I did not receive payment of any kind to write this post and purchased all products reviewed myself.
Little Chap and I recently visited Butterfly World at the suggestion of one my good friends. As both our little chaps had learned about the butterfly life cycle in the Nursery last year, it seemed very appropriate. Little Chap was keen to have a day out with one of his school chums too, so we packed our little “Summer Day Out” bag with Wasp-Eze and plasters, hand wipes and lunches and off we all went.
Little Chap and I hadn’t visited before and in fact the £27 million project, designed in the shape of a butterfly’s head, only re-opened in March 2013. I have to say I was very impressed. Little Chap also seemed to really enjoy its attractions.
Easy to find, just off the M1 (Junction 6), it didn’t take us long to get to the Centre in St Albans from home once the
dreaded rush hour was over. There was plenty of parking, just a short walk from the Centre’s entrance. There were no queues to get in, so after paying the reasonable entry fee, which was even more reasonable once we’d used the half price offer my friend found online, we went straight to the butterfly house, after a short visit to the toilets for the little ones. These were conveniently located at the entrance, near the cafe and main attractions and were cunningly built into giant wooden beehives, just for fun!
With 15-20 different species in the Butterfly House and between 5-800 butterflies and moths at any time, there were plenty for us to see – we had to be careful not to take any home with us though, as they did like to settle! Some were tiny and multicoloured, some, like this tiger moth, were huge.
The kids enjoyed watching the butterflies and moths eat, fly and settle. This didn’t last too long though, so we headed for the Insect Study Centre, where they were allowing some insect handling. Little Chap was brave and curious enough to hold a stick insect that was bigger than his little hand. I was not to be outdone, nor was my friend!
Admission: I used to love feeding garden stick insects on privet hedge cuttings in ice cream tubs in my bedroom when I was about nine! Best not to share this with Little Chap right now, I think.
There was plenty of sensory activity in the Insect Study Centre, with noisy crickets and giant slimy snails and plenty of enormous, itch-inducing cockroaches! When it got a little crowded with kids, we headed for the tree cutter ant exhibition.
TOP TIP FOR MUMS: get to the insect handling early to avoid the crush!
The Ant World was fantastic and really captured the kids’ imaginations as they could see them marching down the trees with the leaf pieces in their jaws and on down underground through a maze of tunnels to where the leaf becomes mould – their food source – as it rots over time. This was ‘A Bug’s Life’ for real!
Tempers were now fraying a little (mostly mine as tiredness in Little Chap translated to the Most. Irritating. Behaviour), so we headed for the cafe, where we unpacked our picnics on large, clean tables. We chose indoors, not outside, due to it being The Season of The Wasp! We ate our sandwiches, accompanied by a latte and a sweet treat from the cafe – a delightfully iced butterfly biscuit for the kids and a delicious chocolate brownie for the Mummies to share! Both were delicious and evidently made on the premises.
The kids, now powered up again, were soon raring to go, so a few minutes in the playground/sandpit gave the Mummies a few minutes to chat, while keeping a close eye on activities. Eventually, we persuaded the kids to join us for a walk around some of the Centre’s gardens, based around winding paths, planted with wild grasses and flowers that insects and butterflies can’t resist. Although essentially just following a gravel path in a circle, the views are breathtaking. Fields and prettily planted gardens on every horizon, not a building in site…and plenty of unusual native butterflies!
Eventually we came across a series of mini gardens, each designed by celebrated garden designer, Ivan Hicks. A Theatre of Insects garden led us through a series of separate spaces, linked by terracotta tunnels to the Through The Flowerpot Garden. Both gardens reduce adults and children alike to “insect size”. The gardens demonstrate innovative uses for recycled objects and are planted with a range of insect-loving plants – lavender and buddleia being just two of my own favourites.
In the Flowerpot Garden, the plants mingle with giant sized terracotta flower pots, a garden fork, a packet of seeds, a box of matches and a ball of garden string, all perfect for climbing on and running around if you’re little (and possibly for the Mums and Dads too, but I was flagging by then as it had turned out quite nice despite an overcast drizzly start to our day!).
Eventually, we had worn them out, so a final trip to the toilets, before leaving the way we arrived and it wasn’t long before we were home for a bit of chill out time before tea.
A great day out.
For more details of the centre and its activities visit www.butterflyworldproject.com