Back in January, when we were in the deepest, darkest lockdown, my children received a surprise parcel outside our front door. They figured it must have been the Christmas elves, back with more treats after an already treat-filled few weeks, and I went merrily along with that. The parcel contained 3 Wonka bars which, once ripped delicately apart, revealed the awesome gleam of a Golden Ticket. We had recently finished reading ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ and had indulged in both film versions, so my kids were well versed in the delightful Dahl universe and the magic therein. As I expected, they initially reacted by leaping around the room, squealing away as they bounded from sofa to sofa. It was, perhaps, the most excited I had ever seen them, and it didn’t take long before I realised why. Amongst their screams and giggles, I could just make out the words, ‘chocolate factory!’, ‘can’t wait!’ and ‘we’re going to meet Willy Wonka!’.
It hadn’t occurred to me that they would believe they held the real golden tickets, the ones that gave them special entry into the wacky world of Willy Wonka and his amazing chocolate river. It hadn’t occurred to me that they thought the Oompa Loompas were real. It hadn’t occurred to me that we would be making an impossible journey to a non-existent magical land and I was ill-prepared to quash their dreams.
Searching frantically on the internet, I came across a place that would save the day. Cadbury World. A real-life chocolate factory with real-life fun and real-life-ish Oompa Loompas – in the form of quirky little Chuckle Beans. Trouble was, we were in lockdown and there was no knowing when we would get a chance to visit the place. Patient as always, ahem, my children accepted that we would have to wait and only brought it up a few times a week for the next 10 months.
Which brings us to last weekend. We traversed the country in a 3 hour road trip to Birmingham, a place we had never visited before but will be quite willing to visit again. Cadbury World sits in the original Cadbury factory in Bourneville and is a delightful place. We sailed through the exhibitions, we rode the ‘Cadabra’ car ride, surfed in a green screen sea of chocolate, had our pictures taken with Freddo Frog and got traumatised by the 4D cinema adventure, or at least, my youngest two did. It was a fantastic day and well worth the wait.
In fact, I was only let down by the gift shop (no souvenir magnets) and a lack of seating as you make your way through the vast tour. The old, wheelchair-less me would not have survived such a trip, but with my awesome new, super-duper wheelchair on hand, I whizzed along fine in, what turned out to be, one of the most wheelchair-accessible visitor attractions I have ever visited. It even has an award-winning accessible toilet, I rather wish I had taken a photo.