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Being half term week I thought it was worth taking a trip to Cheshire Oaks to visit the Blue Planet Aquarium   Sadly like so many attractions aimed at family days out in the UK the money making element of the business was the prime concern of the organisers with the visitor experience being a secondary consideration.

Upon arrival we queued for our tickets and for a family ticket (permitting two adults, two children and an infant) we were charged £61, this included £2.50 for parking. This is a ticket price is  consistent with most family attractions, so whilst not cheap it was not out of line with the cost of going to see similar attractions. I’m always of the mind that if an attraction is of significant interest the cost is not of concern, but on this occasion I must say I was a little underwhelmed by the overall experience and felt that there was a little bit of a conveyer belt element to the visit, whereby you no sooner entered and you were passing through the gift shop and then on the way out. Yes, it is a short attraction, not a day out. An hour and a half is sufficient to have a good look around and if you are really trying to drag the day out in a bid to ‘get your monies worth’ you could queue for half an hour in the rather tired and dingy looking cafeteria.  Though I warn you the menu in the cafe is far from exciting, healthy eating it is not; over-priced and processed it is. You can’t even get a nice slice of cake or a good sandwich, forget it if your gluten intolerant or have taste buds for that matter.

IMG_1292 I was shocked to find that once I’d drunk my cup of coffee, I had actually reached the end of the attraction. In short I felt that the visit equating to a cost of over £30 per hour was a little underwhelming, that’s not to say that I expected a display of sharks doing aqua aerobics, but overall the standard of the venue and decor is tired and would benefit from some investment.

IMG_1252 (Small)However, there were many positive aspects to the trip. The undersea walkway was well worth a look, the children loved seeing the various species of shark and other fish.  As we stood on the travelator passing through the 70m aqua tunnel We saw Sand tigers, Lemon Sharks, Zebra Sharks Nurse Sharks, moray eels and White Tips In addition to aquatic displays there are also tree frogs, an otter enclosure and spiders to take a look at.  The large rock pool displays were great for getting closer to some of the intriguing creatures that inhabit the rocky coastlines of the British Isles.  We observed spotted dog fish, thorn back rays, spider crabs and flat fish.  I particularly enjoyed seeing the sand eels and the jelly fish display was excellent as it was well lit and gave a good opportunity to view these fascinating creatures in detail.

The attraction has so much unrealised potential. There are some positive points and some very interesting displays, but the centre needs a re-vamp, the attraction needs extending so that it can be at least an afternoons worth of visiting, the displays are tired, indeed the whole venue is tired. As it stands it does not offer value for money, but it could so easily be so much more.

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About Seren Charrington-Hollins

ABOUT SEREN-CHARRINGTON-HOLLINS Describing my work through just one job title is difficult; because my professional life sees me wear a few hats: Food Historian, period cook, broadcaster, writer and consultant. I have a great passion for social and food history and in addition to researching food history and trends I have also acted as a consultant on domestic life and changes throughout history for a number of International Companies. In addition to being regularly aired on radio stations; I have made a number of television appearances on everything from Sky News through to ITV’s Country House Sunday, Holiday of a Lifetime with Len Goodman , BBC4’s Castle’s Under Siege, BBC South Ration Book Britain; Pubs that Built Britain with Hairy Bikers and BBC 2’s Inside the Factory. Amongst other publications my work has been featured in Period Living Magazine, Telegraph, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and Great British Food Magazine and I write regularly for a variety of print and online publications. I am very fortunate to be able to undertake work that is also my passion and never tire of researching; recreating historical recipes and researching changing domestic patterns. Feel free to visit my blog, www.serenitykitchen.com