“ Address: Horning Road / Hoveton / Wroxham / Norwich / NR12 8JW / Telephone: 01603 783900 „
BeWILDerwood, in essence an enormous outdoor play park in the woods in between Hoverton and Horton in Norfolk (link to website for all details and directions at the end of this review) appears to be one of those "marmite" places. I went there mainly because a member of my family raved about it, they said it was "amazing old fashioned fun" - I thought it was overpriced slight amusement that I could have easily had somewhere else for free, preferably with fewer smug parents and badly behaved children around me.
The idea of the park is a good one, it's like a giant play park for adults and kids, in the woods. There are zip wires, bridges through the trees, slides and a host of things to climb. There is also an attempt to make it themed with lots of invented characters called Crocklebogs, Twiggles and Boggles. There is a boat ride at the start of the park to introduce you to these characters, a gentle meandering through the woods that was quite pleasant though rather a queue (my tip is, on arrival to walk to the end of the boat ride where you can walk straight on and do the ride in reverse with no wait). The rest is stuff in the woods, there's a maze, story areas and refreshment huts, places to build dens and a few real fires to heat yourself up around. It's all safe, well built and staffed by cheerful people who seem, on the surface at least, to be into the spirit of the place.
All this would be well and good were it not for the fact that I found it very expensive for what it was. Clearly theme parks by their nature are expensive and, at £13.50 per person over 105 centimetres (so a 6 year old pays the same as an adult), with those from 92-105 cm pay £11.50, with under 92cms being free, I thought it was pricey. Admittedly when we visited it was peak school holiday time and very cold but we were hard pushed to make a day of it - it just isn't that big really, there are only 4 big play areas and then a number of other areas for smaller children. We did have fun on the bigger slides, which you have to wear a foot guard for, and enjoyed walking across the bridge in the woods as a family and going down the zip wires, but I didn't think it was £54 of fun, and the day we went there were a lot of people and you didn't really feel like you had place to play unhampered by other people's children, some of whom I would have paid good money to avoid, wild they certainly were, lacking in parents providing any kind of boundaries or supervision they also appeared to be - not the fault of the park but indicative probably of the kind of family that seems to flock to this place.
Admittedly when not on holiday we live next to woods, so the kind of amusement to be had at BeWILDerwood is readily available to us at home- we can, and often do, walk along logs or build dens for free and we have local parks with impressive zip wires and the kind of thing BeWILDerwood have, albeit on a smaller scale they are not that different from the experience of the woods at this park. I'm afraid rather than charming I found the BeWILDerwood thing contrived and just cloyingly sweet and behind the facade and jokey signs everywhere it seemed as much a money making machine as any of the other bigger theme parks, I just didn't buy into the whole thing, and actually even the slightly tween name of it grates. I don't think I am alone in my feelings about the park - the reviews on tripadvisor are mixed and many mention the cost, the comments on the park's facebook page are all positive. Like I said at the start my relative thinks it is the best thing since sliced bread, personally it's not somewhere I would rush to go back to in all honesty, it's just too limited, we were hard pushed to spend longer than a few hours there. I would imagine if you live near to the place and can get an annual pass it might be slightly more appealing but my advice would be to save your money and go to a park, a beach, or some actual woods, it will probably be just as much fun, and there is a free adventure playground at Holkham Hall, not that far away that will set you back a whole pound in parking and is just as good for kids.
Should you choose to visit, parking is free (unlike at Legoland and Chessington) and copious, the shop seemed to offer a good range of merchandise and the food seemed fair value and more healthy than most parks of this nature. Facilities for baby change and toilets were good and there were some swings and access for those with special needs - though much of the park would be hard to access. The park is open at various times of the year - details on the website.
Tree houses, adventure park, swings, story time, den building, slides, maze, zip wires; it doesn't get any better! We left our 16 month old with the grandparents as still a little young to benefit properly from what the park has to offer and meant we could both go around with the 4 year old as she needed reassurance and support for some of the bridges and larger slides. It's good fun for big kids of 29 and 30 too!
