What better way is there to start the festive season, than putting on a hard hat, jumping in a canal barge & going deep into the limestone caves underneath Dudley?
No I haven’t gone potty. I’ve just got back from a fantastic afternoon searching for Santa and being entertained by an underground pantomime put on by the Dudley Canal Trust
Dudley Canal Trust is a great trip under normal circumstances, but their Christmas special is a brilliant way to get into the festive spirit. The trust is run as a charity and all the staff are volunteers.
For £9.95 per person, (same price for adults & children) you are treated to a journey through an underground winter wonderland. Each child gets to meet Father Christmas and receives a gift. The photograph is £6 on top, but there’s no obligation to buy, nor is there any hard sell. Each adult receives a hot drink & mince pie as part of their ticket.
Everyone dons an attractive hard hat, as the tunnels have very low rooves, and after a brief talk about what to do in an emergency, you’re off.
The driver gets the whole boat involved in shouting out & drumming up excitement. Any children at the front of the boat are asked to call out if they think they can see the way to Santa’s grotto.
It’s very important to practise the ‘boo’ & ‘hiss’ as the first stop on our search is the underground pantomime. This year it’s Snow White, and with a cast of four characters you get a good story, a fantastic wicked Lady (ahem!) Dudley and the chance to call out ‘Behind You!’, ‘oh yes he is!’ and there’s time for three songs & the campest Prince Charming I’ve ever seen!
You then find the secret way to Santa’s grotto and meet ‘Tiny the fairy’ who is Santa’s helper. He helps you call for Santa who appears with a huge sack of toys and an elf photographer. He comes in board the boat and spends time with every child. This takes quite a while, but Tiny chats to all the children and everyone’s turn comes around.
Santa was lovely, he had a quiet, personal chat with each child, and they had their picture taken and that could be with their brothers/sisters if that’s preferred.
And then it was all over! The whole trip takes an hour, and by the end everyone was singing along to the piped Christmas songs – altogether now: “jingle bells….”
We chose to have our hot drinks & mince pies at the end of the trip, and we let the children open their presents. My 4 year old boy got a beautiful wooden fishing game/jigsaw; and my 7 year old girl got a juggling Diablo, again beautiful quality. And yes, we decided to buy the photograph of the children as it was a nice way to remember a great day (even if Grandma is lurking in the background!)
I’m feeling very festive now, so apologies if I suddenly burst into song or randomly thrust mistletoe in your face!
Merry Christmas to everyone!