Each year we try to see the butterflies in the glasshouse at Wisley. This year is no different, although I was a little worried as we hadn’t picked a slot and since it was a Saturday I was expecting large queues. As we got out the car I was cursing myself for not being organised enough, hastily trying to book online before entering but failing since all slots were sold out. If you plan on being a little more organised than me you can book a slot here, it is free to book a slot although normal entry fees (below) still apply.
As the kids had napped in the car we decided to let them run off some steam in the play area first. If you have not been to Wisley before they have a large natural play area up the hill to the left of the glass house. There are plenty to keep little ones entertained including stepping stones and balancing beams. As well as a rope and wood climbing frame and Monkey’s favourite the tepees. There are five in total with a ready supply of long wooden sticks and bamboo canes which can be used to make the dens. Normally you find them in some sort of half completed state. Generally what seems to happen is that sticks are taken from others to complete the families preferred tepee and once completed they move onto another part of their visit. Only for another family to choose a different one and move the sticks to theirs. I am not sure if there is ever enough to have five completed tepees but Monkey always enjoys it and gets quite territorial!
This time round he managed to lift some rather large almost log like sticks and I did wonder if we would end up getting hit on the head by the bamboo but we all escaped injury free. Of course once it was built the adults were not allowed in, which became a hilarious source of amusement!
After all the den building the children decided they’re hungry so we headed over to the Food Hall. I always prefer to eat there rather then the glasshouse cafe especially when its busy as there are more tables so a better chance of getting a seat. There is also an indoor play area – although we have never visited I think its really aimed at younger toddlers so Monkey would be too old for it now, but probably worth a look when the weather is bad. The food hall also has a ready supply of filtered water and a microwave to heat up any milk or baby food you bring with you.
Throughout the gardens around the glasshouse are these metal butterfly displays which really brighten the place up, since there are very few flowers out yet. The kids opted for lunch meal where you can pick from a selection of items, 4 things plus a drink is £4.95. I noticed that the sandwich I picked up for Monkey once open contained sesame seed in the bread, unfortunately their items are not marked as they are freshly made on site that day. However they did change it for me without question. They have a wide variety of things to choose from including little gingerbread caterpillars in keeping with the current activity.
After lunch we walked back towards to glasshouse stopping to marvel at the fish and ducks in one of the ponds. I think we must have arrived at the glasshouse around 2.30pm we were keen to queue to see the butterflies but the kids wanted to play in the Root Zone which runs underneath. They liked to press the buttons to see what items are made from different types of roots and generally had fun exploring. Outside before you reach the butterflies is a learning area where they got to see chrysalis and learning about different types of butterfly.
When we eventually walked down to the entrance I was expecting the worse but there was no queue at all. So we managed to walk straight in. The kids were instantly fascinated by the large butterflies fluttering overhead, trying to spot the next one.. There are little fruit tables set up (below) which allow them to get close, and Monkey had a leaflet (£1 donation) so he could mark off all those he saw.
However to be honest, as soon as saw one boy with a butterfly actually perched on his leaflet thats all he could think about and kept trying to cox them onto his. Thankfully he never got close enough to actually touch any! It gets quite busy so if you can I would visit on a week day. Buggies need to be left outside so try to travel light as its warm inside as you would expect meaning carrying coats etc while trying to supervise and take photos can be a chore. However Monkey and his little friends really enjoyed it and it adds more to our Learning About the Butterfly Lifecycle which we started last year. I am hoping that we will be able to fit in another visit before they leave.
If you are thinking of visiting check out their website for the activities they have on over half term – last year we made caterpillar crowns in the learning zone next door.
Things you need to know:
- You can find a Map of Wisley here to help plan your visit
- The butterflies are at Wisley until the 6th March
- The glasshouse is open 10am – 4pm Mon – Fri and 9.30am – 4pm every weekend and during February Half Term
- Last entry is half an hour before closing
- Garden toys, such as scooters and balls, are not permitted in the garden
- Adults are £14.50 with gift aid, children 5-16 are £7.25 and under 5s are free. There is also free entry for RHS members who can also take one family member or friend free of charge.
- More details can be found on their website -https://www.rhs.org.uk/gardens/wisley/plan-your-visit