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.
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.