REVIEW: Marwell at Christmas

"OH, is that you Poppy and Alice?" boomed Father Christmas as he awoke from a little winter slumber to be greeted by two rather excited young fans bursting into his cosy grotto.

There were looks of sheer joy on the faces of our five and nearly two years olds Poppy and Alice when the big man started a lovely personal chat with them.

It was touches like this that made Marwell at Christmas such a magical experience for the girls - and their Dad and I.

The visit to Santa certainly made quite an impression on the children, but the attention to detail during the whole topsy turvy Alice in Wonderland themed experience was superb.

After meeting the Mad Hatter at the gates, it was all aboard the Wonderland Train for an illuminated ride up to Marwell Hall where the experience would begin with mince pies and shortbread biscuits plus mulled cider for the grown ups and squash for the kids.

A screen displayed Santa’s ‘Nice List and ‘Naughty List’ and, luckily, they both found their names exactly where they wanted them as well as enjoying the fact that some of the baddies from Harry Potter, Paw Patrol and Star Wars were in trouble with Father Christmas.

We were then invited on a storytime adventure. Young guests perched on tree trunk cushions to hear a very theatrical telling of the Alice in Wonderland story by Mother Christmas, Alice herself, lots of teddies and various other props.

Next stop was the workshop where each child was invited to decorate an elf door 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 ethically wrapped gifts were a magnetic game for Poppy and a That's Not My Elf book for Alice.

There was plenty of time to enjoy some garden games in a marquee before boarding the train back to the gates at the end of our 80 minute experience.

We enjoyed a wonderful few hours walking around the zoo enjoying the winter sunshine along with many of the animals and completing the Chesire Cat Trail earlier in the day, but evening sessions do not include zoo access this year.

Christmas at Marwell is available on selected dates until Christmas Eve.