Well, let’s just say this first. Cadbury World is completely overpriced and, well, boring. On the other hand, a visit there involves eating quite a bit of chocolate, some of it in a delicious molten state, so maybe that balances out the ennui and the ripped-off feeling you get when you go. Also it is very near to our house, about ten minutes away. That said, I was so disappointed last time I went (about 6 years ago) that I haven’t been since. We do drive past it every Sunday on the way to church however and the children had started to ask to visit “the chocolate factory”, so when a friend gave me some Tesco day-out vouchers in return for babysitting favours I thought we would pop over there for the afternoon. Yes, that’s right, even if you hopped round on one leg then you still couldn’t spend a whole day there – there’s a route, you go round it and when you emerge, blinking into the sunshine, lighter in the purse, heavier round the middle, it’s only a bloomin’ hour later!
Leaving Mae at home with Daddy, Cana, Jude and mummy set off for the factory. At least two of the party were wildly excited and this was intensified by having to walk past an old steam engine on our way in. If you haven’t read my previous blog about Birmingham Model Engineers then you won’t know that my small son is train-mad. And just mad aswell, but we expected that with us two as parents, it’s just the train bit that came as a surprise as I identify cars, all vehicles in fact, by their colour alone (the red one) and Christian is ahem, not mechanically minded, there being no room for anything else in his head besides the vast amount of football trivia he has crammed in to it. I digress. So we took photos by the train, then I had to drag them past the play area which looked like a good one although crawling with school-trip children, and head for the chocolate.
Before we did the main tour we went into the separate little side show about how Mr Cadbury came to add a glass and a half of milk to his chocolate. I had missed that bit on my previous visit so had a glimmer of interest as we queued up to go in. It was well done, but the thing is, how interesting can you make the story of someone making chocolate – oops, sorry Roald Dahl, your version is MUCH more interesting than theirs! A few orange oompa loompahs would’ve been much more interesting then watching a short film in a series of different rooms, and it was way above the children’s head, way above any child’s head, and quite frankly they lost me on “hello”. What wasn’t above the children’s head, or my head, was the last room where you can choose a sweet to get mixed in a little cup of melted chocolate which you can then eat. No complaints there.
Sooo, the main tour. Mostly as I remembered – first, you go into a jungle and read about the cocoa bean and the hideous treatment of the Inca’s by the European invaders. Jude was terrified immediately by the spooky totum-like carvings and leapt like a monkey into my arms as soon as the door shut behind us. Even Cana wasn’t too keen on the ominous drumming soundtrack and I didn’t particularly want to elaborate on European brutality (especially to my half-African children – colonialism is going to be on our home-schooling curriculum but not just yet!). Then you go into a ship and learn a bit about what that was like, but the creaking noises were even more scary so we hurried onto the introduction of cocoa into Europe. Cana liked this and was fascinated to see a man writing with a quill pen. To make up for rushing through the first bits we watched this little 3D film twice. Then it’s on to the actual Cadbury experience. Now, as an adult I like this bit because they were revolutionary in their treatment of workers. Obviously, the children did not understand this one bit but the projections and the fact that you moved from room to room stopped them from getting too restless. Oh and the fact that you get free chocolate when you go in so every time one of them said in a stage whisper during one of the presentations “when can we go?” I fed them some chocolate.
We’d got through a Crunchy bar and half a Curly Whirly by the time we went to find out what happens to the beans from start to finish. This would be suitable for older children I think and Cana and Jude just loved that every time the beans were shaking on screen our benches shook too. After all this history we entered the more child-friendly part of the tour. And the most interesting, although it sounds uncharitable to say so as they really have done their best with the raw material.
The following part of the tour was by far the most interesting and you can also take it more at your own pace so
we went round at a snail’s pace to get our money’s-worth (or our friend-who-gave-us-the-voucher’s money’s-worth). First, you get to walk through a bit of the real factory so you can see the conveyor belts and the wrapping machines actually working on the other side of the perspex. You can have a little go at piping warm chocolate and watch someone expertly decorating some real items. Along the way are various 2 minute films about how different types of chocolates are made. Then, you can go on a ride through “chocolate bean” land, no educational value whatsoever, unless you are teaching your children that cocoa beans are really little people who live together in specially designed houses and enjoy pastimes such as rock-climbing and skiing. But what the hey, it was fun, we have the picture on a keyring to prove it, and it is already the only part of the day they remember!
After this, at the end of the tour, and this was not there 6 years ago, there’s a room where there are various hi-tech games. As it was the end of the day and we had lagged behind the crowd anyway, and it was past the time when all the school-children would have had to leave, we had lots of fun in here. Big is always good with littluns, big and moving even better, big and moving and controllable equals two happy, excited (ok, maybe their blood-sugar was a tad high by now) children. We all competed to grow the biggest on-screen cocoa tree by pressing sunshine and water buttons; we posed to have a giant projection of our silhouettes transformed into a chocolate statuette
(and yes, my bum did look big in chocolate!); we jumped around in front of a floor to ceiling projection of chocolate bubbles (well, the children did, I was just trying to strike a pose in which my bum didn’t look so enormous!)
and then Cana and Jude played in a big mirror cube (I used to have to clean the mirrors in a mirror maze when I was a student and worked at Wookey Hole one summer so I could only see all the grubby little finger marks and be thankful that we didn’t give out molten chocolate where I worked). Finally we emerged blinking into the sunshine and it was only a bloomin’ hour later!
Ok, maybe it was an hour and a half. Maybe two hours. So then we went down and had loads of fun playing in the fab play area. Even better, I found out that bit’s open to the general public so we will probably go back there, although definitely avoiding the school-visit window. On the whole, not a good day for my diet, but enjoyable enough. Considering it was free.