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Universal Studios theme park England, UK – all you need to know about the potential project

Universal Studios theme park England, UK – all you need to know about the potential project

The latest on plans to open a Universal theme park in Bedford, England

Theme park giant Universal has revealed ‘very early’ plans for a potential park and resort experience in Bedford, England.

There are no Universal theme parks in Europe yet, so this would be huge news for UK families.

Universal Orlando Resort was the highlight of our trip to Florida, so here at the Family Holiday Guide, we are VERY excited at the idea of some of that magic being brought so much closer to home.

So here we look at everything that is known so far.

Where might Universal be opening a theme park in the UK?

Universal are looking at a former brickworks site in Bedfordshire, England.

The 480-acre (195 hectares) plot is in Stewartby, between Bedford and Milton Keynes.

It lies between London and Birmingham. It’s around 60 miles (97km) from London and 78 miles (126km) from Birmingham.

Proposed site of a Universal theme park in Bedford, England, UK. A map showing the site in Stewartby.

Why has Universal chosen this site?

Universal say they have chosen the site:

  • Due to its ‘transportation connectivity to London and Europe’.
  • Because ‘more than half of the UK population live within two hours’.
  • Its proximity to Luton Airport.

Has Universal actually bought land?

Yes, Universal’s parent company Comcast Corporation has purchased the parcel of land.

What stage are the plans at?

Universal says the plans are in the ‘very early stages’.

It is conducting a feasibility study and it could be months before they decide whether the potential project will proceed.

What has Universal said?

“We are always looking at new locations around the world, including in Europe, and the UK is an attractive place for a potential project.

“While we do own the land, we are only at the beginning of our feasibility study as part of our evaluation of potential sites.”

Where are Universal’s other parks?

Universal Destinations & Experiences has some of the world’s best and most innovative theme parks with advanced film and television-based attractions, hotels, resorts and live entertainment.

It has five entertainment and resort complexes:

  • Universal Orlando Resort
  • Universal Studios Hollywood
  • Universal Studios Japan (Osaka)
  • Universal Beijing Resort
  • Universal Studios Singapore.

Is the project being supported locally?

The idea has been welcomed by Bedford Borough Council.

Its mayor Tom Wootton, said the theme park could be ‘transformative for the borough’.

Universal is keen to consult with the local community and has already created a website to inform people living in the area and has also written to residents.

The letter includes details of the thousands of jobs that its parks create and states that the company is committed to enhancing the natural beauty and protecting the ecology of the areas in which it operates.

It added: “While we have been encouraged by the positive nature of conversations we’ve had so far with various national and local stakeholders — including Bedford Borough Council and the Mayor of Bedford Borough — we plan to work closely with our local communities should we progress. “

What about the Government?

The plans have also been discussed by the Government and appear to have the backing of Bedford Labour MP Mohammad Yasin.

He said a park would bring ‘enormous prosperity and jobs’ to the area.

The MP spoke in the Commons to ask the government to support road improvements to help deliver the proposed theme park.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt have also been briefed on the bid.

What do you think?

We will keep you updated with the plans. What do you think of the idea? Let us know in the comments.

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Fireman Sam, Thomas the Tank Engine and Bob the Builder fans will love Mattel Play! in Liverpool

Fireman Sam, Thomas the Tank Engine and Bob the Builder fans will love Mattel Play! in Liverpool

Is Mattel Play! in Liverpool as perfect for young children as it sounds – we review it.

Mattel Play! has closed since this review was written. It closed in March 2020 along with other businesses due to the coronavirus pandemic but the decision was made not to reopen, full story here.

What is it?

An indoor children’s adventure play centre split into three themed areas, Thomas & Friends, Bob the Builder and Fireman Sam.

Where is it?

It is located at the iconic Albert Dock in Liverpool near to where This Morning used to be filmed.

What did we think?

It was done very well, it is not huge but all of a high standard and staff work hard to keep it tidy and clean and fresh so that nobody finds a section in a mess. Fans of Fireman Sam, Bob the Builder or Thomas the Tank Engine will be thrilled to visit. Our two children love Fireman Sam so this final section was their favourite.

Highlights

Thomas & Friends

Start at Knapford Station and meet characters including Thomas, Rosie and Percy. My children’s favourite was Harold the Helicopter’s ball pool, where they could climb aboard Harold on a sea of balls. And my daughter enjoyed a ride on a miniature locomotive.

Harold the Helicopter's sits in the middle of a ball pool at Mattel Play

Harold the Helicopter’s ball pool

Bob the Builder

The children donned safety gear from Bob’s mobile office, before getting to work in this section of Mattel Play! The four of us spent quite a lot of time building a wall of bricks. There is also a creative part where you can do light box sketching.

A boy sits in Scoop the digger

Scoop the digger

 

Fireman Sam

This is the smallest section but has lots to entertain children who like Fireman Sam. They can climb aboard Jupiter, go to sea on Titan and Juno and put out pretend fires. There is even a Dilys’ grocery store.

Jupiter and Titan in the Fireman Sam area at Mattel Play

Part of the Fireman Sam area

Character appearances

There are regular appearances by Bob the Builder, Fireman Sam and on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, the Fat Controller.

