In light of the Glasgow-based Willy Wonka experience being branded a ‘farce’ the Echo looks back at when a local event caused outrage and made the headlines across the country.

Despite being billed as a “winter wonderland”, the New Forest event was far from being so. 

Instead, what took place was the highly publicised and ultimately disastrous Lapland New Forest project of 2008.

Organisers of the Ringwood-based theme park promised a magical Christmas experience with various festive attractions. However, it fell far short of expectations and was quickly embroiled in controversy for numerous reasons.

Visitors were offered snow-covered log cabins, a nativity scene, husky dogs, polar bears and other animals, an ice rink, a bustling Christmas market and more.

Instead of the promised  'magical tunnel of light', park-goers experienced fairy lights hung from a row of trees.

Daily Echo: Visitors pictures of the underwhelming event.

 The nativity scene was a crudely painted billboard that could be seen across a muddy field, while the ice rink had melted due to a faulty generator.

The advertised snow-covered “log cabins” were empty garden sheds and the husky dogs and reindeer were mistreated and tethered in muddy conditions.

The event’s Christmas market was made up of only four stalls and required an extra fee to enter while Santa’s grotto was a very poorly decorated cabin.

People had travelled from all parts of the country to enjoy the event but it had fallen far too short of expectations.

Daily Echo: Visitors pictures of the underwhelming event.

The anticipation of the visit had filled children with excitement, but their joy turned to sorrow when Santa was unexpectedly spotted smoking, causing upset to a great many of them.

Tensions were high at the event and fights broke out between attendees and staff on more than one occasion..

An elf endured a physical altercation and verbal assault from a disgruntled mother, while two fathers engaged in a brawl within the Gingerbread house. 

Adding to the chaos, Santa found himself on the receiving end of a punch from an enraged father who was incensed by the news that his children couldn't sit on Santa’s lap after waiting four hours in line. 

Daily Echo: Visitors pictures of the underwhelming event.

The situation escalated further when a worker, dressed as a snowman, faced relentless verbal abuse, prompting them to leave the scene in full costume.

Lapland New Forest received widespread criticism for its misleading claims and poor execution. It was shut down after just a week, but not before 50,000 tickets were sold, with prices beginning at £25. More than £1.2 million had been made in total.

The organisers faced legal repercussions for their actions. 

In February 2011, Victor and Henry Mears, two brothers who ran the park, were charged with misleading advertising and sentenced to 13 months in prison.

Daily Echo: A selection of reader pictures of the Lapland New Forest theme park at Matchams in December 2008.

A surprising development emerged when the brothers’ convictions were overturned by the Court of Appeal in October 2011.  It was revealed that one of the jurors had been in contact with her fiancé via text messages during the trial, with one message notably stating "guilty." This breach of protocol raised concerns about the fairness of the trial, leading the Court of Appeal to declare the convictions unsafe. 

Following this decision, Dorset County Council, the prosecuting body, decided against pursuing a retrial considering that the accused brothers had already served their prison sentences.

While the term "winter wonderland" was used to promote the event, it was ultimately a failed attempt and did not represent a legitimate winter experience in the New Forest, Lapland or anywhere else in the world.