Dimples knew immediately that she wasn’t going on the school trip. She was so ill she didn’t even cry. So whilst her school class went to Drusilla’s Park, Sussex – a trip she had looked forward to all term- she lay on the sofa, alternately sleeping and being sick. I was heartbroken.
And then, a few days later, I received an email inviting me to a Drusilla’s Park Press Day- to celebrate Drusilla’s 90th birthday- in the Easter holidays and was over the moon. Not only did I get to take my daughters to a place neither had visited but both were desperate to, but I got to see the look of joy of Dimples’ face when I did.
Our drive cross country towards the Sussex coast was glorious, but by the time we reached Drusilla’s- conveniently located and clearly signposted off the A27, the clouds were looming. We parked up as the doors opened, so there was plenty of space and not too far to walk to the entrance.
We had spent weeks and weeks poring over the map of the animal park but were still surprised by the reality. The whole 10 acre site was so well laid out, clearly marked and ideal for small children. Though the heavens opened, there was plenty of space under cover to shelter from the rain. We didn’t get held up by it at all.
Billed as “No Ordinary Park”, Drusillas Park was founded in 1925, when the late Captain Ann bought a derelict farm and opened the cottage to sell teas to passing motorists. Today the award-winning zoo is home to over 100 fascinating and entertaining creatures from monkeys and meerkats, to penguins and red pandas. They also offer a Thomas & Friends™ daily train service, and opened the first Hello Kitty attraction in Europe – Hello Kitty Secret Garden- in 2014. You can see why they are renowned for providing a fun day out for all the family.
At the gate The Girls had been given an Animal Spotter Book and were eagerly following the trail to find the animals and stamp their books. And in between there were World Record Challenges they could try to match, there was information on the walls, and activities for kids to get involved with. So much of the space was hands on which is ideal for younger children.
There were so many animals to see, and even though the weather kept them out of their enclosures, there were a plentiful number of windows designed to enable even the smallest child to see into the pens. My children had to drag me away from one of the Meerkat windows, but they were sooooo cute, all piled up in one giant Meerkat Pillow. Who wouldn’t enjoy that?
The park is designed with a walk for you to follow round, dotted with loo stops and break points, not to mention the odd selfie station, and as you walk, you learn. By the time we reached Phase Two- the Adventure Playground- my brain was bulging with fascinating facts.
It was still, at this point, too wet to play on a lot of the playground- an enormous mass of wooden structures, ropes and slides able to keep even the cheekiest of your monkeys occupied- so we gave it a miss and had a pitstop at the large picnic area, which was dotted with tables and highchairs,to enjoy a drink and a donut (they were freshly made, why wouldn’t you?)
And then onwards, because animals are only half the fun, to the rides.We rode the Thomas Train and wandered into Hello Kitty’s Beauty Room and completely overlooked the Amazon Adventure Play area that Mummy From The Heart enjoyed. But the main draw for my girls was the Hello Kitty Secret Garden, themed heaven for girls of five and six, and they could not get enough of the rides. We even popped into to Hello Kitty’s bedroom to see if she was around but apparently she was out shopping!
Before the school trip, I’d not heard of Drusilla’s, but now I have, we can’t wait to go back. There’s a whole programme of events running throughout the year including Thomas Days and Hello Kitty Days and with so much to do, you could easily be there from when the gates open until you are forced out by the night watchmen. It may be 90 years old, but it certainly keeps the young very happy indeed.
Entry for a family of four, on the day would be £70 but you could save nearly £30 by buying online. The Drusilla’s website has a clear pricing system and shows you the best way of getting the best price.