Days Out

Bedgebury at Christmas Review

DISCLOSURE – TICKETS TO SEE THE SHOW WERE GIFTED TO THE REVIEWER AND GUEST FOR THE PURPOSES OF WRITING THE REVIEW

Reviewed by Amanda Hayes

After a very mixed few weeks weather wise, and the majority of this week spent in wet weather gear, we were delighted to have a dry, crisp & cold evening to visit the illuminated trail at Bedgebury Pinetum.  As a family we visited this trail back in 2022, so were keen to see what, if anything had changed.  The 2023 trail promises to traverse a new section of woods which we were excited to see.

On arrival our parking ticket was scanned, and we were promptly shown a car parking space by the very cheerful parking attendants, grabbed our hats and gloves and walked the short walk to the well-lit entrance.  Standing at the beginning of the trail you can see a couple of small fairground rides, and lots of different coloured lights shining into the trees and sky.

After having our entrance tickets scanned by the friendly attendant we walked round to the start of the trail, where there is a large map showing the route and pinpointing landmarks such as each light installation, café, and the location of the toilets.

After walking past some beautifully illuminated trees and bushes we made our way past the dimly lit café and lake to a glowing arch welcoming us to the start of the trail.  At each illuminated sculpture or light installation there is a QR code to scan.  This tells you more about the designers, the other installations coming up and gives you a play list of the music to listen to via Spotify.  We found this really interesting, as it has links to the designer’s websites where you can see other sculptures they have done.

Joining an array of other families, we followed the path to “Firefly”, a fabulous start to the trail with hundreds of dancing “fireflies” moving in time to the music.  The whole of the trail is backed with different festive music from” Joy to the World” to “The Snowman”.  The music really gives it the festive feel and is an uplifting and joyous addition to the trail.

The trail is a different route to previous years and quite a bit longer, passing by awe dropping light shows, fire displays, beautifully lit trees & water.  Part way round the trail you arrive at a lake with hundreds of floating and colour changing lights, which seem to dance along to the music.  It’s a sight to behold and like many of the other installations you need to stop, listen & watch the whole sequence to see it in its full glory.

There are several food and drink shacks in different locations on the route from coffee to mulled wine, pizza to waffles. There is also a fire pit stop where you can buy speciality marshmallows.  We brought three, two chocolate orange & one salted caramel, at a reasonable £2.00 each.  They were delicious roasted over one of the fire pits, and with Father Christmas in the background, it is a lovely winter experience that feels very Christmassy.

The trail is circular and ends up back at the car park entrance near the mini fairground rides.  There are a few small rides there, more geared to the under-fives, and a couple of hot drink/snack wagons adjacent so you can grab a drink while you watch your children.  We wanted to sit down in the warm, so instead of going straight back to the car at the end we walked back to the café where we thawed out with sausage rolls and hot drinks.  As the lake isn’t illuminated this year, the café was very quiet, in fact we thought it was closed at first with only two other families in there, so there was plenty of seating to enjoy a choice of light bites such as burgers or chips & mince pies.

The illuminated trail will take about one to one and a half hours, depending on how many times you stop, is all on hardstanding and is suitable for pushchairs & mobility scooters.  Sturdy shoes are all that’s required, there is no real need for wellington boots.

The combination of lanterns, lasers and light formations made Christmas at Bedgebury a festive filled delight, especially as it is all backed by fabulous seasonal tunes to get you in the festive spirit.  I don’t really want to give away too many of the amazing surprises that greet you on the walk, but prepare to go wow several times, you may even see Father Christmas!

We thought Christmas at Bedgebury was a magical experience and with off peak tickets, starting at £61.00 per family (2 adults & 2 children), plus £8.00 for parking, it’s a fantastic start to the festive season.  With the long trail and addition of music It’s not like anywhere else we had been in previous years.  In fact, even though we visited last year, most of it had changed, so it was like doing a totally different trail, so don’t be worried about coming back year after year.

Even though it’s still early we came away feeling Christmas had begun already on Bedgebury’s amazing, illuminated trail.

Highly recommended 4.5 out of 5

Rating: 4.5/5

Tickets from: £21.00 Adults ,£15.00 children, £61.00 Family Ticket

The Trail runs from 18th November to 31st December 2023

Bedgebury National Pinetum, Lady Oak Lane, Goudhurst, Kent, TN17 2SJ

For more information see: https://www.forestryengland.uk/bedgebury/christmas

To book tickets: https://christmasatbedgebury.seetickets.com/raymondgubbay/christmas-at-bedgebury

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