Yesterday we headed for a trip out to the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill, South East London. The Museum, which opened in 1901, is named after Frederick Horniman who opened the museum to "bring the world to Forest Hill." The Horniman family lived in Croydon.
We were very excited to finally be able to visit a museum after the lockdown restrictions have eased. Obviously, social distancing and mask wearing is still mandatory and although the museum is free to enter you will have to book a time slot online first.
Currently there is an exhibition on called Monkey Business (this runs daily except Wednesdays until January 3, 2022). This is a paid exhibition (adults £8, children £4.50) and a time slot will need to be booked if you wish to go and see this.
Other things that you will need to book a slot and pay for are the aquarium and the butterfly house. The aquarium was fully booked for the day but we managed to book a time slot for the butterfly house (£6 per person or £14 for a family of 4). Do be aware though that currently, if you leave the museum to go into the gardens where the butterfly house is situated, or go out to the cafe you cannot go back into the museum unless you book another free time slot. I hadn't realised this so we only spent an hour inside the museum so missed out a fair few of the rooms.
We live in Caterham on a direct route to London Bridge - Forest Hill is on the London Bridge line, you can easily reach Forest Hill train station from East Croydon, West Croydon or from London Bridge. It is then about half a mile walking distance, which is sign posted from the station, it took us about 8 minutes to walk there.
It is set within large gardens which, are free to visit, which have amazing views of the London skyline, there are lots of areas to explore including a music garden, a bandstand and a little animal walkway which has goats, an alpaca, rabbits and chickens.
Obviously, you will need to arrive for your allotted timeslot - when you book online, your tickets will be emailed to you so you then download them to your phone and show them at the entrance kiosk. They will ask you to scan a QR code for track and trace purposes. You can then follow arrows to get you around the various rooms. Once you are in, you can stay inside for as long as you like, but as I said, if you go outside you won't be allowed back in unless you book another slot.
We managed to have a good look around the Natural History gallery, seeing the huge Walrus which has been at the museum for over a century. The bonus of booking time slots is that it was not busy at all. This area has lots of taxidermy species of insects, birds, reptiles and mammals and is really interesting to explore.
The next area we headed to was the World Gallery, which has thousands of objects and artefacts from all over the world. It was very colourful and had the Cloutie Tree which has lots of labels with wishes on - written and hung by visitors.
Below is the Horniman Merman, a specimen of Ningyo mermaid, also known as Feejee mermaid or merman, from Japan, with papier-mâché body and fish tail. This style of Mermaid has had a long tradition in Shinto shrines in Japan, with reports of examples that are reputed to be over a thousand years old.
By this time we had been inside for about 45 minutes and realised we didn't have much time until our slot in the butterfly house. We managed to have a look in the Musical Instruments room, this has a massive collection from all of the world - plus there were some interactive areas.
We then made our way out into the gardens to walk towards the butterfly house. This is a couple of minutes walk away through the gardens. You will get checked in at the front desk and you get to spend 15 minutes inside. When you enter it is humid and full of tropical plants and hundreds of free-flying butterflies including the Blue Morpho - we were told to be careful as some of them do land on the ground and also not to touch any of the plants or the butterflies. Again, due to the time slots and limiting people in there, there was plenty of space to walk around.
We then went to the cafe as I had promised my son a cookie, this cost me £2.20 for a gingerbread man but it was worth it to sit inside the beautiful conservatory, which was almost empty. This was taken from the Horniman family home in Croydon and re-assembled at the museum in 1987 although it was originally built in 1894.
As we had left the building we couldn't go back inside without going online to book another time slot, so if you are planning a visit bear this in mind. It seems that the little aquarium is very popular so you may want to look into booking well in advance.
Overall, we really enjoyed the Horniman Museum, my son is 9 and he thought it was great - we will have to plan another visit soon to see the areas that we missed out on.
100 London Road,
Nearest train station Forest Hill