“WELL I say Poppy, haven’t you grown since I saw you last year?!”

The look of sheer joy on our four-year-old’s face as Father Christmas started a lovely chat with her was a picture.

It was touches like this that made Christmas at Marwell such a magical experience for Poppy and her three-year-old friend Alexa.

Even our nine-month-old baby Alice seemed to rather like her first meeting with the big man himself.

Having enjoyed a wonderful few hours walking around the zoo enjoying the winter sunshine along with many of the animals, our group headed to a beautifully decorated Marwell Hall to start getting festive.

We were met at the door by elves Jingle and Bell and invited to tuck into mince pies and Christmas tree shaped shortbread biscuits, washed down with mulled wine for the grown ups and blackcurrant squash for the little ones.

A large computer screen displayed Santa’s ‘Nice List and ‘Naughty List’ and, luckily, each of our young companions found their full names exactly where they wanted them.

We were then invited to take flight on a magical adventure to Neverland. Young guests perch on tree trunk cushions to hear a very theatrical telling of a festive Peter Pan story by Mother Christmas, an elf, lots of teddies and various other props.

Next stop was the workshop where each child was invited to decorate a gift bag using a host of sparkly Christmas stickers and brightly coloured pens as they wait for their meeting with the main man.

Sat on his throne in front of a fireplace in his grotto, Father Christmas greeted each child by name and took the time to have a conversation with them about their year and what they would like in their stocking next month if they continue to be good girls between now and then, while a talented photographer elf took some candid shots which were available to purchase at the exit.

The wrapped gifts were a kangaroo game for Poppy, a play doh set for Alexa and a cuddly cat for Alice.

Our 60 minute visit to Marwell at Christmas was full of magical moments and a great way to kick off the festivities.

It’s enough to make even the most miserly Scrooge feel festive, even if it is only November.

Christmas at Marwell runs until December 24. Visit marwell.org.uk/christmas or call 0844 736 4200.