A day out with the fish

Maidenhead Aquatics

Maidenhead Aquatics - Credit: Archant

THE weather has been variable this week so on a rainy afternoon we took a trip to Maidenhead Aquatics in St Albans.

Hidden behind Partners Pets Supermarket on the North Orbital Road, Maidenhead Aquatics is ostensibly a shop selling everything you need for your aquarium or pond. It’s a fish and pond lover’s heaven but, surprisingly, they have also made it a brilliant place to take children.

You can park for free right outside the shop and, as you enter, you will be greeted by a large stone crocodile and some indoor water features. Theo toddled straight over to those and I almost missed the pots of Koi food being sold for £1 at the entrance.

Armed with our fish food, I was intending to head straight for what looks like large swimming pools of fish at the back of the store, but I was waylaid by an exciting looking room of tropical fish.

There is a large tropical fish tank at the entrance and the path around the room is lined with a multitude of tanks containing different breeds of fish and even coral. The tanks are stacked from ground level so Theo could see plenty of fish from toddling height and it was quite a fantastic display of colours, shapes and sizes of marine life, including a fluorescent pink jellyfish.

Apparently the shop contains around 90,000 species of marine life, including plants, and I found myself daydreaming about owning my own tropical fish world. Fortunately, my reverie was interrupted by the sight of Theo legging it towards the ponds. It was time to feed some hungry Koi.

At the back of the shop there are four Koi ponds, containing different sizes of fish. They are quite used to being fed, so as soon as you approach the pond, be prepared for an onslaught of fins and water. Theo had to be held up to see the fish which is preferable to him being able to reach them from the ground as I know his hand would be straight in there. We fed them all from outside the splash zone and Theo was delighted by how they jostled on the surface of the pond.

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If all of this water makes you thirsty then the café is located behind the ponds and contains a rather handy soft play area. There is plenty of seating and they have a child gate blocking the doors that lead outside so little ones can’t roam too far. The soft play area is small but they have a separate section for under twos.

The café serves snacks, sandwiches, hot food and even breakfast cereals for those on the early shift. Prices are very reasonable and the toilets are located nearby.

The outside space contains more fish and lots of water features which seemed to delight Theo. Do be warned though, some of these were at perfect toddler height so I was glad I brought my wet wipes as Theo insisted on plunging his hand into the first one he came across.

Maidenhead Aquatics is very welcoming to children and has cleverly catered for their needs with the play area, café and opportunity to feed the Koi. It’s a great place to spend an hour or two on a rainy afternoon and, no doubt, one day I will be coerced by Theo into creating some sort of tropical fish paradise at home.

Since Burston Garden Centre is on the opposite side of the road, we went over there to see if they had anything to offer a wandering toddler.

I was delighted to find a children’s toy and book corner in the shop, as well as a section selling children’s garden tools. The café also has a kids menu and a couple of high chairs.

The staff are very welcoming to children and there is a mini table in one corner of the shop with coloured pencils and paper. The baby changing is conveniently located in a large disabled toilet, with plenty of room for a buggy. It is worth a visit if you fancy a bit of shopping or more of a restaurant-style lunch.