All Rain, No Pain PART 2: Drusillas Park, near Lewes, East Sussex

animal-game-zoo
The animal fair that is Drusillas Park

The sun is finally with us, but we live in the UK so let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It’s March, not July. Not wishing to be the bearer of any sort of gloom, but it is spring, and rain is still a probable part of our lives.

I promised a three-post series of good places to go in the rain. Here is the second instalment. (Although this is faintly ill-timed given the sunny day outside today!). If you’re interested in seeing the first, it’s about the Booth Museum and is here

meerkat-and-poster-at-zoo
There are lots of free activities and challenges for kids at Drusillas

Whether you’ve been to Drusillas or not, you may raise an eyebrow at my suggestion that it’s good for a rainy day. Let’s be clear, I am not talking thunder and hail. But the reason this is being touted as a good rainy-day option is because it is.

I know because when Drusillas treated a friend and I and our four children to a family ticket last October half term, the only day we could go was a (very) wet Friday.

If you only have time to read this far and then look at the pictures, I’ll let on that we all had a ball. Read below (past all the info) for why.

banana-swing-boats
Deserted swingboats in the rain in washed-out pastels

Of course it goes without saying that Drusillas Park is also fabulous for a day of sunshine. And everyone knows it, so you can expect crowds.

A benefit of going when it’s overcast and drizzly is that you will likely have the place almost to yourself (look at the pictures, I’m not kidding). No one wants to spend this kind of money on time spent outdoors in the rain. 

empty-drusillas
Where are the crazy crowds of kids?

This brings me on to my next important point: on trip to Drusillas you will have to spend money. I mean, really spend money. So my recommendation is that you save this for a really special treat and make a FULL day of it. Rain or shine. Go in the morning – there is more than enough to occupy them until tea.

And heed my tips to avoid your remaining money completely falling out of your pockets when you get there. 

entrance-of-drusillas
Into Drusillas we go…

THE ESSENTIALS

Drive: 14 minutes

Address: Drusillas Park, Alfriston, BN26 5QS

Tel no.: 01323 874 100

Website: drusillas.co.uk

Hours: Open daily, except Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day; Winter: 10am-4pm; Summer: 10am-5pm (closing times are last admissions – park closes an hour later)

Price: This varies wildly depending on number of people entering, ages, and time of year. For the (rather complicated looking!) price grid, see drusillas.co.uk/times-and-prices but bear in mind these are only correct at time of posting (March 2014).

The day we went, we were kindly given a family ticket for two adults and two over-twos by Drusillas. This would have been £63.99. It is worth noting that the annual passes for Drusillas are a great saver if you plan to go more than four times in a year. They are priced at £59 per person (adult or child) per year for unlimited access.

There are also online deals to be found. Don’t bother searching anywhere else – Drusillas will not be beaten on price in terms of reduced entry to the park. Try the Online Price Squeezer, sign up for emails showing details of offers, or use Tesco Clubcard ‘Buy in Full Clubcard Deal’ tokens. All the details for all three methods of gaining discounted entry are here: drusillas.co.uk/discounts-to-drusillas

ignuana
A lamplit iguana in the covered area towards the start of the zoo

THE DETAILS

Wow, the details. I’ll give you as much as I can but there is a lot! Here is an edited version. For more details on Drusillas, please look at their bulging website!

