A magical way to end the summer holidays
- Credit: Matt Adams
There's something wonderfully reassuring about seeing children being entertained by nothing more than a trail of model fairy houses, away from the obsessions of tablets and phones, squealing with delight at each new discovery.
But then that's Audley End Miniature Railway all over. A flashback to a bygone era of steam trains fused with a charming focus on woodland folk like fairies, elves and gnomes.
Their Covid-safe Summer Festival is running until the end of the holidays, so there are still a few days left to discover these delights first-hand.
The event, at the facility adjacent to the more famous Audley End House and Gardens, includes an enchanting train ride, a magical fairy and elf walk, a new nature corner, interactive story-telling shows and an adventure playground and games area.
Our three girls, nine, five and one, were immediately hooked by the I Spy element to the train ride (OK maybe not the one-year-old), checking off the different features they spotted on their journey, including various teddy bear diaoramas, and waving at the costumed fairy figures en route.
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The fairy and elf walk, which involves ticking off the various characters in an activity book, proved a huge hit, as they ran through the woodland in search of the beautifully crafted abodes of each magical creature, stopping on the way to explore a full-size fairy house (complete with slide) and make their own fairy wands.
It would have been nice to sit down and watch one of the story-telling shows afterwards, but all three girls would rather spend their time at the fantastic adventure playground, which includes a huge wooden train, platform and Audley End bridge, and occupied their attention for a good couple of hours.
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The staff are all exceptionally engaging and patient - we had to feel sorry for the fairy stuck at the wand-making hut for hours on end - they never stepped out of character and remained happy and smiling throughout the day.
If you've exhausted the usual options for the summer hols, and are looking for a special way to finish off before school starts, then Audley End Miniature Railway really does have something for everyone. See www.audley-end-railway.co.uk for more information.