Reviewed By Tonya Louise Glennester
We were very excited about our big family adventure to Robin Hoods Wheelgate Family Theme Park situated in 30 acres of countryside near Sherwood Forest in Newark, Nottinghamshire, especially as we knew the Easter Bunny was going to be there.
On arrival we were greeted by a female member of staff who smiled and took our tickets and told us to ‘have fun’, after passing the ticket office we were offered a handful of leaflets one of which was a map, and the others related to various activities going on in the park throughout the day.
Straight behind the ticket office there were large character statues which make great photo opportunities for the children, we decided to get the girls to stand in front of a Giant Gnome which they thought was great fun, there were also some fluffy characters roaming around they met the Easter Bunny and the Wheelgate raccoon all before we’d even entered the park properly.
We walked to the right hand side of the park to find a small play area with various climbing frames, modern rockers and play tunnels, followed by giant dinosaurs, my little girl loves her “roars”. The first ride we came across was a an jungle animal ride with lots of giraffes, hippos, zebras etc… the children sit it in it and it goes round and the animals fly up in the air like a plane. We had organized to meet up with friends in the park so this ride gave us the opportunity to keep the girls occupied as well as a good look out position for spotting our friends arrival. When our friends did arrive their little boy also aged 3 wanted to go on the animal ride, after the ride had done two full circles he started getting upset but the member of staff was very friendly and sympathetic and stopped the ride so that we could take him off.
There was a small pirate ship that swings back and fourth which the girls thought was fun it moved quite slowly so it didn’t scare them too much.
We continued to walk through the park and found yet another good photo opportunity under the model hurricane plane, after which we walked round to a picnic area were the children wanted to explore the strange long blue and yellow floor in the middle of the picnic area they thought it was hilarious to bounce around on, we adults found it more hilarious to see the children’s shocked faces when water spurted out from it, it was a floor splash fountain. The object of the game then became trying to get a family photo in the middle of the fountain they all had to try and run into the circle area and stand still so that the water came up around them lets just say they didn’t all make it in in time ;-).
We tried to use the map, however we found the layout a bit difficult to navigate as the map was more of an artist representation of the park than the actual park layout, pictures of buildings looked nothing like the reality and some iconic objects were in different places in reality to what they were situated on the map, which made it difficult for us to know exactly were we were, although the different zones were listed on the map and a category of rides/facilities for each zone was listed next to the map which is what we had to use to guide ourselves round. We had originally looked at the map to check if there were any dedicated smoking areas as we had one smoker amongst our party but we couldn’t seem to see any so we walked back to the ticket office to check and were told smoking can be done anywhere outside on the park, on traveling round the bins with ash compartments seemed to scarce and our smoker is a very clean smoker and if they cant find a bin they stub the cigarette out and put it back in the packet until they find a bin, unfortunately on traveling round the park we discovered a lot of people do not do the same, the children kept picking up cigarette buts in several of the zones.
After satisfying our tummies with a bit of grub we continued our journey around the park the next object of fun was the giant bouncing pillow, this was immense fun and to be honest I am not sure who the bigger kids were the adults or the children. We had planed to take the train ride around the park with the queuing station next to the giant pillow we could see the train was out on a journey so we wondered into the gift shop next door and found the tropical hot house which offered lots of colorful and cute characters from terrapins and carp to birds, our particular favorites were the quails.
The train had returned from its previous journey and was ready for new passengers the departure platform has locked gates which are open and closed by the train driver so the platform provided good security for items such as pushchairs as obviously you cant take these on the train, it was nice to be able to leave it behind and all take part in the journey around the park, this journey enlightened us as to what was were and gave us a good idea of were to go next.
After departing the train we wandered into a little wooden village where the children could enter the houses climb the stairs and travel down slides from the top window, each little house had something different one had a fake wooden sweetie shop in, another had a table and chairs definitely a zone for great imagination play. We stopped again for another bite to eat finishing of our picnic on one of the many picnic tables provided around the park, however us adults were desperate for some caffeine, one of the downsides of adult hood you loose a lot of that energy you have as a child so a caffeine boost was definitely in order. We found a little coffee shop near the Black Diamond Mining Zone, the building had fake cobwebs and spiders on the windows, unfortunately I think most of the adults in the area had had the same idea as us all wanting caffeine, this gave us a bit of a queue to wait in, there was only one member of staff serving making each coffee by hand and so the service was a bit slow, unfortunately for myself my child was getting restless so I had to give up on my caffeine boost. As we proceeded on the children found a very tall hill with a deep slide running down the side which they thought was great, and was shortly followed by a trip round the Carousel.
