I’ve made it my mission this year to check out UK based attractions and write about how accessible they are to a special needs child. Thomas has cerebral palsy, epilepsy and learning difficulties often resulting in challenging and unpredictable behaviour. In September, we visited Paulton’s Park near Romsey to answer the question of how accessible are some of the UK’s top tourist attractions?
If days out are your thing! Maybe Legoland Windsor is the place to be?
A Little Bit About Peppa
Now for those of you who haven’t heard of Peppa Pig (have you been living under a rock?) Peppa is a television character who along with her little brother George, Mummy and Daddy Pig and a whole range of other characters does day to day things like pre-school, ballet, holidays and visiting Granny’s and Grandad’s.
Peppa Pig World
The park is split into two sections, the main Paulton’s Park and the smaller Peppa Pig World. The theming is excellent, with an indoor play zone ‘George’s Spaceship with a cafe on the side, meet and greets with Peppa and George. A play park and mini water park aptly named ‘Muddy Puddles’.
As an extra Peppa Pig World offers an Early Play pass, giving you early access to the park and a special meet and greet opportunity with Peppa and George. This has limited dates across the year and is an additional cost to the entrance ticket. It allows you to be able to access rides at 9.45 am before the park opens to the general public and from what I can see, you need to book in advance using their website. Peppa Pig World is a must for any Peppa Pig fan or any toddler. There are rides for everyone, my favourite is Grampy Rabbit’s Sailing Club, simple yet fun.
You could spend the whole day in Peppa Pig World, the queues can get pretty long but no more than 45 minutes while we were there. Having older children, they both grew bored and we moved on with an hour or two to the main Paulton’s Park area.
Paulton’s Park was established in 1983 and is an amusement park situated near Romsey, on the edge of the New Forest National Park. It is the home of Peppa Pig World and the park spans 140 acres and contains over 70 attractions aimed at children under 12.
There seems to be this misconception that it’s not suitable for older children. I don’t think this could be further from the truth. It has the perfect balance between a toddler, child and teenager.
Paulton’s Park doesn’t offer a separate entrance fee from Peppa Pig World however children under 1m get in free and they offer discounts if paid in advance, I have included a sheet below is an example of what they offer. There is no child or adult rate, it’s over 1m which is actually acceptable and most of the rides are accessible to younger children.
There are no discounts for wheelchair users or carers and Paulton’s Park has one of the best informational pages to help guests with disabilities explaining all the details about accessibility and the Queue Assist Scheme. The only difference is full wheelchair users who are unable to dismount freely on to rides do not have to pay if this was the case I don’t see why you would go?
Paulton’s Park has no discount vouchers or codes. Their discounts are for pre-booking on their website in advance. This saved us over £30.
Something that a lot of families ask me, is how can you save money? Is there a way that they can go more than once or twice a year and make it affordable, with that in mind everywhere I go, I look at information on annual passes and an annual pass at Paulton’s Park will cost £125 per person over 1m, there are no family annual passes or discounts but it does include unlimited entry to both parks for one season, 20% off food and drink and 10% off toys and merchandise.
If you live locally and would spend a considerable amount of time with your toddler and mummy friends, then the pass would be worth the extra cost.
The Disabled Visitor
It wasn’t our first visit to Paulton’s Park, we have been on two separate occasions but both times when our children were a lot younger and before the use of a wheelchair user, so during this visit I thought it was worth writing it in the perspective of accessibility and from the moment we arrived it felt like Paulton’s Park knew its message and accessibility is one of its long term goals as straight away we were able to park directly next to the park in designated disabled spaces, and the park felt very accessible as it was very flat and wheelchair friendly.
Since our last visit, there is a new entrance, gift shop and queuing system. Once inside there are toilets and a large restaurant area with outdoor seating. To the left is guest information (you can purchase annual passes here).
There is a Changing Places toilet which is by the main entrance, it has a door code which you can get from the first aid office. It was busy during our visit so we used the disabled toilet next door but it seemed large with a hoist, but you have to bring along your own sling (if that’s the right item) this us due to hygiene reasons.
Queue Assist Scheme
Paulton’s Park offers a scheme similar to the Merlin access pass at Chessington World of Adventures. You enter the park head to the first aid room where a nurse accesses your need for accessibility. We were given a wrist band and told that three of us could queue skip with him.