I feel it represents pretty good value for money, £13.50 for those over 105cm and £10.50 for those under (to reflect the fact they cannot go on the main zip wire - although there is a smaller zip wire for them to enjoy) - under 92cm are free. The staff were brilliant, the story tellers incredibly enthusiastic and great at getting the kids involved; our daughter went to all 3 stories that were told on the day and really enjoyed them.
We didn't take any food but wished we had as there are a couple of really nice lawned picnic areas as well as picnic tables and benches to use. And thankfully the whole site is non smoking and there are signs reminding people what a horrible habit it is. The people serving food were extremely polite and efficient and whilst the prices were customarily on the high side, they were not too dear and the food was of good quality.
My daughter had a lunch box for £4 included a small ham roll, really tasty apple (I know as she didn't want it), small bag of crisps, tube yoghurt and a carton of juice. Mineral water was £1 per bottle and a very nice egg mayo sandwich was £2.95 with a large bag of crisps 90p. Unfortunately we didn't realize there was a separate food outlet, which sold hot food and took card payments near the Slippery Slope (we should have paid more attention to the map!). Here you get a baked potato for £2.25 with each filling charged at £1. As I said not cheap, but good quality and to be expected where you don't have a choice.
Go here and not to Pettitts - see http://www.dooyoo.co.uk/ theme-parks-zoos-national/pettitts-animal-adventure-park/1654574/
I was lucky enough to get a cheapo holiday deal from Haven, so legged it off with the family to Great Yarmouth for the week. The reception area of the park was full of interesting leaflets covering all of the local attractions, and the leaflet for a place called "Bewilderwood" really jumped out at me, because it looked so different from the other places of interest locally. The front of the leaflt showed lots of children running along a wooden path through a forest, with little treehouses up in the trees. The front of the leaflet describes the place as a "Curious Treehouse Adventure", and inside the leaflets are lots of quotes and comments from visitors who have really enjoyed going to this place, including a quote from the Observer, which describes it as one of the 50 most fabulous things to do in the world. OK. That got my attention. Interestingly, the leaflet did not mention any prices, and that can only mean that it was going to be expensive.
Worries about cost aside, we set off to Bewilderwood the following morning. It is on the A1062 Horning road, between Hoveton and Horning, not far from Wroxham. This is about 45 minutes by car from Great Yarmouth, and we didn't manage to find it very easily, we got lost and took a few wrong turns on the way!
Once we were there we parked on a huge car park, that had ample space for even the busiest days, and car park attendants to help you. I noticed the park was very busy, and this surprised me on a cold April morning!
Near the car park is the entrance where you pay to get in. Here is the sting. You can't get away now. The kids are too excited. I noticed that you pay different prices according to height. This made me angry, because I have tall kids! Kids under 92cm got in free, while kids between 92 and 105 cm, the average height for a 3 and 4 year old cost £7.00. Anyone taller than that had to pay £11.50 and over 65's cost £8.50. My son is 4, but tall for his age. The girl at the desk made him stand against a height chart, and as he was a tiny bit over, charged me the full £11.50. If I had taken his shoes off he would have only cost £7!!! I really think they should charge by age and not height, as some more able, but shorter 5 year olds should get in cheaper. Talk about discrimination! So me, the hub, the mother in law and the 3 kids came to a hefty £66!
After being relieved of your cash, you wander down a short path and show your wristbands to a very friendly member of staff who gives you a map of the park. The map makes the place look vast, and the different areas of the forest have intriguing names such as Scaaary Lake and Boggle Village. This is the world of Boggles, Twiggles and Crocklebogs, and as you wander through the forset, you really start to believe that there are tiny people living in the trees...
The first place that you come to is the Bewilderboat Junction, where you can hop on a boat that carries 11 passengers a short ride to the lake. Again, the staff are really friendly and talkative. When you get to the lake, you get squirted by a Crocklebog called Mildred, who pops her head out of the water as you arrive. The kids loved that!
