When anyone thinks of the Natural History Museum they usually think of the impressive museum in London, dinosaurs and the blue whale. Did you know there’s a Natural History Museum at Tring in Hertfordshire too? Away from the hustle and bustle of central London there’s a treasure trove of natural history specimens.
The floor to ceiling cabinets allow even very young children to come face to face with a lion, tiger, polar bear, penguin, seal, porcupine or even a python! It’s a unique space to explore and you get to see the animals so close, you have the opportunity to understand the size of the animals and really look at details like the size of their paws and their fur and claws. I know that polar bears are impressive, majestic animals but I am still surprised that it is just as tall as me when I stand right next to one!
There are six galleries to explore and thousands of animals to see. The galleries are on different levels, accessible by a lift but it can get busy during school holidays (especially on a wet day) and if you have a buggy you can find yourself waiting a while. Leave the buggy in the car if you can and take the stairs.
Animal Vision Exhibition
The temporary exhibition ‘Animal Vision’ runs until 12th November 2017 and is worth visiting, although its only small. The exhibition is free and gets you thinking about the idea that animals see the world differently to us. There’s an interactive table where you can match different eyes to their animal owners and discover that eyes are placed in different places on different animals. The eyeball wall may not be for the squeamish but it is fascinating to have the opportunity to look at the cross section of a huge range of different animals’ eyes. There’s also a magnifying glass and coloured filters to look through, as well as interactive screens.
Workshops and Activities at the Natural History Museum at Tring
Activities and workshops run throughout the year and you can book your place in advance, or if there are spaces you can book at the main reception at the entrance to the museum. We joined the Camouflage Workshop (£4 per child) which began with a look at photographs of different animals in their habitat.
Then there was a handling session and the children were allowed to touch and hold some amazing specimens, including a hedgehog, mole, green finch, tawny owl, turtle, the skin of a rock python and a range of colourful feathers. We looked at the markings and colours of these specimens and then it was time to venture into the museum’s wildlife area to collect natural objects to decorate our own owl. The children had to think about the colours of the surroundings and the materials that would camouflage our owl. With a bag filled with moss, leaves, bark and sticks we headed back to the activity centre and began decorating.
If you’re planning a visit to the Natural History Museum at Tring then I really recommend having a look to see if there are any activities or workshops running. The whole activity lasted around 90 minutes and it was a fantastic opportunity to handle some specimens and get the children thinking about the animals in the museum.
After the workshop we were ready for lunch. The basement of the museum has a small cafe but it isn’t always open and it was closed when we visited, despite it being the middle of the Summer holidays. I came prepared and we had lunch with us, so we sat in the cafe area and tucked in as the English Summer rain poured down outside – so much for having a picnic! The museum is just a short walk from the town centre so you can easily walk into Tring for something to eat if you haven’t brought a picnic.
There’s something very endearing about this quirky museum. It is an incredible resource and home to just about any animal you can imagine… although there are no dinosaurs, you really do have to go to London if you want to see those!
Top Tips for a visit to the Natural History Museum Tring
- There is a small free car park next to the museum and an overflow car park a short walk away, almost opposite the very top of Akeman Street, off Hastoe Lane.
- Have a look at what’s on for families before you go.
- Check the museum’s opening times. The museum is open Monday to Saturday 10am-5pm but only open 2pm-5pm on Sundays.
- Take a picnic or walk into Tring for something to eat.
- For more information visit the Natural History Museum at Tring website.
We visited in August 2017, all information is correct at the time of publishing.
We received a free place on the Camouflage Workshop for the purposes of this review. Images, words and opinions are all my own.