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tried & tested

When there are so many places to choose from it's hard to know where to visit! In good or bad weather, with very young children or older teens, activity venues or quiet walks, every venue will offer something different with a variety of facilites available. We will add our thoughts on places that we have Tried & Tested so that you are well-informed before you make your decisions!

AUDLEY END MINIATURE RAILWAY - AN UNFORGETABLE EXPERIENCE

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After being invited to visit Audley End Miniature Railway I had no idea that after one visit two things would happen; I would want to celebrate Halloween again by visiting a fully themed theatrical event and that I would want to spent that time at Audley End Miniature Railway. Not only that but my kids were completely enchanted and entertained too. This is how we spent our day.

OUR ARRIVAL

The journey from St. Neots to Audley End Railway (AER) was very quick along the A428 I was actually pleasantly surprised by how close it was. My friend did say it wasn’t too far away and the little advice she did say was “don’t go in Audley End House by mistake!” You can see the house is on the left and the railway is on the right as you approach.

I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived at AER and I had never been to a Halloween event before so I didn’t know quite what to expect. My eldest children were 7 (son) and 8 (daughter) followed by their little brother, of 18 months old, who had just started to walk. We were not completely oblivious to what was happening, when we had booked our tickets, we were sent a schedule which made our planning much easier.  

Please note, with covid being rife at the time, heavy restrictions were in place which included detailed time slots to keep groups small to allow for space and prevent groups from all congregating in one area. Instead of buckling under the restrictions, AER have rose to the challenge by providing a fun filled half day of entertainment.

Sorry back to our arrival…what surprised me was we were amazed and entertained before we even walked in! The whole place was lit up and filled with various Halloween themed decorations. The kids were screaming with excitement whilst we passed the venue to park in the overflow car park. The train was lit up and ghoulish fancy dressed staff were acting out their part to the excited children. This looked really exciting, silly and fun. It was Halloween themed but it was not scary at all to the children, it was relished!

We arrived in wet conditions but well prepared with our wellies, thick coats and Halloween costumes over the top. We were prepared to get muddy and like us AER were also prepared. They had diligently laid out walkways all around the park (and from the car park too), this was perfect for us since we had turned up on the wettest day in October!

Upon our immediate arrival I felt like we were treated like royalty. The car park attendant was jovial and cheerfully directed us to where we should park and a short walk down a hill led us straight to the entrance. Here we were  greeted by a Halloween pumpkin character, cheerfully and  animatedly they directed us to the entrance hut which doubled up as a gift shop. The hut looked like a decorated wooden stall, everything was on display behind the serving personnel who were also dressed up and cheery.

I knew then that this would be a really nice day. Everyone directed us to the right places at the right times, sometimes on speaker phone and they were all friendly, dressed and acting in their characters.

FIRST STOP

Our first stop on the schedule was to board the train, our ticket made it very clear we had to be on time or we would miss our train ride with specially partitioned carriages. They had cleverly used  Perspex panels between the carriages and with the opensides I did not feel enclosed or squashed, but nice and cosy.

Each family was delightfully directed to their seats by a characterful train porter. It felt so special and personal, as if we were the only family there. And yet each train held around 10 families.

The train ride was an amazing surprise. 40 minutes of pure entertainment for all the family. My 1-year-old loved it, the primary aged kids loved it, I did and even my husband who is very hard to please, enjoyed it.

As the train moved through the woods our kids clutched spot sheets full of Halloween themed displays to spot along the journey. I was impressed how they had made the displays fun and silly, some were of pumpkins, witches or skeletons all doing interesting things. Nothing was scary or frightening. We saw a lot of wildlife too as we headed in and out of tunnels with pheasants, deer and squirrels.

When we didn’t think we could expect anything else we pulled up alongside a very large stage (as long as the train!) and were entertained to a performance of witches and pumpkins. They were all acting, singing, dancing and engaging with the audience on the train. They also provided the children with a small gift too which was a wonderful surprise!

After the train ride it we disembarked and were lead through a beautifully lit and decorated tunnel to see a talking house. We were treated to another interactive performance between a witch and the talking house covered in more Halloween paraphernalia. It was lovely performance and we were also allowed to stay and take pictures.

PLAY AREA

The next stop was the big wooden play ground with obstacle course and train. We were ready to run around and get a little muddy. The kids really loved playing on the wooden train, slide and obstacle course, even the little one loved it. I would imagine that normal this place isn’t muddy at all but as I’ve said the conditions were pretty extreme that day and they put lots of mats down to reduce areas of high traffic. The kids had a lot of fun and they didn’t get as muddy as I had expected. We also visited the café (located by the playground) and had a hot chocolate each with marshmellows under the open tepee’s. Their menu looked really nice and I know on my next visit I will be ditching the sandwiches and having lunch there. The seating was plentiful and the huge open tepee's gave us a lot of shelter from the elements.

LAST STOP

Once we had warmed up, our final stop was to see the wizard. What great fun was he? He had all the children dancing to the ghostbusters, pulling faces and jumping around. A great end to the day.

If we had gone out in this bad weather anywhere else we’d have been cold and miserable. However, we were entertained, really well looked after, the care from staff was really special and memorable. Being outdoors made it more atmospheric and that train ride is something that none of us will ever forget. What a wonderful experience. We would definitely go again at any time of the year.

Louisa x

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