When you get off the boat, you come to the main play area, which is a gigantic adventure playground, a kids paradise. This area has a wide variety of play equipment, catering for a good range of ages, from very small children to adults! I would say though, that the equipment mainly caters for kids aged 6 and over, who are quite confident climbing. I did see a few injured kids around who were crying because they had fallen off things! The highlight for my kids was the Slippery Slope, which consisted of 2 slides, a very steep one and a more gentle one. I loved watching the shocked expressions of the people coming down the steep slide. It was hillarious!
There was also a brilliant maze, which we managed to get lost in, and lots of high bridges. There were some brilliant zip wires, which took riders whizzing down a wire, and there were plenty of staff supervising the activities to make sure people were safe.
When it came to lunch I was disappointed that there were no indoor cafes, as we were all really cold at this point. Food is sold at small outlets, with lots of outdoor seating and benches nearby, but no real shelter of any sort. The range of food was OK, with the usual sandwiches and hot fare on sale. I had a sausage roll, for £1.80 which was much better quality than the usual stuff you get, and I was very impressed. The kids had a small food box, which cost about £3 for a cob, a biscuit, a carton and an apple. The prices were quite reasonable.
The whole adventure play area was big, but not as big as it appeared on the map. In fact, to walk from one end of the park to the other would probably only take 10 minutes. They had packed lots of really good things into the small area though. For me, the absolute best thing in the park was the Den building activity. This consisted of a fenced off wooded area with lots of long branches and leafy branches on the ground. The aim was to make a den that you could fit inside. We constructed our den between 2 trees, adding sticks to make a framework and covering the whole thing with leaves. All 3 kids could fit inside and we felt really proud at what we had made.
The park also has storytelling activities, as well as a shop that sells fantasy books based on Bewilderwood, written by a local author.
I was really impressed with the park, which was also eco friendly, with everything made of wood and opprtunities to recycle packaging. The staff were all fantastic and we really enjoyed ourselves. The only reason I am dropping a star is because of the hefty entrance fee and the lack of an indoor cafe, but I would definitely go again.
Honestly, before we arrived at BeWILDerwood I had no idea what to expect. I had never heard of the place before and only went there because I had seen a small advert in a brochure that we had found in the cottage we had rented.
"A curious tree house adventure" it read and that sounded like a fun place for the girls to me. I envisioned the tree house I had made with my friends when I was small and thought it would be some kind of adventure playground.
BeWILDerwood is easy to find, off the A1062, in between Hoveton and Horning. The park is signed out and there is really ample parking. In fact, the parking lot is that big that we immediately had doubts whether this would be just a playground or not maybe something much bigger. As we went on a weekday in September, after the official school holidays, the parking lot was more or less empty and there were only 5 or six more cars.
As soon as we reached the entrance our suspicions were confirmed, as the slightly bored looking young man in the shack that serves as ticket booth asked £45 for a family ticket from us. At this point we almost changed our mind but the girls had spotted the first "tree house" at the entrance and were begging to go inside.
Those tree houses are hard to describe and surely don't compare to anything I've ever seen before: A number of small little wooden houses (similar to bird feeders), decorated in bright colours hung from a huge tree. They did look lovely and the kids obviously were very taken by them.
My husband finally gave in and paid, the offer to buy the book after which the park has been created was declined quickly though.
The first attraction that you reach once your inside the park is the gift shop - not so strategically great as we were still in shock over the admission fee. From here you can choose to either take a short walk through the marshland, the "Treacherous Trail", or queue up at the Boat Junction and take a trip in a small rowing boat along the "Dismal Dyke". We decided to go for the boat ride and had to wait for 2-3 minutes. The park was totally empty at this point and we were the only customers waiting but I can imagine, that it gets rather busy on a weekend or during the holidays and that queues can build up quickly.
The boat trip only lasts a few minutes but the scenery it takes you through is really remarkable. The surrounding marshland and the lush vegetation that comes with it really make it easy for the kids to believe that they are in some kind of fairy land. At the end of the small river you reach the "Scaaary Lake" and here you'll meet one of the characters from the book: Mildred the Crocklebog.
