Paulton’s Park in England houses the only park I am aware of that is dedicated to the young pig herself. The other celebrity sow. Not Miss Piggy. You know. The girl in the red dress. Opinionated. Confident. Had a problem learning to whistle. Perky. Blissfully unaware of her legal status as a potential breakfast meat.
This summer saw the Paper Family fly the hour and a half from Dublin to Southampton, book into a suitably ‘aware of our situation’ hotel and spend two days enjoying life in the midst of a primary coloured cartoon. Paulton’s houses a fully equipped, dinosaur themed park for bigger kids, Lost Kingdom, beautiful and calm gardens dedicated to the founders, several pretty playgrounds, really lovely splash areas and wildlife watching. In short, it is an expansive grounds with a lot to offer. The Japanese designed garden was an oasis of calm in the midst of a candy floss consuming culture.
How will you spend your day in this haven for our over indulged munchkins? Driving with Daddy Pig. Taking a twirl around Windy Castle. Flying in Miss Rabbit’s helicopter. Taking off on the Queen’s bus.
Queuing. Arguing then having a ball together in rapid succession. Floating and bumping along the river with Grampy Rabbit and sailing with Grandad Dog. Getting the miniature locomotive with Grandad Pig, humming along to Grandad’s Little Train goes Choo Choo Choo- you all know it. I know you do.
You might even take a trip on a dinosaur. You will feed actual ducks. Your child will stare at plastic ones that are exactly like those from the tellybox. They really do turn up at every picnic in this post-primary paradise.
There are larger than life (but actually very inanimate) characters to take pictures with at every corner.
Occasionally an actual character will pop out for the children to hug and engage with. The organisation around these ‘appearances’ drove me mad as the young people working with the mascot were often rude, calling at people not to queue but jump in or indeed the total opposite as their mood dictated. Parents want to photo their kids with the big old walking costumes so really Peppa Land organisers could let the visitors do just that instead of making a deal about it. The British are excellent at queuing- so why not just let them do it? This became a bone of contention with me as you can see. Making celebrities out of couch material covers and power control trippers out of summer job heads. It doesn’t even look like Peppa.The business heads behind the park also ensure that you exit by walking through the largest gift shop I have ever been in. Toy and sweet central. I love shopping for money wasters- here suits me. It is a pretty amazing shop. This is the only gift shop I came across in the park so it is a forgivable piece of merchandising. Go big.
We adopted two quite large mermaids from this store on the promise that these ladies of ours would carry them home themselves. Guess who escorted these mythical water maidens through the frenzied disgrace of an airport that Stansted has spent millions becoming?
Yes. The supposed adults. We lugged along the pink and yellow lasses until they were demanded for once our little charges were seated on the flight. It was funny watching a grown man scrambling frantically for his mermaid before seatbelt lockdown.
There are ample photo opportunities with a photo pass costing 25 pounds giving you four printed images and download rights. These are magic photos- a computer generated background- or a few poses alongside characters. We went for Madam Gazelle’s classroom, jumping in a muddy puddle and a picnic scene. All very cute. Good price and decent quality. My kind of souvenir. The pictorial memory.
You can take a turn into a Lewis Carroll style world for toddlers with lots of amazing looking creatures culminating in a smaller caterpillar rollercoaster or train ride.
In my experience, there are certain requirements to survive a day like this. You need to approach it in a formulated manner. My advice? Bring custard creams and baby wipes. The biscuits will see you through the wait lines and the wipes through the seriously large amount of hard plastic you are engaging with.
You throw the cookies to the disgruntled smallies a bit like fish to seals. Leave behind large picnics. Eating on site is not overly dear and you do not have to carry so much that way. Wet gear should not be ignored. The splash area should be used. Or the giant water balloon catapult. A sensible head for the mania associated with mascots. A sense of humour. Bring money. You will be called upon to squander albeit at the end of the day. Your serious voice. Your cop on. Sometimes a few tries on a generic queue free perfectly lovely wooden slide make a for a much happier three year old than a thirty minute queue for another imaginative fly about the sky. Patience. A smile for the other child keepers. We are all in the same jingly boat singing a pointless but amazingly catchy tune about the sea and the sky in the voice of Brian Blessed. My kids’ favourite ride? The Victorian Carousel. Classic. Some things just never lose their appeal. I know. We could find one at home. Ah well.
Another enjoyable element for our girls was the beach party show. It takes about twenty minutes and is just enough time to catch your breath whilst the younger folk dance off their excess energy.
Gigi and I had a trip into the 3D cinema for the twenty minute short For the Birds. Gigi was not impressed by the 3D glasses so missed the full extent of the show. She did get the other interactive experiences however. I let a few yelps myself when the seat jerked or ‘insects’ ran around my legs. Just to be sociable. A walk around to look at wildlife, turtles and birds, meerkats and insects is also a pleasant relief from the chaos -I mean fun.
Peppa Pig World will give you earworms. Birdie Birdie Woof Woof anyone? A thumping headache. An overdose of the cuteness and sugar. Partial deafness. A sense of being discombobulated. Time here requires mental and practical preparation. A good night’s sleep. The kids will love the rides, the pizza, the candy floss, the mascots and the hysteria. You may even enjoy it too.
We stayed at Solent Lodge and Spa for three nights and our price included two days entry to the park. The hotel has a good location being a short drive from the airport and about twenty minutes from the park too. It is a high end hotel in many ways with quite a lovely pool atttached.
We didn’t make use of the spa but the lavender and lemon scent managed to make its way to us as a calming aroma. Breakfast was much better than average here. The room was comfortable for two adults and two children. My only grievance here was a step in the room that my eldest came a cropper on. Twice! We ate at both the on-site restaurant and the attached bar called The Parson’s Collar. Betsy thoroughly enjoyed her typical tea of British bangers and mash whilst I thoroughly enjoyed the irony of watching her eat the pig. Mr Paper was not too impressed by a hanging kebab dish that was all presentation and not much substance. A bit of a Kardashian supper. Betsy wouldn’t share which fuelled the fire.
Food was nice on site but everything was somewhat overpriced. I laughed at the ridiculous cost of Americano- £4.50 in the hotel- but my ire at being charged almost ten pounds for two average sized cup of roasted beans was more than alleviated by the presence of an actual coffee maker in our room with complimentary fresh milk.
This took away the sting of being in a hotel that has prices with notions and not getting to at least sit in the shadow of the Piazza Navona whilst sipping. I will never be impressed by a food establishment with a high tariff on fruit squash either. However the hotel is immaculately clean with a beautiful decor. I enjoyed admiring the nautical interiors in grays, blues and light wood. Staff were generally mannerly and helpful. There is a dedicated playroom for kids. The clientele are comprised of business people having meetings literally all over the hotel and young families heading to PPL. The suits were skilled in ignoring the spoiled and vice versa so all in all the combination works. €720 was the total cost for this stay over and included our Peppa vouchers as we called them. (At this point I will mention that this was a personally financed holiday with reviews by choice. No one at the hotel, nor Peppa Land were aware of my intention to to babble on about the trip online. Except Mummy Pig. I suspect she knew. She is pretty clued in. She is also sneakily silent as a physical presence within the park, looking above us all. Watching. I am expecting a call).
Should you go? Of course. It is a one of a kind place. You really need to have a few under fours with you though. This isn’t Disney. Children are required. Otherwise you need to have a chat with yourself. Bingly Bongly Boo!