You are given a card and you get one turn on each ride, they are meant to stamp, hole punch or tear the attraction. Peppa Pig World was manic with toddlers so we approached the exits and waited, at the most, we waited 10 minutes. Sometimes if more than one disabled person is present they will only let one ride at a time. Never had any problems with this and we were there on a Friday with a large group of adults with disabilities and we walked straight on.
We spent the morning in Peppa Pig world before moving over to the main park and it was quiet, we didn’t use the queue assist pass at all in the main park, there were virtually no queues.
No issues accessing rides, either through the main entrance or via the exit. Some rides had a lift to and from the exit.
During our visit, we knew we wanted to celebrate the day with photographs, I bought our first photo and opted for the photo pass. Individually the photographs are £6.25 each and the photo pass cost £25.00. There isn’t actually a saving, you just get a digital download and 4 photographs, either as magnets or keyrings or prints. It made it easier than paying at each kiosk and after you’ve used the four you get a bonus photo for £5.00 sadly by the time we’d done this, we were leaving to go home and it’s only valid on the day.
- One fixed cost of £25 so you can purchase keyrings, magnets or prints and have a digital version too.
- You don’t have to pay at each kiosk, you just scan the receipt and collect your photo.
- It’s valid for a calendar year, so if you don’t use all four of the photographs, you can use them at another date.
- You have to carry the receipt around in a little wallet, I would have prefered a card like Disney or a wrist band or card like Merlin as rummaging through my bags after a ride did get tiresome.
- I have an annual photo pass for Merlin, it was £50 for the year and I get unlimited digital photographs. Maybe Paulton’s Park should consider offering this in the future.
Food & Drink
We ate in the Wild Forest Family Restaurant, it is a large restaurant with outdoor seating and a canteen type feel. We sat in a large family booth. It was an experience.
It’s pretty much an overpriced diner, what you’d expect at a theme park really but the food was reasonable, the portions were larger than I expected but you could tell it was busy, with cutlery not being replenished and dirty tables. We actually cleared our table so we could sit on it. That being said, it’s not the worse place I’ve eaten and the food was lovely.
Paulton’s Park collaborates with local hotels and offers a short break deal, where you get the second day in the park for free. We’ve never taken up this offer but if you find yourself wanting to spend two days, then it’s a great money saver. Prices start from £49 per person when you visit the park in two consecutive days.
My Top Five Tips
- Pre-Visit – Check out Paulton’s Park Website for all the update news, opening hours, accessibility guides, new attractions or any ride restrictions.
- During your Visit – Have fun, it is such a lovely family day out, there is a changing places accessible toilet near the main entrance and various disabled toilets dotted around, that need radar keys.
- During your Visit – We purchased the photo pass, it included four printed photos and digital download versions. It was a special day, I felt that we were going to want to buy the ride photographs and at £6.25 each they were not cheap, so it felt cost-effective to buy the pass.
- During your visit – If it gets too much and you need a time out, there are plenty of picnic spots, with grassy areas or take a quiet walk in and out of the gardens, while looking at the aviaries of birds.
- After your visit – Don’t forget to download photographs (if you have any) and consider your next trip.
So there are a few of my tips for navigating Paulton’s Park and Peppa Pig World with a Special Needs child and probably for most children under the age of 12.
Despite our original reservations, we managed a full day in the park. It’s all in the planning, taking the day as it comes and having no expectations. We’d already made the decision that should he struggle after an hour we would call it a day but he loved it. I can’t thank the staff enough, they were all accommodating, happy to help and on hand if we needed any advice.
Is Paulton’s Park accessible? As a family, we couldn’t fault the access, the services, the support, the knowledge and the layout of the park. It was flat, with excellent signposting and there were plenty of toilets in most areas in the park.
We dragged my parent’s along this trip, as having a child with special needs we often feel that they would have reservations coming on a full day out with us but I actually think my Dad was in his element, as the picture shows.
My daughter is a thrill seeker and went on Cobra, five times in a row and unaccompanied. It was too much for me and my Dad after one attempt. It was lovely seeing her be able to enjoy herself and not feel that her brother would have a meltdown and she would have to leave. I think he was quite relieved that we left the big rides to her, he looked terrified watching her on the Flight of the Pterosaur. I will leave you one last photograph of my daughter laughing on her favourite ride, it was her fourth go!
Have you been to Paulton’s Park recently? Did you love it? Did you hate it? Have you used the ride access pass? Do you have an annual pass, do you think they are worth the money? Please drop me a comment below or click follow to read more posts like this in the future!
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