On holiday in Hampshire, we had to visit Paulton's for the sake of our three year old Peppa-obsessed daughter. First of all - it isn't cheap, but these places never are. However, our daughter is tiny and under the height restriction so she got in free which I thought was excellent. The online booking was also great - we were able to walk straight in with a smartphone scanning system - very modern and cut the queues down to nothing. This is very impressive, however it would be the last time during our day when we weren't part of a queue.
Firstly, everyone heads straight for Peppa Pig World. I read the reviews before we went and intended to go there later when it quietened down, but our daughter was clamouring to go in and it seemed cruel to make her wait. First ride we went to was Windy Castle. The queue was long and the ride only takes a small number of people at a time. Fair enough. However, the staff insist on moving people along so slowly that there are times you wonder if you will get on another ride during your visit. We queued for around 30 minutes, which was not fun surrounded by fractious, overexcited children who are expected to wait in a tiny queueing area. The opening and closing of safety gates (on all of the rides) was bordering on the ridiculous. On George's Dinosaur Adventure ride, there is a peculiar system of measuring everyone (even though height restrictions are clearly stated) and letting people through one at a time, then closing the safety gate, getting them sat on the ride, setting it off, getting another dinosaur in position, opening the safety gate, letting another person on, ad infinitum. The process takes several minutes per person. When there are 50 people waiting to go on the ride, that can mean waiting times of almost an hour! Children over the height restriction have to ride a dinosaur alone, meaning their accompanying adult has to follow on another dinosaur looking extremely embarassed. Why not just let the children get on and the adults wait at the end of the ride? These are the kind of things you have time to ponder when you are waiting to ride on Daddy Pig's car for forty minutes.....
I'm not suggesting for a second that Paulton's shouldn't have safety gates, but the extent of time devoted to 'health and safety' is bordering on ridiculous and impedes on the fun. The repetition of tannoy announcements telling you, 'keep arms and legs in the ride at all times, do not exit until ride has stopped, you must be X height to ride, keep arms and legs in the ride at all times' - repeat, repeat, repeat. Insistent, relentless messages to ensure our safety on a ride that travels about one mile an hour. Really?? It's like being in a theme park based on 1984 rather than Peppa Pig! This health and safety obsession isn't limited to the Peppa Pig section of the park; the (admittedly beautiful) carousel had safety belts on the horses and we were told our three year old daughter had to ride alone with us holding her for support. A contrast with the far more authentic Carousel at Tatton Park where you jump on and hold on - after all, it's such a gentle ride, you would be extremely unlucky to hurt yourself. It is interesting that despite the health and safety obsession, the queues for the waterslide are left on a precarious looking metal staircase which some visitors couldn't cope with......
Finally, due to the queues, the time spent opening and shutting gates and the waiting around, we struggled to do everything in one day. The ticket, however, is valid for one day only and so it is not possible to return and get a full experience of the park.
One the bright side - the staff on the Teacups and the older gentleman working on the large swinging ship near the restaurants were both fabulous. The park itself is incredibly pretty, and the gardens we walked through when leaving were a gorgeous place for a picnic. There were lockers onsite which is a fantastic idea and the Peppa Pig characters came out for a decent amount of time giving all the children chance to meet their heroes. Finally, unlike many other similar attractions, the gift shops are well stocked and surprisingly reasonably priced.
Overall, Peppa Pig Land was a once in a lifetime experience for my daughter, and our eight year old son even liked it. But the queueing ruined it for us. Our experience at the (equally busy) Thomas Land at Drayton Manor was much better in terms of queues and value for money (rides per pound).
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