I have to be honest and say that I wouldn’t have necessarily have chosen a trip to Diggerland for myself but having an almost two and a half year old son who relishes any available opportunity to ogle at any construction machinery and whose most treasured possessions are sticker books entitled “Diggers” and “Big Machines”, I didn’t feel I could deprive him of such a place his dreams are made of! I’m also convinced that most of the workmen in Surrey believe that I am utterly infatuated with them given that I’m cajoled into visiting local construction sites on an almost daily basis!
Accompanied by my very enthusiastic Dad (aka “Grandad”), off we trekked to Diggerland in Kent on a recent hot and sunny Monday. After reading some other reviews, I was half expecting to arrive at a building site but was pleasantly surprised to find a ‘proper’ car park (free of charge) and professional-looking main entrance. After meeting ‘Dotty’ one of the mascots who was there to give us a friendly welcome, we eased in gently with R bolting off to get onto the first piece of machinery he saw, which was simply a stationery vehicle just there for show and it took us a good 5 minutes to persuade him off it and onto one of the attractions!
I wont detail everything we went on as you’ll be here all day but we enjoyed; Giant Diggers, Dirt Diggers, Dumper Truck Drive, Dig-A-Round, Dippy Ducks, Robot Driving, Safari Experience, a JCB Ride & Drive, Digging for Treasure, the Train Ride and some coin operated extras. Due to R’s 93cm height, he wasn’t able to actually operate most of the diggers but could ride on them with my Dad (not that this seemed to dampen his enthusiasm in the slightest). One of R’s favourite attractions had to be the Giant Diggers.
I could hear Grandad asking if R had had enough and wanted to move onto something else and the inevitable “Nope” came the reply. I have to confess that seeing R on the Dig-A-Round all by himself (Grandad and I might have been just slightly over the weight restriction for this one!) was a little unnerving and I thought he might have bitten off more than he could chew but it turns out he’s more of a daredevil than his mother! Please excuse my nervous whooping in the background
We didn’t make it onto the Spindizzy which looked like a great laugh but Baby L was grumping so my bouncing services were required. They also have something called the Joyrider which only permits under 17 year olds to drive a 4×4, I imagine this would be a huge hit with most teenagers!
As previously mentioned, R is a mere 93 cms so he kept being measured against each of the height charts for each individual ride. Whilst this was incredibly reassuring safety wise, I did take extra time. We then then informed by one of the attendants that we could obtain a wristband from reception confirming he was over the required 90cms. However, the attendant also said that if we obtained one, a lot of the staff probably wouldn’t be clear about what it proved due to a lack of formal communication about the scheme. As there are also different height thresholds for the rides 80/90/100/110 cms, presumably there are different colour bands for each threshold height but again it wasn’t obvious to the staff that the pink wristband he was wearing corresponded to “over 90cms” so staff continued to measure him, which made it a little pointless. We also weren’t informed about this service upon entering, which is something that should be looked into. I’d suggest that if you have a pre-schooler that you click here to check Diggerland’s height restrictions for each ride. However, despite being of minimal stature, there were only a few rides R was unable to experience.
We had lunch in The Dig Inn, the on-site eatery. The food is more greasy spoon than haute cuisine but is reasonably priced and tasty. You can buy healthy freshly-made sandwiches but in the spirit of pretending we had worked up hunger having spent all morning digging holes, we opted for bacon sandwiches and chicken nuggets! My dad was also pleased to discover they are licensed so may have had *definitely did* a very welcome ice cold beer with his sarnie
We were incredibly fortunate on the day we visited (out of school holidays) that it was very quiet indeed and we didn’t need to queue for any of the attractions, so we managed to get around everything in a few hours. Because I had Baby L (13 weeks old) in tow and wasn’t capable of doing anything except looking after him, this was probably a blessing. There were also clean baby changing facilities and I was able to access everything with my Bumbleride double buggy.
There is also an area dedicated to toddlers/younger children which is indoors and home to: a small bouncy castle, arcade-style games and a soft play area. I imagine this is incredibly handy if you happen to visit on a day when the weather can’t make up its mind but given that we often visit soft play centres and it was such a sunny day I thought it would be a shame to spend our time indoors so we managed to steer R away before he could see it.
I wanted to make special mention of all the staff we dealt with during our visit. Diggerland either has an exceptional staff training programme or one savvy recruitment manager! Every single member of staff we came into contact with (reception, ride attendants, The Dig Inn) was friendly and professional and couldn’t seem to do enough to help us; sparing time for a chat or a joke, lifting R on/off the diggers, as the adult generally gets in first, and checking he wasn’t fearful when he rode alone on the Dig-A-Round. On top of this, everything was done with a smile. It was truly refreshing and more what I’d expect from a highly rated hotel than a theme park. Their staff are something that Diggerland should be very proud of.
At £17 per person (children under 90cms are free of charge) it’s not a cheap day out but it should be remembered this is a real one-off experience and very different to your standard ‘theme park’ where you’re merely a passenger. Diggerland has somehow managed to ensure the adequate health and safety procedures are in place to allow people of all ages to ride and drive real diggers! Therefore, given the cost of the equipment (not to mention what their insurance must cost!) I think this is good value for money. Diggerland also caters for private functions; both adult events and children’s birthday parties and holds special racing events (check website for details). Be aware that Diggerland is closed in winter but is open every day between now and September 8th 2013.
As we left we were handed a Children’s Certificate to say that R’s now a certified “Junior Digger Driver” and some stickers, which was a nice touch. There’s also a “For Kids” section of the website where you can print out pictures for your kids to colour in. R had an amazing day and hasn’t stopped talking about his trip and how proficient he is at ‘driving’ diggers since we got back. The only problem now is that he’s expecting to be able to just hop onto machinery every time we pass a construction site…thanks a lot Diggerland!