The Animal zone had lots to offer reptiles, birds of prey, baby chickens and baby rabbits, pigs, and lots of lovely excited baby lambs, we were told the lambs were only 2 weeks old the youngest 2 children wanted to feed the lambs so we collected our free token which made it possible for them to do this, the children were all put in a gates area and given a bottle each, the staff demonstrated how to hold the bottle and put the children at ease about how excited the lambs would be as they were very hungry, the lambs were released and soon latched on to all the bottles my little girl squealed with glee at all the excitement. Afterwards we all washed our hands using one of the many sanitizer dispensers that are dotted around the park and followed up with ice cream for all, shortly after which we found the Easter Bunny hopping through with a basket full of mini chocolate eggs the children loved picking an egg out of the basket to eat.
The Alien Zone being our next port although looking a bit run down in places particularly the floors it provided the opportunity for the children to let of more steam in the soft play area giving us adults freedom to have a coffee, all the adults snuck off in pairs to venture in to the Martians Mirror Maze, being a complete geek myself I found it quite fun some of the others did get lost on their trip through there I would say the it’s a must for all adults.
Finally as nature works its course the toilet breaks began and this is were some of the negative aspects started to arise, on visiting the disabled toilet I found a lot of marks on the walls, no toilet roll in the dispenser and there was a spare toilet roll on the floor towards the back of the toilet but it was sitting in a very suspect puddle which I wasn’t going to venture into, its times like this I’m grateful for carrying wet wipes. My friend who we had met up with at the park ventured into another toilet were she found an overflowing bin of dirty nappies which gave the room a very pungent smell, and again these toilets weren’t in the cleanest order. Having looked round I noticed there were no cleaning chart, which I often see in bathrooms at family attractions, and pubs etc…
The children all wanted to go on the shuttle bus so were all queued up ready along with a couple of other families however there was no member of staff, I ventured through the Alien Zone to find a member of staff sweeping and asked if there was anyone available to operate the ride, the member of staff was friendly and soon found someone to come and assist. After the shuttle bus we decided to venture out of the Alien Zone towards the exit, my 3 year daughter noticed the rock climbing wall and spent a good 5 minutes pointing to it and babbling at the member of staff to try and pursued them to let her on, this gave us all a giggle the member of staff interacted with her well. A couple of the adults went to try the hurricane machine but it sadly did not work for us.
Being aware that it was starting to get late we plotted to go on bumper boats and were going to finish of with the hexo hedged maze, and trampoline we couldn’t seem to find the closing time for the park on any of the leaflets, I also previously had looked online for this but could only find the opening time and not the closing time, I had intended to check this when we entered the park but clean forgot.
We found the bumper boats which provided lots of child and adult fun crashing into each other, I found the button that you press can make your hand ache after a while but the fun was worth it. We ventured over to the trampoline and hedge made to find out from a member of staff over there that it sadly was closing time.
Obviously a trip to the gift shop was in order before leaving but this wasn’t an easy task, the gift shop is quite narrow and when there’s an influx of people all trying to do the same thing it can become quite claustrophobic in there very quickly, it’s not easy to get around with a pushchair. My usual tipple when visiting places is to buy a magnet with the name on I have many sealife centres and places like Madam Tussauds adorning my fridge and I was surprised that I couldn’t find a magnet with Wheelgate on, the only Wheelgate memorabilia we could find were rubbers, and pens which don’t last very long in our house.
I think the park definitely has a lot to offer for all ages, and there is plenty to get around no matter the weather, we didn’t even venture into the waterpark. I found there was a lot that we wanted to do that we simply didn’t have the time to do.
We had a wonderful fun family packed day and we would definitely recommend the park for its activities, variety, staff and value however there are a few negatives that could really be improved on I feel that – a dedicated smoking area in each zone would help emit cigarette butts in children’s areas, perhaps regular checks for toilets to help keep the cleanliness up, and perhaps a few extra staff – I did feel that in some areas there was not enough staff especially in the Alien Zone were we had to find someone to run the ride, and some of the coffee places. Also the glass/Perspex in the animal/reptile pens was quite dirty most had splatter marks all over them and appeared very cloudy.
Tickets cost (Summer Day Ticket: 15th March – 2nd November 2014):
Adult/Child (108cm +) £13.49 per person
OAP £8.49 per person
Toddler (95-108cm) £7.99 per little person
Special Needs £11.35 per person (1 Carer Free)
Wheelchair User £8.49 per person (1 Carer Free)
Under 95cm Free
Wheelgate Annual Pass:
Adult/Child (108cm +) £42.99 per person
OAP/Special Needs/Toddler (95-108cm) £29 per person
For more information or to book tickets vist www.wheelgatepark.com.
Robin Hoods Wheelgate Park, White Post, Farnsfield, Newark, Notts, NG22 8HX | 01623 882773