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Biddulph Grange Gardens – review, guide and top tips for this National Trust site

Biddulph Grange Gardens – review, guide and top tips for this National Trust site

Everything you need to know about Biddulph Grange in Staffordshire

Name

Biddulph Grange Gardens

What is it?

Biddulph Grange is a series of beautiful landscaped Victorian gardens with surprises around every corner.

A walk here is a feast for the senses through pockets of China, Italy and even ancient Egypt, through tunnels, rockeries, an adventure playground, tree-lined avenues and around a lake.

Part of its magic lies in the way the areas are cleverly hidden from each other through landscaping.

It is a National Trust site – don’t confuse it with Biddulph Grange Country Park next door, run by Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, whose 78 acres of woodland did used to form part of the Grange estate.

Tree-lined avenue at Biddulph Grange National Trust

Tree-lined avenue

Where is it?

Biddulph Grange is in Biddulph, in a valley on the edge of North Staffordshire near to Congleton in Cheshire and north of Stoke.

The history of Biddulph Grange

The house and garden were the creation of James and Maria Bateman, who lived there from 1842 for 27 years and their friend, marine artist Edward Cooke. It had previously been a farm.

James employed specialists to collect plants for him from all over the world. They were placed with trees and eclectic garden buildings.

James moved to London in 1868, his son John remained at Biddulph Grange until he sold it in 1872 to Robert Heath who lived with his family there for 50 years. During this time a fire destroyed the middle section of the original house, an Italianate-style villa and it was rebuilt in 1897.

From 1922 until 1991 it was used as a hospital then it was bought by the National Trust and opened to the public.

The National Trust undertook a huge garden restoration project which continues today.

What did we think?

We have been many times as this is one of our favourite National Trust sites, it possibly even scoops the top spot.

It’s simply stunning and the different sections keep any walk interesting. 

It is especially fabulous for children when they have trails and activities to do.

Highlights

*The view at the start

At the start of your journey, you stand with your back to the house on a terrace above the garden and can take in the view of  the Italian garden. You won’t be able to resist taking a photograph here but you may as well keep your camera or phone out as there are so many picture-worthy spots.

Looking down from the start at the Italian section at Biddulph Grange National Trust

Looking down from the start over the Italian section

*The Chinese Garden

It is easy to miss the Chinese Garden, yet it is arguably the most memorable part, bright with colour and complete with Chinese plants and architecture including a bridge and temple.

*The woodland play area

If you walk up the stunning tree-lined Wellington Avenue (worth a highlight section of its own), there is a path off it which takes you through woodland which is now home to a series of wooden frames and stepping stones for children to negotiate their way along, plus a see-saw. This is a fantastic, more recent addition to the gardens.

Playing in the wooden play area at Biddulph Grange National Trust

The Stumpery 

A stumpery is a garden feature similar to a rockery but made from parts of dead trees. The stumpery here, designed in 1856, was the first to be built anywhere and went on to be widely copied in many Victorian gardens and, even in the woods of Highgrove, Prince Charles’s home in Gloucestershire.

Egyptian Garden

This includes stone Sphynx, topiary obelisks, a topiary pyramid and a temple-style building containing the Ape of Thoth sculpture by Benjamin Waterhouse-Hawkins.

The tennis lawn

There are often activities laid out to do in this section. And in the spring there is a cute little daffodil maze to walk through.

More highlights

There are highlights around every corner including tunnels through rock, a lake, a geological gallery and of course the stunning plants, trees and flowers like monkey puzzle trees, azaleas and dahlias – the gardens are famous for their Dahlia Walk.

Dahlia Walk (taken in March) at Biddulph Grange National Trust

Dahlia Walk (taken in March)

Top tips

Can you see inside the house at Biddulph Grange?

No you can’t. The house itself became derelict until a developer bought it and converted it into nine apartments.

You can still access some of the buildings though, used as a cafe, shop and toilets.

Fish food

You can buy fish food for £1 a bag to feed the big fish in the lake.

