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Winter Weekend Fun at Woodlands!

Local family head out for some weekend winter fun!

I consider it quite an achievement that I have managed to avoid all theme parks in the 10 years I have been raising children. All that stomach churning spinning, shouting, queuing, it just never really struck me as a fun day out. But there comes a time when you have to put your theme park prejudices to one side and let the next generation decide for themselves.

Woodlands, it turns out, is a good place to start.  Yes, there are death slides and spinning things if you want but there are also endless adventure playgrounds, a falconry centre and a brilliant model village. We ambled from one zone to the next, chatting away while the kids popped off to ride a go-kart or hurl themselves down a tube slide. It was all very civilised.

Jake, 10, had informed me before we arrived that he had ‘outgrown’ places like Woodlands (having never been before) but within minutes of arrival, he was diving in the enormous indoor ball pool and scaling a climbing wall.

He then spent about an hour firing foam balls at his sister, using the master blaster in the park’s ‘circus drome’ zone. Jake had to wait his turn, however, because there was a queue of dads who wanted a go first.The bumper boats were also a big hit. I heroically held the coats while everyone else took to the open water, opened the throttle and bashed their way across the boating lake.


After that, my animal nerd kids were keen to see the reptiles, pigs, donkeys and spiders on show in the zoo farm area. Alice, seven, can’t be within 30 feet of a spider, so she went to rabbit and guinea pig city. Jake is never happier than when he’s inches away from tarantulas and three-metre long pythons, so he set off for the ‘flyers, runners and creepers section’.

We reconvened at the meerkats – everyone loves a meerkat – and discussed our next move. Woodlands is a big place and even though it was winter and not everything was open, there was still a lot to get through and we were running out of daylight. Thankfully, we were with annual pass holders who directed us to the best bits, over the Marines Commando Course, past the dinosaurs and through the Seacape Mirror Maze.

And then we could delay it no longer. Yes, it was time to go to the colossal indoor adventure centre that is the Empire of the Sea Dragon. I have never been to such a large soft play area. It was like another planet, a windowless vortex of slides, brightly coloured balls and netting. Friends told me they had come here and read entire novels while their children played happily on the acres of equipment at their disposal.

Fuelled by jelly babies and fizzy rainbow laces (it’s the only way) the kids went wild, chasing each other up and down the layers and layers of indoor fun, while we grown-ups sat back and watched, marvelling at how we never had this in our day.

On a cold, bleak, January Sunday, all there would have been for us to do was watch rubbish television and argue.

Kids today have never had it so good and theme parks today are certainly better than they used to be. Now my aversion has softened, I reckon we’ll be back at Woodlands in the summer to try out those water slides…

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