At last! After reading all the articles about the new £62m Dickens World theme park opening in Chatham Maritime, I finally got the chance today to go along and enjoy the fun for myself. I dragged my good friend Claire, and fellow Dickens fan, along with me and off we went together back in time to the 19th Century.
We entered unsure what we were going to find and were greeted by two flower ladies in bonnets and long dresses singing to themselves as they walked through the dimly lit courtyard. Passing quickly by them we headed into a small alcove only to discover that we stood outside the classroom of Dotheboys School. A tall man in with a mortar board and cloak spotted us and before we could run away giggling we were beckoned into a classroom and made to sit at the back of the class. Here we were given our "homework" - an interactive snakes and ladders which asked you Dickens themed questions to help you on your way up the board. We scored 40 and was told by the machine we had obviously done our homework and could even teach in the school (I think they are recruiting if anyone wants a Saturday job!). However, the teacher, who was an excellent Wackford Squeers, told us he'd seen better but at least we didn't have to do detention. We scarpered onto the next bit.
Back in the courtyard, the queue for the Haunted House of Ebenezer Scrooge was getting longer so we headed towards the prison, only to discover that this was the entrance to the Great Expectations boat ride. We began to get ever so slightly nervous when rain ponchos were distributed and the sign on the wall said "you will get very wet on this ride"...hmmm. In the boat we climb, assisted by a cheeky scamp who asked my friend Claire if he could take her for an ale at the end of the ride, and off we went into a dark tunnel supposed to be a sewer. We went high above the roof tops of London, past old Victorian houses with crying babies and bickering parents, before plunging (backwards) into the Thames - when the ponchos were required! We arrive back, having travelled through a very realistic cemetery, absolutely soaked.
By the time we disembark from the boat ride, the queue for the Haunted House is huge and now so is the 4D HD cinema so we head to the restaurant and bar. The food was delicious and after all the excitement of the ride was much appreciated. We gave up on the queues and headed back out into the sunshine.
It was great and I loved it. It was less educational than I thought it would be - no real insight into Dickens or his works but even so it was fun and all the children skipping in the courtyard looked like they were enjoying their day out in Chatham.
And just in case you were wondering just how cool you look in a poncho - here is the proof:
I am telling you, it is all the rage on the Milan cat walk...!