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

Food has always been of great importance to Seren and despite her being renowned for her historical recipe recreations, her culinary skills were not honed, in the kitchens of top restaurants, but in the home kitchen from the age of being able to hold a wooden spoon. When Seren was born her mother was taken ill and so she spent her early years being cared for by her grandmother, Minnie. This was to prove instrumental in the development of Seren’s love of cooking, for her grandmother was an accomplished cook, who’s kitchen was always awash with terrine’s, home-made pastry and traditional puddings. Minnie’s love of good food and her zest for life meant Seren’s childhood was filled with days of hedgerow picking, baking, traditional preserving and cooking recipes from the depths of a family copy of, Mrs. Beeton. She learned from an early age how to make Victorian puddings alongside elaborate noble pies and perhaps this explains her love of pastry making and the reason she won an accolade from The Great British Pie Awards this year. Today Seren has great skill in bringing historical food to life and making it accessible and understandable to the modern cook and diner. Her enthusiasm and love of historical food and British cooking is evident in her presentations and she loves to revive forgotten recipes. She recently took part in ITV1’s Country House Sunday and has given live cookery demonstrations across the country at food festivals, historical houses and castles. Trained as a herbalist and nutritionist, she has a deep understanding of improving health through food. Her interest in historic remedies and herbal folklore eventually extended to researching British food history, and reignited her early passion for cooking. Fifteen years on and Seren has amassed extensive knowledge and is now renowned for her historical food recreations and interpretations. Seren’s interest in food history does not just extend to old recipes and cooking techniques, but to ingredients and manufacturers. From the age of fourteen Seren has collected food and drink packaging from early Victorian to the 1960’s. Her collection is now extensive and provides a wonderful snapshot in time that accompanies her vast knowledge of the development of British food and drink companies throughout history. She also has a huge collection of antique kitchenalia and moulds which she uses to replicate historical recipes and portray past eras. Her training in herbalism and nutrition has not been wasted for despite her merits as a food historian and period cook she also delights in creating British Classic dishes for those with food allergies and intolerances (such as gluten and dairy intolerant). Her botanical knowledge has made her a keen wild food educator and forager that lends unusual as well as historical twists to all her cooking. There are also many points at which food and medicine intertwine throughout history and Seren is able to portray these developments and has also undertaken a lot of research into the British spice trade. To Seren historical food is not a job, but a way of life. Visit Seren's blog: Serenity Kitchen