Meeting Santa at Clearwell Caves
Last Christmas the girls and I went to Clearwell Caves for the first time, and I was so impressed by the whole experience that I insisted that we go again as a family this year. Clearwell Caves are in the Forest of Dean and were mined for iron ore in the past. Nowadays it operates as a museum, but just before Christmas, they are transformed into a wonderful grotto.
With Freyja now at school, we had to go at the weekend so booked a slot online for Saturday afternoon. I was glad that we did because it was fairly busy when we arrived, but we were able to go straight to the front of the queue with our timed entry ticket. Once we were inside we walked through the paths which were decorated with evergreen branches and lit with fairy lights. Every-so-often, there was a diorama of a wintery scene, usually with handcrafted models of local wildlife and there were also illuminated Christmas trees surrounded by piles of brightly wrapped presents, each with a different name on. Freyja was desperate to find a present with her name on, so it became a bit of a game to look at each of the names on the parcels whilst we queued to meet Santa.
Santa was sat on a chair on a raised platform, so we were able to see him from afar. This was quite useful as not only did it mean that we had an idea of how long it would be before it was our turn, it also meant that Emily could get used to the idea of meeting him. She was very shy, but at least she didn’t scream the place down when it was our turn to sit down next to him. She was even happy enough to tell him that she would like a bike for Christmas and nodded excitedly when he asked her if she would also like some sweets. Freyja happily stood next to him and chatted about what she would like – remembering to say please and thank you! But once again, as you will be able to see from the photo, I appear to be the most excited about meeting him!
Once we had chatted to Santa, he said the girls could go and choose a present. What I like about Christmas at Clearwell Caves is that there is a vast choice of gifts to choose from, so the girls picked something that they really wanted.
After meeting Santa, we continued on through the caves to the story display. This year it was Evie’s Aeroplane. As we walked through the caves, there were most dioramas, this time telling the story of a little girl who wakes up on Christmas morning with a toy aeroplane. She ends up flying in it, but getting stuck on the moon and has to find a way back to her house. The displays were beautifully made, and I can’t begin to image how much time and effort must have gone into putting this together.
Between each story display, the walkway through the cave continued to be decorated by Christmas trees lit with fairy lights and the huge piles of presents. There was also an underground Christmas market and cafe where we stopped for a rest and a hot drink.
All-in-all, it was once again a really magical experience and a great way to get us all feeling festive. If you would like to visit, I would recommend you wear study shoes or wellies, and although the paths are fine for pushchairs, a baby carrier might be better for little ones due to the muddy paths. Entry was £10 each, which included a gift each for the girls, and I felt for the whole experience, this was really great value. The Christmas Fantasy at Clearwell Caves continues until 24th December 2015 and you can find out more details here.