BeWILDerwood Summer 2020!
Over the years I have written many articles about BeWILDerwood documenting our fun in the outdoor treetop adventure park. For a long time we were annual pass members and our visits have always been plentiful and given me a lot to write about however today I am writing something a little bit different about our most recent visit for it was our first proper day out post the COVID19 pandemic lockdown and with a very cautious attitude to socialising in general I’ve wanted to focus on how BeWILDerwood are safely welcoming visitors in this new era where we do still have to be very mindful of not spreading the virus.
First up, BeWILDerwood is operating at a much reduced capacity allowing in less than a third of the visitors who would usually cross the enchanted threshold. By booking on line they know exactly how many people are in the park each day and can cap it accordingly which is reassuring for me, someone who still very definitely wants to keep a social distance and comply with government guidelines. I won’t say I wasn’t nervous about visiting regardless because I was, I have sort of become a bit conditioned I guess and I have anxiety about mixing with people but I do want the children to have as normal a summer as they can and I knew that from past experience of doing things well in general, BeWILDerwood could be trusted to be doing what they say they will. Sure enough as soon as we arrived I could see the parking, which was being directed by team members in PPE, was efficient and reassuringly distanced. Each car was parked with around a two car space in between. This immediately put me at ease and by the time we reached the non existent queue to get into the park I was relaxed. We walked straight in with barely anyone else around and we didn’t arrive until nearly lunch time. Which of course we ate immediately on picnic tables which were spread out and again, the area was practically empty!
I knew that being at BeWILDerwood would be less intimidating than other places as essentially, though with less people and staff in PPE, nothing much would be changing. The park, which is based on the magical novels by author Tom Blofeld, is 100% outdoor fun meaning none of their attractions would be closed to the public and for that it felt normal. The one area which can’t be accommodated is their usual “all included in the ticket price” face painting but that is literally the only thing with no access. For every other Twiggle twirling (Twiggles live in the trees) and Boggle bouncing (they live in the bogs) area, new measures have made it so that they can welcome guests as per usual albeit a little differently (but with no less fun)!
Queues were guided, the stage management for seating and performance socially distanced and activities curated so accommodate the climate. It didn’t feel butchered, it felt looked after and cared for and safe while at the same time being the same much loved woodland fun! Slides, treetop walkways, mazes, den building shows, craft, zip wires and more. Lots for tiny tots and big kids alike and we didn’t feel like we missed out on any single element!
I actually felt like weights were lifting my heavily worried shoulders and noticed a feeling of more and more comfort as the day went on while still at no point discarding my safe behaviour. Hand sanitising stations are dotted about everywhere, there are staff to guide and ensure social distancing in a very non imposing way and with such a marked difference in numbers of visitors it never felt like there were too many people to keep away from. If I’m honest even on normal days at the height of a normal summer holiday BeWILDerwood rarely feels packed. It’s one of those places where usually you look at the cars jam packed in the car park and think all day “where on earth are all the people who’ve come out of them?” – the park is vast and with so many different activities it rarely feels anything other than quite exclusive so today, with less than a third of the usual visitors, it felt rather like it was all just for us while at the same time very definitely gifting us a vibe of fun from others. Strange really but I’d say they are doing it very well indeed!
I know some people are not prepared to socially distance anymore but I am not one of them. I am cautious with care for myself and for others. I have avoided seeing anyone who is behaving differently to me and so a couple of weeks ago I would never have envisaged myself going to a local attraction for the day. When I was invited to come and try BeWILDerwood post pandemic and for their re-opening I did not jump at it believe me. I carefully thought about it and I resolved that we would go and try but that we would leave as soon as any one of us didn’t feel comfortable.
We stayed all day!
My main worry I guess wasn’t about there being things like hand sanitising stations – I knew that would be fine. I also knew there would be less people in general but I still couldn’t shake the worry about those who are simply not prepared to keep socially distanced anymore. I have friends who have told me they aren’t bothered and I am avoiding them because of it so going to a local attraction, albeit with less people, still meant being in the same place as others who potentially didn’t care. I trust BeWILDerwood but I didn’t necessarily trust those other guests. The truth of it now that we have been however is that even if others wanted to flout the rules (and obviously there are going to be some) putting the safety of themselves and those around them at a disadvantage, they have few chances at BeWILDerwood. The set up is managed (but doesn’t feel like a military experience) in a way which I guess you wouldn’t even think about unless you’re really thinking about it like me, but the measures taken do ensure that there is distance between guests and the area is such that you can absolutely keep away from others. There were a couple of things, like the maze, where it would be impossible to police and some families didn’t get it but we just avoided them.
BeWILDerwood are putting safety first and I was grateful.
We had a great day, a day to remember and a day which has put me at ease for going again and for trying out other places too. I think, as always, BeWILDerwood just know how to do things – they care about their customers and this is always evident no more so than now. Also worth noting that they care so much for their annual pass holders they have gifted each one an extra 12 months. I think that says a lot about who they are and their values. Unfortunately (and damn it), for us this past year is one of the first times we didn’t have one as Jonny was doing teacher training and we had a frugal year but their approach has not been surprising and encourages me to buy another pass – I always feel looked after by them even in this current climate!
A few things to note about a summer 2020 BeWILDerwood visit:
- Book on line – they are taking walk up visitors but only letting a certain amount in so it could be a wasted journey if you don’t book on line. Plus it makes a saving on the entry price so… No brainer!.
- They are not refilling water bottles so take enough with you.
- Their food outlets are open and as good as ever but usual ice creams are no available and instead it’s rather pricey pots. The hot food also seems to be closing much earlier at 4.20 so don’t make the same mistake I did by promising a tea before we left – it was a McDonald’s stop for us which is such a shame as the food is so GOOD!!
- The boats are taking only one family at a time so there may be a little wait – my top tip always for avoiding this queue is to do it on the way in! The queues looked scary at first sight but get up a bit closer and you see the spaces are marked for a distanced wait!
Questions I always get asked after we visit:
- What should I wear? Arms and legs need to be covered for slides and I recommend old clothes. Wellies if it’s wet and trainers if not. This curious adventure is not a flip flop jaunt!
- Is it suitable for buggies? Yes! No questions and that would go for a wheelchair too I would say! Even the boats accept four wheels!
- Are there any age restrictions? There are some height restrictions for little ones but you can zip wire your way through the trees no matter how big you are and there is plenty (including baby zip wires) for tiny tots too!
- Can I take a picnic? Yes and we always do but we do usually buy hot food for tea before we come home as well because it is SO good. Not just good for an attraction but REALLY good and inexpensive to boot!
- Is it worth the money? Absolutely, all activities are included in the price and there are no hidden costs which as a parent I appreciate. This is not a place for a couple of hours fun, this is a place to try and pack it all in before they close (but you’ll still leave wanting to do a bit more)!
And that’s it, I hope that you’ve found this review helpful but please do send me a message if you have any other questions and I will do my best to answer them. Have fun in the woods guys!
We were gifted tickets in return for a review.