll find different sets of wings, with their lights flashing to look as if they are flapping. These are popular photo opp spots and the kids were eager for us to take their photo stood in front of each set of wings, all topped with uplifting wetland messages in neon.
You’ll walk around ponds, over bridges, wind around boardwalks and duck through cane tunnels. Just past the glow, in the darkness you can hear birds creating a symphony with their night-time calls, some of the more curious waddled into the light to see what was going on.
The kids got particularly excited when we arrived at a field of giant glowing lily pads. Kids are encouraged to jump across the lily pads to make them light up. We found the pads varied in how responsive they were to jumps, the lighting can see erratic but no one was bothered by this, it felt like a magical world.
It took us about an hour to complete the trail – they give you a map at the start but we found it a bit tricky to read in the dark and didn’t really use it. There were some helpful volunteers dotted around the trail if you had any questions. Would highly recommend this trail for people of all ages; it’s uplifting, beautiful and has a lovely chilled out atmosphere.
Now, before it got dark out we spent a couple of hours exploring the London Wetland Centre. We have been here before but not for a couple of years.
There are hides (huts and a tower) along the trails where you can sit quietly and look out at the wetlands, searching for a variety of birds. Be sure to bring your binoculars if you have them. The kids are actually really good at staying quiet in these spaces, as the signs request. Don’t disturb the wildlife!
My kids LOVE the Wild Walk, which winds through the reeds and over water. They have to balance on logs cut in various ways and cross rope bridges. It’s total proof that simple, natural play can bring so much joy. They did this walk multiple times.
There is also a play area, with tunnels, a zip wire and a few other bits. It’s not huge but it satisfies kids who are always looking for a playground when you go anywhere! In the summer it has some water play features too.
There is a small indoor interactive space as well, which includes a water play table, a water shooting game (currently out of order) and an air-powered ball shooting game which my kids had great fun with. We were at this for quite a while.
There are lots of picnic tables, placed throughout the wetland centre and they have a cafe, a gift shop and a big free parking lot. It’s near a train station too if you’d like to travel car-free.
They often have great family activities throughout the year and during school holidays so be sure to keep an eye on their website and social media channels. Their Santa grotto is fantastic but be warned it’s usually just held on a couple of weekends books up fast.
We love this place, an oasis of calm in London… even with children!
Running 4.00 – 9.00pm until the 9th January 2022.
Tickets are £17.50 for adults and £12.50 per child, under 4’s visit free (the ticket price applies to members too and is separate from a day entry pass).
You can buy tickets for Illuminature up to 3pm on the day of the event you wish to join.
PRESS INVITE – we were invited to review this experience.