March 1 2015 Latest news:
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
The Bewilderwood brand has taken an important step towards going national after its creator won planning permission for a second park on an historic Cheshire estate.
Tom Blofeld, who opened his first park on his Hoveton estate in 2007, gave a “cautious welcome” to the decision by Cheshire East Council as it may still have to go before the Planning Inspectorate.
The £5m park is planned for a 60-acre site at Tatton Hall, a National Trust-owned estate run by Cheshire East Council which is a partner in the scheme.
Mr Blofeld is aiming to open the park - which will be twice the size of Bewilderwood in Norfolk - in time for May half-term in 2016.
He said: “I believe what we are planning may partly answer the question: How do stately homes regenerate themselves in a way that is acceptable to those who love and use them?
“Visitor numbers to stately homes are falling but you can’t turn them into a theme park or an Alton Towers. What we do may be seen as green, sensitive to the environment and appropriate.”
The Cheshire park, south of Manchester, will follow the same recipe of treehouse adventure play, themed with the Boggle and Twiggle characters created by Mr Blofeld, but due to the much larger catchment area it is hoped to attract 350,000 visitors a year and yield a £5m turnover.
Due to the uncertainties of his five-year planning battle in Cheshire, the children’s author put on hold his plans for a £1m train ride at Bewilderwood, originally due for opening this summer, until next year.
However, Mr Blofeld is investing £120,000 in a new ‘sky maze’, which will be ready for visitors at half term in May.
The six-metre high 3-D attraction, themed with Bewilderwood characters, will take families up and down several levels.
Mr Blofeld has also set up a five-strong creative team to improve Boggles and Twiggles theming around the park.
“Visitors told us they wanted more story,” he said.
Following record visitor numbers of 167,000 in 2011, he said it was important to invest to maintain progression.
He said Bewilderwood, which has a £2.2m turnover, would also be raising the profile of its special events this season.
For example, at Easter, children will be invited to meet the Easter Bunnhy and receive an Easter egg after climbing down a purpose-built rabbit hole.
Beyond Tatton Park, Mr Blofeld is speaking to developers about opening a Bewilderwood in Germany and is eying several UK sites from the south coast and the M4 corridor to Scotland.