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Mercedes and her family have a disastrous day at Fort Fun in Eastbourne

There is a place along the main seaside road leading into town in Eastbourne between the Swimming pool named the Sovereign Centre and the Pier. There sits a bright purple building which is home to a children’s soft play area called ‘Fort Fun’.

When I was a youngster my mum, nan and other friends and family members would congregate down there for a play date, to let off some much-needed steam and even for the odd birthday party. The floor was sticky, and it made your socks turn an iffy colour, the food was probably healthier at McDonalds back then, but it boasted a large indoor play area as well as an outside play area with a couple of fair type like rides, adventure golf and even go-carts. The mascot was a beaver if I remember rightly and the place was always, always heaving with children. Now I am older, and I like to re-visit the places I used to hang out as a child and show them to my children, but I have to say, Fort Fun was not how I remember it.

Me and my bestie decided to go along for a play date, the day was bright but not overly warm and to save time at the gate we booked online. When we turned up we found out that most of the outside stuff was not on or off limits due to the weather. The weather like I said was bright, a little gloomy but not windy and raining but the waterpark was closed which was what we had really come for (I mean if I have to compare, my kids have been in the water park bit at Drusillas in the middle of a chilly March and haven’t moaned, so this one being closed was a little annoying. And yes, I still hide out at Drusillas). My friend immediately felt ripped off by this and complained as we had paid full price online, to which the manager shrugged and just handed us a free ticket for next time. I admit, I was happy with this gesture as these play places are not cheap and a free play date is better than no play date, right? Wrong! The kids went off to play, so me and my friend headed off to the café area to order drinks. We were greeted by a rather non-smiley guy who took our order, we both wanted hot chocolate, and we had spotted the marshmallows and asked to have some with our drink, to which they were launched at us whilst he went off. He literally just left the marshmallows in our hands! He had no idea if we were clean, how many we were taking or what! And I also had to assume this was how they were always handled, by people with no food safety training or certificates which made me feel a little green at the gills. Again, this started to get our backs up, so we bit our tongues and went to sit down.

A little while later my mum arrived to meet us for lunch there, she paid to get in and sat down and offered to buy us all the food. So, grabbing a menu, we got the kids to decide and ventured up to the café, only to be told they had pretty much NO FOOD! No pizza, no onion rings, no burgers, no garlic bread, no, nothing! Annoyed at this and with hungry kids we scooped them up and left to get food else where (PizzaHut became our saviour this day). As we left the manager again apologised and said we could come back after our lunch date and gave us wristbands, again I thought ok, they are trying to redeem themselves, so we decided after lunch to go back… Well, I wish we didn’t. The weather on our after-lunch arrival was a lot warmer so we went to play outside. The outside play area which is basically an indoor play area shoved outside with some sand is not the best planned out piece of equipment. They have a huge tyre thing tied up to the ceiling which swings around when kids jump on it, yes I know that is the norm for tyres tied up but this one is near the entrance to the slide, and my youngest got somewhat crushed while trying to get past to the slide and ended up with tyre burn.

My friend’s daughter cut her toe on a loose pebble and I was just feeling grumpy as hell. This was not the play area I remembered as a child, at all and even my mum who had taken me there for years as a youngster commented on how downhill it had seemed to have gone. Yes, it has been updated but there is no ball pit to play in anymore which for me was one of the best things about it. There are no go-carts anymore just the outside waterpark which to me has seen better days (And you have to pretty much book the water park by appointment on a good day otherwise even if you paid full price there is no entry without a certain colour wristband – Believe me, me and my friend went back with the free tickets but er… Never again.) To me the whole place is like a bad carry on film.

Now I will be kind in one sense, as most of the staff are friendly bar the grumpy marshmallow guy and they did put on a small musical performance for the kids, which was funny to watch. But the whole experience has put me off going back, which is a shame, as I was always there as a kid, but my kids unfortunately won’t be. Maybe one day they can show me that they can be the Fort Fun I used to know and remember.