Art / nature

Review: Blackgang Chine

I first went to Blackgang Chine in the Isle of Wight aged four. I fell in love at first sight with the ‘Land of Imagination’, though I was terrified of the Diplodocus that arched its neck over a bridge that we had to walk across. (Luckily, I was still young enough to accept that holding my grandad’s hand would protect me from Diplodocus attack – once he’d reminded me that they were vegetarian).

Fast forward several decades and trips as a child, teenager and (so-called) adult, and the love affair is still going strong. However, I’m not sure the four-year-old me would have been as easily reassured when confronted with moving, roaring dinosaurs including Velociraptors and a T-Rex.

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Dreams Come True

Blackgang Chine is divided into different zones, each offering their own escape from the real world. In addition to stepping back in time to Jurassic era, you can become a pirate; visit fairyland (complete with toadstool houses big enough to step inside, and a castle with roaring dragon); get locked up in a Wild West style jail; challenge your perceptions in the hall of mirrors; meet giant insects in the bug zone (with giant fruit and veg to feast on); try to escape the maze; play giant snakes and ladders (with slides in place of snakes. Be warned, if you are adult-sized, the slides are exhilaratingly fast); and visit a mansion that’s been taken over by Henson’s Creature Shop style goblins.

Everywhere you look at Blackgang Chine offers something to spark the imagination. There’s even a rubbish bin that asks to be fed and belches in gratitude when you give it litter.

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While Blackgang Chine is clearly designed with kids in mind, it’s got lots on offer for adults too. If you like nature, you’ll love the glorious gardens, butterflies flitting around and stunning sea views (those with a nihilist bent may also appreciate that Blackgang Chime is falling into the sea so shrinks and evolves with every visit.)

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There’s also a lovely sense of humour in the signage.

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And the dinosaurs really do need to be seen to be believed.

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Each area has its own charm  (though a phone death meant almost all but my dinosaur pics perished). The oldest installations have innocent (for me, nostalgic) wonder; the more recent ones are technically advanced and impressive; and the entire place could have been invented for the selfie generation.

Fun for All Ages

Blackgang Chine is ideal for a family holiday, suitable for all but the ‘coolest’ teenager. Little ones will feel the magic, bigger ones can learn about science, nature and, of course, dinosaurs. There are plenty of benches for those who need to pace themselves. And if you’re after romance, the hall of mirrors is great as part of a date.

While tickets aren’t super-budget, they are good value, particularly as you can return for free within a week, and visit sister-attraction, Robin Hill Park for free too.

While I haven’t travelled the world, I’m pretty sure Blackgang Chine offers a ‘one-of-a-kind’ experience. Enjoy the inspiration and let your imagination run wild…

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