This funny creature seems to be a kind of crocodile and is waiting in the water, half hidden behind some bushes.
You disembark at the snack shack but as none of us was hungry yet and the place looked rather deserted we decided to continue with the adventure.
A few meters away we finally found out what makes this place so special and why it is so expensive. The "treehouses" turned out to be massive constructions that connect several trees with each other. You reach them over wooden climbing frames and they are connected with normal wooden bridges and jungle style bridges. They are quite high and you do need to accompany smaller children. Our older one, 6 1/2 at the time, loved it from the first second, but our younger daughter, who had just turned 5 a few weeks earlier, was a bit scared first and it took some convincing until she agreed to set food on the first bridge. At each end of the bridges is a kind of "station", or tree house, and those are not only huge but also lovingly decorated. One is made up like a witche's room with all sorts of "scary" pictures on the wall, like spiders, magic potions, etc. This was the one our girls liked most, screeching at every picture they found.
There are also monstrous slides and here we encountered a problem - our little one refused to go down and I had to return with her and go down the way we came, while Anna and my husband took the slide.
There are several of those tree house constructions, each a little bit different, and even we enjoyed the climbing. All of them end with one of those long slides and after a while my little one decided to finally try it, as her sister obviously had fun and came to no harm, and from that moment on we didn't have to return to the beginning any more and I had the pleasure to try some of the slides too. Whoaah ! I'm glad I you can't see the photos ...
There are also zip-wires and a maze and some normal playground items like swings. Several benches along the trail allow the grown ups to sit down and take a rest while the kids are busy climbing and exploring, but for us that was out of question. Our kids were simply too small to be left alone up there. Those frames are so high, I don't think that any child under the age of 7-8 should be allowed on them all alone. In between the attractions there are some more of those small tree houses, just for decoration and as part of the story the trail follows, and they are really cute and nice to look at.
Once you reach the end of the trail you will find the "Yummy Yurt", one of the snack bars of BeWILDerwood. We had worked up quite an appetite but, after having a look at the prices, decided to have just some sandwiches, crisps and drinks and to have dinner somewhere outside. There are plenty of wooden picnic tables around and after a short break we made our way back. By now it was around 4.30 pm and we were the only visitors left.
This time we didn't take the boat but tried our luck on the "Treacherous Trail", a very nice little walk through the marshland, mostly over wooden planks and bridges and with more tiny tree houses along the way. The gift shop was still open but we still weren't in the mood to spend more money here and so we left with two very happy and very exhausted little girls.
All in all we really enjoyed our time and we grown-ups had as much fun climbing the frames, walking over shaky jungle bridges or whooshing down slides and zip wires.
For the girls it was the highlight of our trips to Norfolk and this is now, after more than 6 months, the only place to which we took them they are still talking about. They definitely would love to go back.
If it wasn't that expensive I'd happily agree but £ 45 pound is really a bit steep. Especially if you consider that neither my husband nor me, or probably most other grown-ups, would ever visit this place without being accompanied by children. This place is made for kids and although we had a good time, I'd never go there just by myself (if you are interested: an adult ticket is £10).
If you have smaller children, think twice if this really is the right
place for them yet. As mentioned, our little one was first scared from the height and the bridges and wouldn't want to go on even one slide all by herself. Generally I'd say children in between 7 and 13 will enjoy this place most and can, depending on the abilities of your child, be left alone on the tree houses. Smaller kids really need to be accompanied at all times, so if you don't like climbing on tree houses or going down mega long slides you might just want to give this a miss.
So thumbs up for the park itself but thumbs down for the prices there. For us this will have to stay a special treat for rare occasions.
Please also note that, although this is an open air attraction, due to security reasons, smoking is not permitted anywhere throughout the park: everything here is made out of wood.
A huge forest filled with wild family outdoor adventure from treehouses, zip wires, marshes and more.