Dave Sergeant

Yesterday I paid a visit to the Horniman museum in Forest Hill which I had passed by on my Green London Way walk a couple of months ago. Like many I had never heard of it before but it is quite an incredible place. Founded by Frederick Horniman in 1901, given to the people of London as a free museum it lives up to its promise.

It sits on the busy South Circular so the short walk from the tube station is not that pleasant (not helped in that I came out of the station at the wrong side so was immediately lost...). I didn't notice that you could climb up the tower so missed that. At the front inside was a display about bees with some rather ornate hives, and that ornate-ship was reflected in many of the inside exhibits. It was timed ticket entry like many places now, but very quiet, I arrived 10 minutes before my time but they let me straight in.

There are two main halls inside. Firstly the animal hall with loads of stuffed animals and on the upper balcony a progression of zoology and a similar one of rocks. The giant walrus set the tone!

The second hall, called the World gallery, has every sort of collectable item you could think of, much of it from Frederick's travels around the world in the late 1800s. It attempts to show the traditions of many countries and their inhabitants, sorted by continent. The Presepe, top right, is a sort of nativity scene popular in Italy - this one is from Naples - and can be found in many shop windows around Christmas time.

Outside are large gardens, being off season not at their best, but pleasant to view. There is also a butterfly house (not visited, paid entry), bandstand and cafe which I saw on my previous trips. I exited at the bottom to do the bit of the Green London Way that I had accidentally missed then. To the left hand side is the Horniman nature trail but even though the website and notices on the gates indicated it should have been open both the gates were firmly padlocked.

The Horniman has an atmosphere totally different to the bigger National History and Science museums in central London and is certainly worth a visit.

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