  • Drusillas Park is a family-run business that dates back to 1922. The late Captain Ann bought the original site as a derelict farm on 20 acres of land
  • On it, Captain Ann opened the cottage as a tea room named for his late wife Drusilla, which served passing motorists. He added attractions and animals to sweeten the deal
  • The business was bought by the Smith family in 1997, who now run it with their daughters
  • In 2009 they brought Thomas the Tank Engine to Drusillas as a train ride. By mid-May this year the Hello Kitty Secret Garden will open
  • From the entrance to the Park there is a ‘Zoo Route‘, which takes you on a journey past all the animals. Alternatively there’s a short cut to the massive play area
  • There are free booklets that kids can fill in as added activities during their journey through the zoo – these are the ‘Animal Spotter Book‘ and ‘Zoolympics Challenge Record Book‘ (although I grumpily noticed that where you pick up the Zoolympics one, a notice suggests you buy a pen from the shop to fill it in)
  • The zoo is quite monkey-heavy, but they provide plenty of entertainment!
  • There is a ‘Lemurland‘ and ‘Lory Landing‘ – a walk-through lemur enclosure and rainbow lorikeet aviary respectively. These are open from the start of February half term to the end of October half term
  • Keeper talks and feeding times are as follows (as of March 2014): 11am, macaques; 11.30am and 4pm, penguins; 12 noon, otters; 1pm and 3pm, lemurs
  • There are events throughout the year to add to the mass of things to do at Drusillas. Check drusillas.co.uk/events for what’s coming up
  • Keeper for the Day‘ and ‘Close Encounter‘ experiences are an amazing opportunity for animal-loving kids to see what it’s like to work at a zoo – cleaning out enclosures and feeding the animals. The day runs from 10am to 3.30pm.

DRUSILLAS IN THE RAIN 

Here’s why Drusillas works for a day of showers.

monkeys-in-a-zoo
The zoo is monkey-heavy, but children love it

There’s plenty of indoor stuff in the zoo section before you get to the outdoor play areas. Lots of animals to see and buttons to press at the start that are all under cover. Once you do get out to the monkeys etc, there are always places nearby to retreat to.

children-drying-hands
In the farm area, even the hand driers by the hand-washing stations are diverting…

There is a whole educational farm area, much of which is under cover.

WARNING: you will be haunted by a row of chickens who sing a looping song about why it’s important to wash your handsThis is made up for by the fact that there’s a little ‘hen house’ behind glass that’s an actual house where real chickens live.

children-in-a-giant-egg
Exploring an egg…

Just on from this area is a tunnel that, universally, children adore. This has the benefit of being a dry spot, of course.

This visit we were stuck here for 45 minutes. On our last, it was longer. The two bigger children spent ages running away from my poor youngest, pretending he was a monster. As do most second children, he wasn’t too hurt. 

little-boy-in-tunnel
The monster in the tunnel
little-boy-looking-in-tunnel
Where are they?

On to the playgrounds, which are surrounded by covered areas to retreat to (and not necessarily restaurants or shops). They are eye-popping.

Really, unless your kids have been to Disney Land, they will think heaven exists on earth when they see this. I am rather partial to its sorbet colours, too.

zoo-playground
Colourful, challenging play equipment – even under dark skies
zoo-playground
Round-the-twist, helter-skelter fun (can you believe there are literally no children in these pictures?)
under-fives-playground-drusillas
The under-fives area, Go Bananas, which looks in no way less appealing than the ‘big kids’ playground, but is more manageable both for littles and their parents

I would recommend packing waterproofs and wellies. The kids can play freely on the play equipment in the rain while you stay nearby under cover.

Please bear in mind, however, that play equipment may be slippery (and that Little Lewes cannot accept responsibility for accidents that may occur while playing on it while it’s wet!).

children-on-giant-wheel
Wheeling (and squealing) in waterproofs!

There is also soft play. Your children’s favourite words when the weather is wet – and the ones you dread to utter.

But dread it not at Drusillas. It’s called Amazon Adventure and it’s great.

soft-play-at-zoo
Hooray for being spat out by a snake at Amazon Adventure

Here are the reasons why:

1) Kids have to wear socks to go in. But if they don’t have any, a pair is only 80p (80p!!!) from the small food counter. Drusillas could so charge more than that – you’re an easy target and your kids will be whinging like wildcats about wanting to go in. So even if they were £10 you would so have to buy them.

soft-play-for-toddlers
Toddler softness to crash about in at Drusillas

2) There are magazines. Lots of them. Vogue is one of them.

‘Really?’ I hear you say.

vogue-at-soft-play
It’s tatty but it’s Alexa on the cover of Vogue making soft play at Drusillas infinitely more bearable

YES. REALLY.

Back to rainy-day avoidance.

There’s also Thomas as an easy few minutes of amusement to sit and not get wet on. Toddlers and bigger kids are into it.