A girl meets Fireman Sam at Mattel Play

Meeting Fireman Sam

Interactive photo experience

Next to the shop is a camera with a screen that you can operate. You pose for a photograph and are then shown pictures of yourself amid four different backdrops related to the characters at Mattel Play! You can buy the pictures if you like them. There was no queue when we were there so my daughter, who loved this, posed a few times to see the results!

Conclusion

Some seven-year-olds might be too old for this, but ours still likes Fireman Sam so got quite a lot out of it. And our four-year-old daughter loved it, especially meeting the characters.

Our top tips

*Those who like it quieter should visit at 9.20am when it opens.

*Book in advance to guarantee entry.

*It normally operates timed entry slots.

*It is an autism-friendly venue and offers special autism sessions on the last Wednesday of each month between 4.30pm and 6.30pm.

Mattel Play! information

Food: There is a cafe, picnics are not allowed.

Opening hours: 9.20am until the last pre-booked admission, which varies each day.

Cost: £12 per child (aged one to 12), £3 per accompanying adult. Babies (0-12 months) £6 when accompanied by a paying adult and free when with a paying child and paying adult.

Best for: Younger children, aged two to six.

Time needed: Two hours

Access and restrictions: There is full access for disabled visitors.

Address: If you’re using sat nav, use the postcode L3 4AA. It has not got its own car park, use one of the nearby car parks.

Is peaceful Ullswater a hit for a family holiday – we visit this beautiful Lake District spot to find out.

Is peaceful Ullswater a hit for a family holiday – we visit this beautiful Lake District spot to find out.

We review The Quiet Site at Ullswater in Cumbria.

I have a real soft spot for the Lake District. We lived here for two blissful years and it was on the shores of one of its more remote and beautiful lakes where my husband proposed.

It is the quieter spots which fill me most with joy. Like Ullswater, which despite being the area’s second biggest lake, attracts nowhere near the hordes which flock to its largest, Windermere.

As well as being more peaceful, it’s arguably more breathtaking – framed by peaks which include Helvellyn.

A view through the trees of the lake, Ullswater

Ullswater

And at only 10 minutes from the M6, it couldn’t be easier to reach.

The Quiet Site

Our accommodation in this part of Cumbria reflects our tranquil surroundings – The Quiet Site is a campsite half way up the western side of Ullswater.

Various levels of luxury are catered for from bring-your-own tent to a luxury cottage.

Their latest option are intriguing hobbit holes – underground spaces four times bigger than their insulated wooden camping pods – built into the side of a hill.

The entrance to a hobbit hole at The Quiet Site

A hobbit hole

Camping pods at The Quiet Site

Camping pods at The Quiet Site

But we are firmly above ground – our home for three nights is a spacious three-bedroom cottage.

This former smithy is full of character, with high ceilings, exposed beams and equipped with everything we could need. Plus extras like a playhouse, toys, books and shelves groaning with children’s DVDs.

And I don’t know who was happiest about the giant trampoline in the garden – but it started the holiday on a high for us all.

Two children play on the trampoline in the garden of the cottage at The Quiet Site at Ullswater

Enjoying the trampoline in the garden of our cottage

The site also has a playground and an indoor soft play area, conveniently adjoined to the bar in a cosy barn.

I can see why The Quiet Site was recently the top-rated holiday and glamping park on Tripadviser out of 190 listed in the Lake District.

We crammed lots into this summer break – around the lake and on it.

Surrounding area

Ullswater Steamers, which sail between Glenridding in the south and Pooley Bridge in the north, are the popular mode of transport in these parts.

We caught one to Howtown, in the middle, where we climbed part of Hallin Fell and enjoyed a memorable picnic with the lake glistening in the sunshine below.

A steamer on the lake at Ullswater

Ullswater Steamers are a familiar site on the lake

You don’t need to be an expert map reader to find a rewarding spot by the lake but tackling the directions on the nature trail at Askham Hall Gardens, east of Pooley Bridge, tested and thrilled our son and daughter.

Askham Hall and part of the garden

Askham Hall

The trail winds through gorgeous gardens, with farm animals at the end. Completion brings you to a play area, plus a cafe with a pizza oven and delicious cakes. All the ingredients for a perfect few hours for us.

Other family-friendly trips include the wonderful waterfall Aira Force.

I kept a firm hold of our children by some steep drops on the woodland walk up but they were both suitably impressed by the spectacular sights and sounds.

We were lucky with the weather but if you need undercover fun, head to Rheged. Sadly, the fabulous Lego exhibition we enjoyed was only temporary but there is plenty of permanent entertainment here for little ones. Choose from pottery painting, soft play and an outdoor playground.

In conclusion

Throughout our stay at Ullswater, we found plenty of quiet coves with flat water ready to be disturbed by children’s stones. They were also the perfect settings for picnics, making up adventures and taking in the glorious views.

William Wordsworth was inspired to write the poem Daffodils after seeing the flowers growing on the shores of Ullswater.

“It is the happiest combination of beauty and grandeur, which any of the lakes affords,” he said.

And I may just agree.

For a more detailed review on The Quiet Site, see here.

*For more ideas, see Cumbria’s official tourist board website.

Accommodation: We stayed as guests of The Quiet Site, Ullswater, for the purposes of this review. All opinions are our own.