This year, I’ve made it my mission 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 how accessible some of the UK’s top tourist attractions are.
If days out are your thing! Maybe Legoland Windsor is the place to be?
A Little Bit About Peppa
Now for those 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, do day-to-day things like being at preschool, ballet, holidays, and visiting Granny Grandad’s.
Peppa Pig World
The park is split into Paulton’s Park and the more miniature Peppa Pig World. The theming is excellent, with an indoor play zone ‘George’s Spaceship, with a cafe on the side, meet and greet Peppa and George. Playpark and mini water park aptly named ‘Muddy Puddles’.
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 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 toddler. Here are rides for everyone; my favourite is Grampy Rabbit’s Sailing Club, which is 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 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 rides and attractions aimed at children under 12.
There seems to be this misconception that it’s unsuitable for older children, and 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 to enter Peppa Pig World; however, children under 1m get in free. They offer discounts if paid in advance; I have included a sheet below as an example of what they offer (these are subject to change). There is no child or adult rate, it’s over 1m which is acceptable, and most rides are accessible to younger children.
|Individual (1+ Over)||£41.75|
|Family of 3||£125.25|
|Family of 4||£167.00|
|Family of 5||£208.75|
There are no discounts for wheelchair users or carers. Paulton’s park has one of the best information pages to help guests with disabilities explain all the details about accessibility and the Queue Assist Scheme. The only difference is that full wheelchair users who cannot dismount freely onto 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, saving us over £30.
A lot of families ask me how I can 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, I look at the information on annual passes everywhere I go. An annual premium pass at Paulton’s Park will cost £260 per person over 1m; there are no family annual passes or discounts. Still, it does include unlimited entry to both parks for one season, 20% off food and drink, and 10% off toys and merchandise. However, they have created an essential annual pass for £155, just for entry during off-peak times. This means weekends and school holidays are not included, and it has no discounts.
If you live locally and spend considerable 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 our children were a lot younger both times. Before using a wheelchair, during this visit, I thought it was worth writing it from the perspective of accessibility. When we arrived, it felt like Paulton’s Park knew its message. 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. The park felt very accessible as it was very flat and wheelchair friendly.
Since our last visit, there has been a new entrance, gift shop and queuing system. once inside; there are toilets and a large restaurant area with outdoor seating. On the left is guest information (you can purchase annual passes here).
There is a Changing Places toilet 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 accessible toilet next door, but it seemed large with a hoist, but you have to bring along your sling (if that’s the correct item) due to hygiene reasons.
Queue Assist Scheme
Paulton’s park offers a scheme similar to the Merlin access pass at Chessington World of Adventures. When you enter the park, head to the first aid room, where a nurse assesses your need for accessibility; we were given a wristband and told 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. I never had any problems with this, 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.
There are no issues accessing rides, either through the main entrance or via the exit. Some rides had a lift to and from the exit.
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 costs £25.00. There isn’t a saving; you get a digital download and four 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, which was only valid on the day.
**2023 Update – Although we paid £25, the new cost is £40. You can order these online in advance, entitling you to FIVE photography items from any photo kiosks, including high-quality printed photos, keyrings, magnets and exclusive licenses! Also included in your Photo Pass are five digital downloads to save the images and share them on social media! You collect the pass from one of the photo kiosks at the park.
- One fixed cost of £40, so you can purchase keyrings, magnets or prints and have a digital version too.
- You don’t have to pay at each kiosk; scan the receipt and collect your photo.
- It’s valid for a calendar year, so if you don’t use all four photographs, you can use them on another date.
- You have to carry the receipt around in a little wallet, and I would have preferred a card like Disney or a wristband or a 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, a large restaurant with outdoor seating and a canteen type feel. We sat in a large family booth, and It was an experience.
It’s a diner, what you’d expect at a theme park. Still, the food was reasonable, and the portions were larger than I expected, but you could tell it was busy, with cutlery not being replenished and dirty tables. We cleared our table so we could sit on it. That said, it’s not the worst place I’ve eaten, and the food was lovely.
Paulton’s park collaborates with local hotels and offers short breaks, where you get free the second day in the park. We’ve never taken up this offer, but it’s a great money saver if you want to spend two days. Prices start from £49 per person when you visit the park on two consecutive days. Hotels are within a short distance, including Mcdonald Elmer Court Hotel or the Best Western Chilworth Manor Hotel. There are hotels or offers to suit all budgets.
My Top Five Tips
- Pre-Visit – Check out Paulton’s Park Website for all the updated 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 accessible toilets dotted around that need radar keys.
- We purchased the photo pass during your visit, which included four printed photos and digital download versions. It was a special day; I felt that we would 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 spot, with grassy areas, or you can take a quiet walk in and out of the gardens while looking at the aviaries of birds.
- After your visit, 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 decided 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 plenty of toilets were in most park areas.
We dragged my parent’s along on this trip; as having a child with special needs, we often feel that they would have reservations about coming on a full day out with us, but I think my Dad was in his element, as the picture shows.
My daughter is a thrill seeker and went on Cobra unaccompanied five times in a row. It was too much for my Dad and me after one attempt. It was lovely seeing her enjoy herself and not feel that her brother would have a meltdown, and she would have to leave. I think he was pretty 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, and 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!