Biddulph Grange House

Plant sale

You can buy flowers and plants in an area just past the car park on your way in or out.

Trails

Biddulph Grange really comes into its own for families around special occasions, we particularly love visiting at Easter.

National Trust used to team up with Cadbury but these days organise their own with more emphasis on enjoying nature and the surroundings and carrying out activities rather than solving clues. Children still get a chocolate egg at the end.

The trails are fabulous at taking you around all corners of the garden and Biddulph Grange pulls out all the stops.

See footage of our last Easter trail at the end of this article.

Arrival time

If it’s a Bank Holiday or special occasion, I really advise getting their early to get a parking space and avoid any queuing.

What is the best time of year to visit?

If you have children, it’s lovely to visit when they have an event on like the Easter trails.

The gardens change with the seasons. The dahlias start to bloom in July and reach their peak in early-September.

Biddulph Grange information

Parking: There is a free car park – free for National Trust members and included in the ticket price for non-members. There is also an overflow car park. 

Food: There is a cafe with indoor and outdoor seating, lovely in the sunshine. There is also a picnic spot next to the car park.

Opening hours: Vary depending on the day, but 10am to 5.30pm for much of the year, check out the times for specific dates here.

Cost: Free for National Trust members, £12 adults, £6 children, less for family and group tickets latest ticket prices here.

Are dogs allowed at Biddulph Grange?

No, only assistance dogs.

Best for: All ages.

Time needed: I would say you need at least two hours here, but on a sunny day with friends you could spend much longer.

Access and restrictions: It is not an accessible site, although a lot of the site has pathways, it is on a hill, there are more than 400 steps and uneven surfaces.

Address: Biddulph Grange Garden, Grange Road, Biddulph, Staffordshire, ST8 7SD.

Website: Biddulph Grange Gardens

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A new ride is opening in a few days at Cadbury World chocolate factory in Birmingham

A new ride is opening in a few days at Cadbury World chocolate factory in Birmingham

Cadbury Chocolate Quest gets ready to launch

A new ride is opening soon at Cadbury World in Birmingham.

Cadbury Chocolate Quest opens on Friday (March 29, 2024) for the Easter weekend.

And The Family Holiday Guide has some photos of the ride for fans of the chocolate experience to see.

The new indoor trackless ride has 3D themed sets and virtual screens and will be brought to life with sounds, lights, smells and heat making it an interactive and sensory experience. 

Riders will be set a mission by Freddo then travel in nine Cadbury cars to complete an immersive quest to collect all the ingredients needed to make a bar of Cadbury Dairy Milk using lasers to lap them up.

The ride features 23 cocoa pods, cheeky Buttons monkeys and most excitingly, the end of the ride features litres of liquid chocolate.

Putting the finishing touches to the new ride Chocolate Quest at Cadbury World, Birmingham

After disembarking, guests will collect a Cadbury treat made with all the ingredients they have ‘collected’.

Putting the finishing touches to the new ride Chocolate Quest at Cadbury World, Birmingham

Cadbury Chocolate Quest is part of a wider £8m investment for Cadbury World, with further ambitions for the long-standing attraction after its operation was taken over by Merlin Entertainments in January 2023.

Tim Waters, Regional Director of the Birmingham cluster at Merlin Entertainments, said: “The whole team is so excited to see all the hard work that has gone into this massive project come to life.

“From polishing the cars and testing the flowing liquid chocolate, the team have been working round the clock to prepare the ride in time to welcome guests when it launches on Friday, 29th March.

“We can’t wait to see Cadbury Chocolate Quest in action as we really feel it is a ride that will be enjoyed by everyone.” 

Read our review of Cadbury World, which is a popular family attraction based in the historic village of Bournville, just outside Birmingham city centre, where visitors can learn all about the history, magic and making of Cadbury chocolate. 

