William’s Den

Today we had the pleasure of visiting William’ Den. We visited 4 years ago but have been keen to revisit since as the kids loved it back then.

William’s Den describes itself as the perfect day out, family fun and loads of adventure and it’s really not wrong. There’s so much to do and it’s impossible for the kids to get bored.

One of the favourites has to be the den building area, Toby dragged his dad and oldest brother over to build a huge den, there are sticks galore to make sure you can build the perfect base and don’t run out. In fact there were around 5 dens built or being built in the area.

There is an amazing natural themed indoor play area with water and sand. A brilliant area with so much included into one space, a lot of thought obviously went into designing this place. Toby spent most of the few hours we had in the indoor area because it was a bit cooler out than it has been recently. I think he would definitely benefit from taking a friend which we might do next time as dad and Sam were roped into everything again and had to follow him round. Tobys quite shy so isn’t likely to approach other children to ask them to play.

There is also a brilliant outdoor play area. An enormous space filled with tyre swings, basket swings, zip lines, sand areas, a little adventure play area and more. The whole place is free flow and you can change from indoors to out as much as you please. There are lots of seating areas around, plenty of picnic benches etc. I love the eco friendly natural theme of William’s Den and that is a huge draw for me. I hate to see plastic everywhere so this is perfect.

There is a restaurant on site as well as an ice cream bar area. We didn’t really use either although we did pop into the restaurant for some deluxe hot chocolates which were delicious.

All in all its a fairly pricey but fantastic day out. You can camp also which seems to offer amazing value for money and it might be something we consider in future. My only single complaint, and it isn’t even the fault of William’s Den, so it’s probably unfair, were the wasps. I guess that’s nature for you!

Virgin Experience Days – Driving Experiences

Our older 3 children are becoming more difficult to buy for now and I think its important to include experiences rather than just material gifts. We’ve previously done junior off road experiences so last Christmas (2021) we bought the 2 younger teens the triple sports car experiences and the older teen a four car driving experience.

They were thrilled and couldn’t wait to get them booked. We were directed to the car chase heroes site and after some struggle we finally managed to get the right codes to get to the location/date selection page. This was not an easy task as the cars promised when you buy your package are almost always unavailable. Many of the dates didn’t have the required number of cars available at all. It took numerous visits for us to finally settle on a date in August at Tockwith airfield in York. We didn’t manage to book the cars promised on the bookings but there seemed to be more available and they were all happy with their options.

Fast forward to the day, August 11th. Right in the middle of a heatwave. After a 1.5 hour drive to our location we arrived at the postcode and saw no signs of it being the right place. We left and drove around some before returning to where we originally turned up to. When we came back the opposite way we noticed the smallest sign indicating we were in the right place and to follow the track down the side. The parking attendant was not a bit surprised and said he would mention to those running these events so hopefully in future the signs will be bigger than a 10 pence price. We got to the queue for the event and waited. It was hot. It was only just gone 9am and already it was like being in hell already and was only going to get hotter. The wasps were also up and out early, scaring even the bravest men around us.

We made it to the front of the queue and were asked about the damage waiver fees, essentially if you don’t have £5000 available on a cars then it is £25 per person for the damage waiver incase of any damage to the car you’re driving. This includes if someone hits you. I feel like this is pretty much a compulsory fee and should really be included in the price of the experience rather than being an unexpected extra. We were lucky we could afford it but what if we couldn’t? This wasn’t our only bitter experience as far as extras go.

We made our way to the tent area to pay our damage waivers and found some of the cars booked weren’t available due to mechanical problems. No problem these things happen, we changed them and everyone was happy (until every single car was then seen driving around shortly after). We were asked if we wanted sighting laps. These were £10per person and were described as being like a 1:1 lesson in a separate car before going into the sports cars. I thought this seemed like a great idea to give them chance to learn to use the controls. Turns out the two younger teens went together in the car (sat in the back) and were driven round the track once or twice. That was it. Wouldn’t have wasted my money if I’d known.

We were also asked if they wanted a high speed passenger ride at the end. That was also £10pp. My 7 year old was allowed so we paid for him to join in with dad alongside so that set us back £40. Forty pounds and they all got in together and had one lap, ONE LAP!!! around the track at high speed. I find it absolutely unbelievable that they could justify that charge for that. Don’t get me wrong they enjoyed it but that absolutely does not represent good value for money. Don’t waste your money. We essentially paid £60 for f*#k all.

Photo packages start at £25. We paid for the younger 2 and the eldest paid for his own. I believe they say a minimum of 5 photos and we got hundreds so I don’t suppose that’s horrendous. You are given a lanyard with an sd card in at the start. Between 3 of them there was 2 videos. As video packages start at £40 each we didn’t bother to buy those. To be honest it would be easy enough to sneak those away but were not like that. The photos took the extras on the day up to £160. That’s insane considering the junior driving experiences only cost £59.

We were impressed with the way they run the day though, we had only just paid our extras and finalising the cars when they started calling our kids names to go up. If you’re not available because you’re in a car already they move onto the next person on the list and they come back to you. It meant that although we were later than the 830am arrival time it said in the email that the kids were still called through in good time and the eldest who’s estimated driving time for one car was 330pm got that out the way at around 1030am. It was a steady flow. Everyone seemed happy and nobody seemed to be stood around for long which was good in the heat.

The facilities on site weren’t amazing but weren’t awful. The toilets are portaloos which generally stink wherever they are let alone in the middle of a heatwave. It made me a little bit retchy but that’s nobodies fault. We did see them restocking and cleaning them. There’s a little cafe which is nothing glamorous but was run by some friendly staff/kids and was well stocked. It wasn’t overly expensive which you might expect after parting with astronomical amounts of money when you first arrived. There are lots of good places to sit and watch the track. If you have a decent camera you could easily get your own great track photos and save yourself a small fortune buying theirs. We discovered many people brought their own camping chairs. They’ve obviously been before, this will definitely be a must for us if we do this again as they’re not provided for spectators.

We were relieved to be finished by just after dinner time. Not in a bad way but it was so unbearably hot to be stood about with very few places to go get some relief from the blazing sun. This is in no way the fault of the company running the site. Its a wonder the tarmac wasn’t melting on the track.

To sum it up all 3 had an amazing time. Kaesey (14) is thrilled to tell everyone the first car she’s driven was a Porsche. Sam (20) loved the Supra the most, and Zak (15) loved the Mustang. They’re all still talking about it nearly a week later so it’s definitely had an impact. There seemed to be a bit of inconsistency in the drives in the sense that some instructors told them to put their foot down whereas others were a bit more careful. I don’t think that was necessarily detrimental to their experiences but did leave them wondering where they stood a little bit in the next car they got in. The younger two obviously don’t have driving licenses and so the instructors did the gear changes and clutch controls which meant the kids could just concentrate on steering. They each got 3 laps around the track in each car which isn’t much but also didn’t seem to go too quick either.

I would definitely recommend a driving experience for anyone looking for something new for their kids. Just be wary of the sneaky add-ons and decide for yourself whether you believe them to be value for money for you. I’m sure we’ll do similar experiences again in the future but I will definitely pick my track side spot carefully and won’t waste my money on sighting laps or the high speed laps at the end. Another thing to mention is when booking with virgin experience days there seems to always be a 20% off code floating around. We get blue light discount and they offer 20% too. Who doesn’t love to save money?