Nearby there’s a sort of Aztec mystery maze scenario called ‘Eden’s Eye‘ that is largely under cover too.

thomas-at-drusillas
It’s a bit wrong that a picture of Thomas should be the next thing you see after Alexa on the cover of Vogue, but that is the way worlds collide at Drusillas

HOW TO SAVE MONEY AT DRUSILLAS

I would personally avoid the food here. It isn’t cheap (£4.15 for a lunch bag of sandwich, crisps, sweets, fruit, drink and toy; up to £6.95 for a cheese and bacon burger, chips and large drink) and in my admittedly limited experience, it isn’t great.

food-signage-at-theme-park
Tempted? Me neither (apart from the hot dogs because I’m half Danish and a sucker for a zigzag of mustard)

Pack a picnic and buy them an ice cream. There are plenty of tables and surfaces around the playground that are great for picnicking (although you will lose your kids to the play equipment, I do concede).

plush-toys-for-sale
Plushness for sale

Like many attractions, you are forced at one stage to go through a stuffed animal-heavy shop. But credit where it’s due to Drusillas, they have put all the small cheap toys at the front and piled up the pricier plush towards the back.

I managed to get away with buying my two a Drusillas badge of their choice (a common tactic of mine) for 50p.

When you leave there are shops in the area where Thomas starts his journey and nearer to the exit. But again, credit to Drusillas, you aren’t forced to walk through these.

ALL IN ALL 

I really take my hat off to Drusillas. The whole park is artfully carved into areas for different ages. Even the playground manages to cater to everyone’s varying interests and physical abilities in an appealing way.

boy-on-swing-drusillas
There are lots of ways to swing at Drusillas

But Drusillas is more than just a place to play – it’s a place that engages and educates.

There’s a group of animatronic animals who sing a song called ‘Mokomo’s Jungle Rock‘ to the tune of ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ by way of explaining the notion of a food chain. It will stay with you for weeks. It will bang through your head when you’re trying to sleep.

anamatronic-vulture
Where’s the vulture in the food chain? Ask your kids!

But your kids will grasp in an instant the reasons why each animal or plant in the food chain is as important as the next.

Drusillas could be accused of being cheesy, but if it is, it’s in just the right way. Yes the signage is pretty commercial and wacky, and the price tag is high, but this is an easy-as-anything day out that for them and therefore, you.

It won’t deliver a mania-induced headache (you know the one I mean. I just have to think the words ‘Monkey Bizness’ and my temples start to throb). From the baby change facilities to the staff, it’s done well and with thought.

map-of-theme-park
The crazy map of Drusillas

I would go so far as to say Drusillas is good value for money. At £66 for a family ticket, we wouldn’t go often. But when we do go it is such a treat and you get an awful lot for the money. The children talk about it for days leading up to it, and for days afterwards.

interactive-activity-at-park
Learning through play

Disclosure: Drusillas Park’s digital marketing team contacted Little Lewes about the possibility of a blog post in exchange for a family ticket last October. The post has been delayed because of the long winter and Little Lewes’s hibernation and this delay should not be taken as a negative reflection on the park. I accepted the ticket because I genuinely believe that Drusillas is somewhere fantastic to go as a family, and that Little Lewes’s readers would want to know about visiting on a rainy day. Thank you Drusillas, for another great day out.

>>> Do you like Little Lewes? It’s been nominated for a MAD Blog Award in the Best Family Travel Blog category. If you have a minute (or in fact 30 seconds), please vote by clicking here before tomorrow (Friday 14th March)! <<<

Posted by

I’m Kate, a copywriter, brand consultant and editor who creates messages that are clear and clean. I create these for brands and agencies both big and boutique, in areas including design, homes and interiors, travel, fashion, lifestyle, beauty, food, and kids and families. I believe clear, clean messages bolster brands and businesses. They evoke emotion and ignite inspiration, and when written well, they’re easier to absorb – and respond to. I live in Copenhagen and am half-English, half-Danish. I write as comfortably in American English as in British, and behind the scenes I'm also studying Danish. Need help getting your message out? Contact me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s