Putting the finishing touches to the new ride Chocolate Quest at Cadbury World, Birmingham

With an assortment of interactive zones, a team of in-house chocolatiers, the on-site Cadbury World Café and African Adventure play area, plus the unmissable 4D Chocolate Adventure, there’s so much for visitors of all ages to see and do at Cadbury World. 

Review: Cadbury World, Birmingham – everything you need to know before visiting the chocolate attraction

Review: Cadbury World, Birmingham – everything you need to know before visiting the chocolate attraction

The complete guide to Cadbury World and top tips including how not to get confused and miss half the tour like we did

Name

Cadbury World

What is it?

Cadbury World is a family attraction based around the famous British chocolate maker Cadbury.

It is not a tour of the actual chocolate factory which doesn’t open to the public due to food regulations.

Nor is it a theme park, although it does include a 4D cinema, a gentle ride and yes, some ‘free’ chocolate.

Instead, it is more of a museum or visitor centre – a trip through the history and making of chocolate and Cadbury confectionery.

Where is it?

There is only one Cadbury World and it is in Birmingham. Specifically, it is in the suburb of Bournville – the town that chocolate built – four miles south of Birmingham – in the grounds of the original Cadbury factory.

The village was founded by George Cadbury when he moved his chocolate factory there from Birmingham in 1879, with homes built to house Cadbury workers.

Some of my female ancestors worked at Cadbury including my great grandmother.

She was there for around 10 years before marrying in 1915 and one of her roles was to tie ribbons on the boxes of chocolates.

What did we think?

When you get out of the car, the sweet smell of chocolate tantalisingly fills the air and anticipation is high, particularly as this visit follows our recent viewing of the film Wonka.

But this is not a Willy Wonka-style chocolate factory. And sadly, you don’t get to see any chocolate being made or packaged.

As a reporter in the Midlands years ago, I once filmed inside the actual factory at Cadbury. Wearing a shower cap affair to cover my hair, I watched as Cadbury Creme Eggs were made and wrapped and it was a fascinating experience. I seem to recall that the main taster at the time, wasn’t too fond of Cadbury Creme Eggs, which I thought hilarious and a waste of an excellent job!

It’s a shame families don’t see any of this. What you do get is a history of cocoa beans in the Aztec Jungle, the Cadbury story and how the chocolate is made, over a series of different zones.

Exploring the Aztec Jungle at Cadbury World

Exploring the Aztec Jungle

I will run through all the highlights of our trip first but there were several downsides too, including confusion over the time to arrive, the busy outdoor area, the queue to get in and the fact a lot of visitors (nearly including us) missed a huge chunk of the experience due to bad signage (more on this in top tips).

But the children seemed to get a lot of out of it and are already keen to go back so I’m overall pleased that we made the effort to go.

Highlights

*Do you get free chocolate at Cadbury World?!

Yes. You are welcomed into the tour with a handful of chocolate bars – we were given a Cadbury Wispa, a Dairy Milk Caramel and a Twirl each.

Brandishing 12 chocolate bars at us, we were given the option to buy a small purple Cadbury bag for £1 or a Cadbury tote bag for £2 to put them in – it feels a bit grabby of Cadbury not to present them in a free bag but hey ho.

Free chocolate bars at Cadbury World

Three ‘free’ chocolate bars per person included in the ticket cost

Then, during the tour you are offered warm, liquid Cadbury Dairy Milk in little cups with up to two toppings from a choice of chocolate buttons, fudge, mini marshmallows and crushed Oreos. Delicious but choose your toppings wisely, I felt the Oreo crumbs soaked up too much of the melted chocolate.

*The 4D Cinema

This is in the outdoor area and can be visited before or after (if not closed) your tour. Visitors wear 3D glasses, sit in motion seats and feel as if they are on a chocolate journey which includes a Crunchie rollercoaster.

The 4D cinema at Cadbury World

The 4D cinema

*Demonstration

There is a section where you watch someone demonstrate how chocolates were made by hand using moulds, in years gone by, which I found interesting, given my family connection.

