HAMPSHIRE: Days Out

Peppa pig lrMiss Rabbits helipcoters lr

L-R: Peppa Pig greets Harriett Saunders and Miss Rabbit's Helicopter Ride
 
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By Tim Saunders

“I want to go back.”

That’s what eldest daughter Harriett (3) reveals on leaving Paultons Park in Romsey, Hampshire. A desire that is the goal of any family theme park operator.

Paultons first opened its doors in 1983 with just four staff. An amazing 80,000 visitors arrived that year, at a time when theme parks were still a relatively new phenomena to the UK. It was a massive gamble for farmer John Mancey who successfully applied for a planning application to turn part of the estate into a visitor attraction. He died in 2003 and his son Richard now continues his father’s legacy. By 1993 400,000 visitors, looking for a good day out, were pouring through the doors. A plan of continued investment saw the park expand in 1999 ploughing £500,000 into the Raging River Rapids Ride. But it was the opening of Peppa Pig World in 2011 that sealed the park’s success. Every child wants to visit and not just from the UK but much further afield. Unsurprisingly in 2014 the multi-million pound success story now employs 600 staff at peak times and enjoys one million visitors a year to its 60 rides. The park’s 140 acres of land also feature a collection of birds and animals. In short it is a fabulous day out that demands you revisit.

When we arrive the weather is looking questionable but despite this the car park is quickly filling up.

Naturally, Peppa Pig World is the place where Harriett drags us to first. There are children from France, Italy and Germany and so as we queue for our go in Daddy Pig’s Car Ride and Miss Rabbit’s Helicopter Flight, Harriett and Heidi have the chance of eavesdropping on a variety of interesting and different languages.

I had forgotten that with theme parks comes the inevitable queue and I was beginning to doubt whether Harriett would cope. But, as with all the other children, she patiently and surprisingly for me, waits her turn, generally quietly. “It’s a good lesson in patience,” says my wife, Caroline. True. After a visit to Peppa’s House it’s time for our picnic. And pleasingly there are plenty of benches. Lunch is a quick affair though because there’s so much more to see.

By this time Heidi is flat out and Harriett has seen the park. So she’s occupied for ages going up and down the slide. At one point we all laugh as the dress of the girl in front of her covers her head as she lands at the bottom.

Harriett and Caroline then spy Wave Runner. “Daddy daddy can I go on that?” I reply: “Oh I’m not sure you’re old enough my darling.” Harriett: “Oh I am I am.” Looking to Caroline in a pale sort of way, I ask: “Would you like to go sweetheart?” Caroline: “I’m ok thanks, you go.” And so it is that father and daughter set out on a little heart stopping adventure. We are surprised how there are so few people queuing for this ride. Five minutes later after watching the other visitors hurtle down at pretty fast speeds and shouting too, I ask Harriett “Are you ok? You don’t have to go on this ride you know.” Harriett: “I want to, I want to.” So we sit in a dinghy, Harriett at the front and I behind hugging her tightly with my legs. “You must hold the handles tight, Harriett,” I repeat goodness knows how many times. And we’re off. I can only liken the speed to something similar I experienced when going upside down in a Yak aeroplane a few years ago. It’s petrifying. Your heart is in your mouth. If it went on for any longer we would have been ill. The fact that you’re not in control is a great fear. And then no sooner has the world whizzed by and Harriett has gone unusually quiet, it’s finished and we’re up putting the dinghy back on the automatic belt watching it go back up to the top.

It takes Harriett and I a little while to recover and the Trekking Tractors help regain our composure.

The Victorian Carousel and the teacup ride also prove great hits with all of us. We then enjoy a relaxing stroll around some of the grounds to see the birds. Harriett then spots another playground so we just have to visit. We are only able to visit a portion of the park and so the season ticket option seems a good idea.

“How many family days together can you actually remember?” questions Caroline. “Not many but one thing’s for sure we won’t forget our day out at Paultons.”

Our weekend of treats is not over though because the following day we head for Lyndhurst for another day out. We have a slap up Sunday lunch at The White Rabbit, a Chef and Brewer hotel. Caroline and I have roast beef and Yorkshire puddings with all the trimmings while Harriett enjoys fish and chips. Heidi helps herself to a bit of everybody’s. It’s a good job we get there early because Heidi doesn’t like sitting down for too long and soon starts squawking. We begin to realise that we should wait until she is older before letting her loose on the unsuspecting public. Caroline and I take it turns walking her outside. At least we both eat our meals but it is unfortunate that we cannot do this together. The White Rabbit is aptly named because Lyndhurst is very much the centre of all things Alice in Wonderland. You see Alice Pleasance Liddell 1852 to 1934 who lived much of her life in Lyndhurst, was the inspiration behind Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

We visit St Michael and All Angels Church, with its stunning stained glass windows, and Alice Liddell is buried there. There’s a bench outside and we enjoy just sitting down, watching Harriett playing while Heidi rests. Hampshire certainly has much to offer when it comes to taking a day out.

 

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