I had seen it advertised on Facebook, and given how Wriggler is obsessed with dinosaurs (have I ever mentioned that before?) it seemed like a good idea to take the boys out for the day.
Things started well: we only left 30 minutes late, ran out of bread for our picnic so had to make a pit stop for sandwiches for us adults and Fidget did not squeal in the car at all. Nope.
But after flying around the M25 at an amazing 40mph (I know, right? Faster than the usual 30mph!) and only getting stuck in one lot of traffic at the entrance, we were parked, fully warned that we left our cars at risk of being destroyed by roaming dinos.
Now, we kept the plan for the day a secret from the boys until that morning so only endured two hours of ‘When we will see the dinosaurs??’ and as we walked in and saw signs about the day Wriggler got more excited and thrilled to be there. Combined with glorious sunshine the day was turning out pretty great!
We got into the event smoothly, it was well signposted, easy to find and plenty of staff managing things.
We followed the paths and trail and found the life-size T-Rex, the Triceratops and then more and more life-like, moving and ROARING dinos. Honestly, Wriggler and Fidget were amazed and thrilled and I got the National Geographic explanation of the dinos from my fist-born again. We picnicked by the Diplodocus and wandered around to see the Brontosaurus and Pteranodon. It was brilliant turning a corner, hearing a roar and then seeing a Brachiosaurus eating dinner from the tree tops.
There were a few dinos that the kids could get on (or in) and it was brilliant to see their happy faces. In regards to the actual dino experience I can not fault how good it was, and I actually felt it was good value (I would recommend the experience to friends).
Wriggler would say that he missed seeing a Stegosaurus…maybe there was one there and we didn’t find him, but that is joint favourite in his world…so he was hoping to ‘meet’ one.
However, there were a couple of small things that were frustrating and one major thing that almost ruined the day if The Mr did not have the patience of a saint and the kids (thankfully) roll with most things.
- The toilets were disgusting at 11am…there were not enough of them or enough toilet paper
- It was too busy – the tickets were prebooked, but you could still buy on the door. Combined with a really sunny day (and the venue running their Easter Egg Hunt), there were just too many people trying to get in and around
- A map of the event would have been really handy, to know what was coming up or if we wanted to go back and see anything, if there was one available it was not made clear
- Whilst there were a lot of staff at key points, there was not enough around the route in general and they needed to be near all the ride-on attractions for the kids
- The food options were poor – a noddle and burger place at the entrance and a cold drinks van, sausage vendor and churros half way around. No sandwiches, ice creams, or at a reasonable price either
- The barriers around the dinos were not secure enough or a clear deterrent, as there was a number of people who were climbing on the dinos or pulling at them
- The actual venue (National Trust) is beautiful, but was completely unprepared for the volume of visitors. They still had their Easter Egg Hunt on, and like I said – it was really sunny. Their ice cream vendor even ran out of ice cream
- No communication either about the impact the volume of visitors was having. I expect more from a National Trust place. Even their tweets came too late
And finally…I am not sure who the fault lies with but someone really should have thought how they were going to get the volume of visitors out of the site…when they use the same entrance as the exit, onto a tiny, narrow, road. The police were called and the three poor national trust volunteers had to demand that their bosses actually come and see what the situation was.
We decided to go back into the venue and have a wander around the dinos again (which the boys still loved!) and thankfully the sandpit excavation kept the boys happy for ages and the upside was it was quieter, so was much more enjoyable seeing everything properly. So now I would say the I would do an afternoon over a morning for that side of it again.
The lack of communication and on-the-ground management of the parking almost ruined a brilliant day. Almost, only because the actual dinos were brilliant and Wriggler was a happy, tired boy at the end of it.
So…the boys say 10/10; Mr says 7/10. I would say 7/10 – losing points for the management of something that could have been better prepared.
Thank god for robot dinosaurs who saved the day!