Chocolate demonstration at Cadbury World

Chocolate demonstration

*Drawing with chocolate

You can queue to have a few minutes drawing or writing in melted chocolate from a bottle.

Drawing a heart with melted chocolate at Cadbury World

Drawing with melted chocolate

*Rides

There is a slow ride called Cadabra, where you sit two in the front and two in the back of a moving car around a track. This is a very gentle ride suitable for all ages.

The Cadabra ride at Cadbury World

The Cadabra ride

A new ride is due to open soon called Cadbury Chocolate Quest.

Top tips and downsides

Arrival time.

You would think an ideal arrival time would be shortly before the ticket entry time that you have carefully chosen, but you may be advised to get there much earlier.

When I happened to click on an instructions email on the morning of the day we were going (sent a few days earlier), it advised us to get there an hour and a half earlier if visiting in school holidays which we were (and 45 minutes earlier otherwise).

This is to ensure that you can enjoy the ‘outside activities’ before the tour, including the 4D cinema and play areas, as they may be closed afterwards.

We changed our plans to get there earlier, but wished we hadn’t (see the next top tip).

Outdoor Section

When we arrived at 1.45pm, the outdoor area was so crowded and noisy that it made for a stressful start to the day. We joined a long queue for the 4D cinema.

However, when we returned to the outdoor section at 4pm after our trip around Cadbury World, it was much quieter and there was no queue for the cinema at all.

So if you have children who would be at all sensitive to noise and crowding, check out the later cinema times and play area closing times before you arrive and consider doing this section later. It’s worth it even if you end up being stuck in Birmingham traffic afterwards.

A Cadbury shop front

A Cadbury shop front

Don’t miss any of the route!

It is a self-led tour, which led to some confusion on the day we were there.

Work was being carried out on a new area which may have caused the problem, but we and lots of other people exited the tour into the shop, having missed all the best bits.

I asked someone working there whether they no longer offered the melted chocolate in a cup (my best memory) and found out that we had taken a wrong turning, missing all the upstairs including the ride, demonstration and drawing with chocolate.

We were escorted back in and shown the right way but we had been following dozens of others who I am sure had done the same. I spoke to one woman later who had found the upstairs but still somehow missed the ride.

Tickets and queues

You must book tickets ahead of your visit, don’t just turn up. Even with booked time slots, we were queuing to get in for 10-15 minutes past our designated 2.30pm slot.

Buying chocolate

As well as the free chocolate, you can buy chocolate from the shop at the end or the factory shop if buying in bulk. Prices didn’t seem to be any different to supermarket prices.

You can also pre-order personalised chocolate items.

Cadbury chocolate bars over the years

Cadbury chocolate bars over the years

Cadbury World information

Merlin: Cadbury World is one of the attractions you can visit if you have a Merlin Annual Pass.

Parking: There is a free car park with lots of spaces.

Food: There is a cafe that you can visit on your way in or out, next to reception.

Character afternoon tea is available to pre-book on certain days (normally Monday to Friday, not in school holidays).

There are seats outside for anyone who takes a picnic.

Opening hours: Vary depending on the day, can be 9.30am-5.30pm or 10am-4.30pm, here are the up to date times.

Cost: Latest ticket prices here.

Best for: All ages.

Time needed: It took us an hour and a half to get around the main section, including queueing at the start, allow extra time for the outside section including 4D cinema and outdoor play area.

Access and restrictions: Cadbury World only allows one guest who uses a wheelchair or mobility scooter per timeslot. A wheelchair slot and a standard ticket have to both be booked.

There are some wheelchairs at reception that can be borrowed on a first come, first served basis.

Carer tickets are available if certain criteria are met.

Babies: Children two and under are free but still need a pre-booked ticket.

There are baby changing facilities in all the toilets. There is a baby feeding room in reception and pushchair access throughout.

Address: Cadbury World,  69 Linden Rd, Birmingham B30 1JR.

To book: Cadbury World

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