When I was ten we went on a school trip to the London Aquarium and I fed a cheesy wotsit to a ray and was told to leave the building and never come back.
But this post is not just about my personal vendettas and marine life experiences. Everybody knows that the London Aquarium and London Zoo are overpriced, overcrowded and full of empty promises about penguin-feeding.
So I’ve been looking into where else it is possible to see animals in London – without spending cash.
A few months ago I wandered off the beaten track and into London’s waterways. For a cheapskate’s snoop into London Zoo itself I’d recommend it and this section of the Regent’s Canal is an interesting walk anyway. I joined the canal at Camden and wandered up to Little Venice. It is impossible to miss the enormous aviary on your right, full of tropical birds, and across the water you get a clear view of hyena and wild boars.
When I was there I heard a lion roar in the distance. It’s not quite safari, but it’s a good spot for stopping to eat the overpriced spring roll you bought in Camden.
A more unlikely spot for one of the city’s wildlife gems is the concrete maze of the Barbican Centre, home to such rare breeds as finches, quails and the London Symphony Orchestra.
The Barbican conservatory was originally built to conceal one of the building’s particularly ugly towers and is now overgrown with tropical trees and plants. It is open to visitors every Sunday and the pools in the undergrowth are full of exotic fish. A highlight is the beautiful (and valuable) koi carp – try climbing up onto the terrace for a particularly good view of these huge and brightly coloured fish from above.
Across the river is a rather more British wildlife hotspot. This area of London used to host cock-fighting tournaments and all kinds of animal sports. Bear-baiting might only be rarely seen on the streets of Vauxhall these days but the Vauxhall City Farm does have an alpaca called Jerry.
The farm is open Wednesday – Sunday and features an award-winning collection of animals including horses, cows, rabbits and pigs.
To conclude? Animals in London may not always be wild, but they they certainly should be free.
Got a better idea? Share it. We’re always keen to hear from hipster underground zookeepers in Dalston.