An amazing Surrey staycation for half-term inspiration

PUBLISHED: 10:15 10 October 2016 | UPDATED: 10:16 10 October 2016

The Harrap Boys making the most of their time off

The Harrap Boys making the most of their time off

Archant

Often too quickly overlooked as a holiday destination, dip beneath the surface and Surrey offers a treasure trove for families seeking staycation inspiration. Here, Nielsen Harrap and his family embark on a magical adventure via Bocketts Farm, Hampton Court Palace, Kidspace, Hobbledown and Chessington World of Adventures

Archie and Cailen relaxing during their Surrey safariArchie and Cailen relaxing during their Surrey safari

This year, with the start bell of Brexit ringing in our ears and an expensive Reigate house move completed, our family decided to try a ‘staycation’ – research surprisingly showing the term was added to the Oxford English Dictionary six years ago – so it’s something a lot of people have been doing.

Either way, what better a county to try a staycation in than Surrey with its abundance of day trip locations, kid friendly attractions, outdoor green spaces and excellent eating and drinking establishments.

The biggest challenge for the family was to choose which locations we would fit into the week ahead. After careful deliberation we opted for Bocketts Farm, Hampton Court Palace, Kidspace, Hobbledown and Chessington World of Adventures, including an overnight stay in the resort hotel.

Bocketts Farm, Leatherhead

Bocketts Farm is a working family farm set in the beautiful Surrey countryside. It boasts a combination of animals and play areas, both inside and out, which ticks the box of offering something if the weather takes a turn for the worst. The outdoor play areas have a combination of toddler friendly and older kid’s areas including pedal go-karts and huge bouncy castle style pillows built into the floors. However the highlight of the day had to be the Pig Racing that saw my 2 boys shouting on support for their favourite racing pig, Harry Trotter!

> Harrap Boys’ rating: 7/10

> Harrap Boys’ soundbite: “We loved the pig racing and the bouncing pillows!”

Hampton Court Palace, East Molesey

The famous and historic Hampton Court Palace’s strapline of ‘Wander the corridors of royal power and pleasure’ couldn’t be more apt with a palatable sense of history and royalty in the air on arrival with the grand spires and halls. Hampton Court offers much more than when I was a child with the new Magic Garden offering an adventure playground with carved wooden dragons and Teletubbie style turrets along with ice cream stalls.

The palace itself has lost none of its fascination in being able to tour and live through the ages of Henry VIII’s life and will be heaven for those who have long term interest in history. The gardens, as always, are highly impressive with great jester style statues giving background and history for areas of the expansive grounds with the iconic maze still proving a great hit. All in all we loved Hampton Court and it proved to be a fantastic day out with something to offer all of the family with so much to do. It was great value and a great hit for such an iconic attraction, which really didn’t disappoint.

> Harrap Boys rating: 9/10

> Harrap Boys’ soundbite: “An amazing day out. The history was really interesting.”

Chessington World of Adventures, Chessington

Two days at Chessington World of Adventures with an overnight stay at the resort hotel in the Africa room, with separate area for the boys, was certainly something the boys were excited about. Depending on your views you may love the idea of a theme park and rides or be less enthused. I fall squarely in the happy if the boys are happy camp, rather than really looking forward to theme parks as Chessington does struggle with the age old problem of queues in busy periods, unless you have the extremely expensive fast track passes. The longest we queued was 70 minutes for one ride, which was about as long as we could cope with, with some other rides with waits of up to 120 minutes! But the rides are enjoyable and they do have a mix of kid friendly offering and the more white-knuckle varieties that older kids will love. The Vampire roller coaster being a real hit with my 10-year-old Cailen.

However, the real hit in my view is the resort hotel, which is excellent for families with good facilitates including pool, steam room and sauna, on-site restaurant and bar, which is lovely for an evening overlooking the areas where the zebra and giraffe graze. With a little imagination, one could be having a cold drink overlooking an African savanna rather than the Chessington countryside in Surrey. Having the room also gave you access to some of the animal areas after the park had closed, as well as early access to the park in the morning of the second day, which enabled us to cut back on some of those queues mentioned. It’s certainly not cheap but, provided you can stomach the queues, the kids will love it. To me though, the bar overlooking the grazing animals and resort hotel is the real star.

> Harrap Boys’ rating: 10/10

> Harrap Boys’ soundbite: “Very exciting – didn’t want to leave!”

Kidspace, Croydon

Kidspace is the award-winning kids’ indoor adventure play centre based on the Purley Way near Croydon. Already a hit with my boys, it stands up as one of the best kids indoor play centres they’ve ever been to. Boasting supervised climbing walls, kiddie friendly go karts and a hive of ropes, tunnels, slides and bridges horizontal and vertical it really does have something for kids of all ages including a dedicated separate area for the under 5s. With dedicated timings they control numbers in at any one time, however it’s worth getting there early to take full benefit of the large areas. A real hit if you have energetic kids.

> Harrap Boys’ rating: 9/10

> Harrap Boys’ soundbite: “The climbing walls and go karts are the best!”

Hobbledown, Epsom

Hobbledown is a fantastical themed award-winning kids play and animal park near Epsom. It centres on the concept of being ‘a place full of wonder, excitement and play where our friends, the Hobblers, spend their days around the fields and the barns where animals roam content as always in their Hobbledown homes’. There is no doubt they have really hit on something with the concept, with the design, architecture and facilitates fitting beautifully into the Hobblers world for kids of all ages to really get drawn into.

There are excellent indoor play facilitates with great seating for parents and even free wifi. The outside space is even more impressive with ‘go-ape’ style high wire adventure courses, underground tunnels, interesting animals, stilt walking, a bird of prey show and even cylindrical zorbing. All of this falls within the theming of the entire concept giving a lovely continuity and relaxed feel. Furthermore the place is clean and service from staff fantastic. We spent an entire day at Hobbledown and will certainly be returning as it provides a fantastic concept, excellent facilities in a lovely environment and gives you great value for money.

> Harrap Boys’ rating: 10/10

> Harrap Boys’ soundbite: “Zorbing was sick!”

Conclusion...

So I think it’s safe to say that a Surrey staycation really is a great option for the family and got thumbs up from Archie and Cailen, with the county of Surrey having so much to offer. The saving you make on accommodation and flights if you’re venturing abroad, gives you plenty to play with for your day trips and inevitable means you end the week with fond family memories and more cash in your pocket. Long live the staycation!

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