Gravity Force St Albans Review – heaven or hell?

So as you know I don’t do many reviews, but when my kids heard I’d been asked to review gravity force in the summer, they kind of forced me to go!  Here is Curly Headed Boy’s reaction:

Gravity Force St Albans

So here are the things I was worried about and what I thought about it all ….

Is it dangerous?

Trampolines as we know cause havoc in home gardens and there was certainly some dodgy stuff on the internet about trampoline parks.  But I really liked this team.  There was no scrimping on first aid training and they took their roles seriously.  It seemed well designed, so that there less opportunities for problems as well.  Curly headed boy felt that some of the trampolines are actually a little under powered – maybe a very sensible precaution!

There are of course waivers you have to fill out – do it before you go and there is hardly any delay.  Make sure on your first visit that you do arrive 30mins before to do your waiver

Were they party-poopers?

Whilst worrying about safety is paramount, it is a trampoline park and Curly Headed Boy had been to a party at a rival location and hated it.  He felt they were hardly able to do anything and kept being pulled off.  Whilst getting into devilish moods at time, he’s a pretty well behaved boy, so he was really upset with the other location.  He loved Gravity force – the perfect combo of control and fun.

Did I have to get involved?

Gravity Force square trampolines

With my Lyme disease I was most worried that I’d be forced to bounce by Little Dimples, as she is often unhappy alone – this would not have been a good plan.  But after the first 5 mins I was free to watch, and on the next visits I didn’t have to do anything at all (oh yes, we have been again, and again, and again!).  This is a big deal as she normally gets nervous in chaotic situations.

Do you have to pay as a parent if you aren’t bouncing?

Nope – unlike other similar parks.

Whats the noise like?

I HATE Gambado’s – sorry Gambado’s, but the noise is like a living torture to me!  It was slightly ‘Argh’ in the coffee area when there were parties on, but the main area was fine.

Tip to help the kids enjoy it more:

Gravity Force Little Kids

Take the kids around the whole area before they go off jumping and explain what the different areas are for.  For example, there are 2 dodge ball courts (for different age groups), 4 long trampolines for doing tricks on, a trampoline with a basket ball hoop and a more professional trampoline.

Food & drink & socks & lockers

Gravity Force Food prices

You can’t take enough water.  I don’t think you are meant to take your own drinks or food, but honestly you are going to need to sneak water in your bag.  There is nothing you can do however, they will be hungry and thirsty at the end, expect to visit the cafe! The good news is that I think the prices were reasonable, they could have put them completely off the scale and they haven’t.

If you don’t have trampoline type socks from another park, then you’ll need them on the first visit (they are sticky on the bottom), but then can keep reusing them.

We didn’t worry about lockers, you won’t need one if you aren’t bouncing.

What if there is a party?

I’m not keen on going to kids play parks when there are other parties there.  But when you book online you can see which session are the busiest, so avoid those ones.

How long do you need to go for?

Personally I don’t think that you need more than an hour.  It’s actually a perfect thing to do for a short time in the day to let the kids let off steam.

Any improvements?

CHB would love them to do classes on acrobatics, but they can’t because of the insurance.

Toddlers, Disabilities & Grown Ups

There are morning sessions for toddlers, special sessions for those with disabilities and exercise classes for grown ups (The hairy northerner is actually rather keen to try one of the classes out, we just haven’t sorted it out yet).

Word of warning!

Don’t park in the private car park next door – I did by mistake and got a nasty message on my car – I can get a bit confuddled about parking sometimes, it was an honest mistake.

A Surprise Bonus

We ran into Anton from Xfactor – I have to say he is a real gent.  He didn’t stop smiling the whole time he was there, and happily made my kids day by taking a selfie with them!

Anton Stephans Gravity Force

Overall

My kids love it.  It’s a simple and quick thing to add into a weekend or holiday to help them let off steam without costing a fortune.  We’ve become regulars and will be back there this half-term.

 

Disclosure: I was invited to the pre-open day and given some tickets in return for a review.  We have however been again and paid for our own tickets, so that kind of proves it’s worth it.

Toddler in den

Adventure comes in surprising places

Mum and child in the woods
Not so warm!

 

Brrrrrrrrrrr!

It was freezing (0 degrees!), but the kids didn’t seem to notice at all.

I was wishing I’d put my thermals on, and was eternally grateful for choosing woolly socks and snow boots over wellies.

But the cheerful ‘Ooooh Mummy look at this’ coming from one direction versus ‘No Mummy come look at this first’ from the opposite direction cheered me up.

Curly Headed Boy was chuffed that he could easily pretend he was in an ancient forest with bears and wolves around every corner.  He was off climbing through brambles and goodness knows what else.

Toddler in den
My secret den!

Little Dimples was enchanted with a little partially constructed den that she had found and I was instructed to find more sticks to add to it.

The Hairy northern one meantime was taking photos left right and center, so he too was in his element.

Next time we are definitely bringing the big black monster (it would be easy to put the dog back in the car at the end of a walk, while you get a cuppa, or drink it outside).

 

Where were we?

A well kept secret that when I mentioned it loads of people seemed to know about, but no one had told us; Wendover Woods.  (We live just outside St Albans, and it’s about 34-45mins away).

We’d brought the radio flyer just incase the kids got tired, but I was amazed that Little Dimples (3 in a month) was able to keep walking the whole distance, even when we were climbing back up the hill, it must have been all the ‘Ho Hos’ that we sang.

Children investigating
Climbing an imaginary mountain!

I’d still recommend bringing something though if you have a toddler, or be prepared to carry them.  In fact I was amazed how many young families there were and especially how many with little babies, either with industrial strength push chairs or slings.

We tried out the Cafe in the Woods, which I thought was great.  Simple stuff for grown ups and kids that hits the spot and at a good price (menus are online).  It got really busy though (at 11.30), and it’s winter.  So I’m pretty sure that you wouldn’t get any where near it in the summer.

Next time we are going to go as soon as we get up and have bacon butties before we go for our walk; yum!

Plus we’ll remember to try the free iPhone app which has a map of the area and a tree finder, which I think is a great idea.

Once the family gets a little older, there were people cycling, running, and there is a Go Ape as well.  I talked to a local mum who says that in the summer locals walk up rather than drive so it doesn’t get as busy car parking wise as you’d expect, and that it’s great for parties.

I also saw someone in a wheelchair, so when it says that it is accessible, it obviously is.  I was a bit worried with my fibromyalgia that it might be too much for me, but I needn’t have worried (don’t worry fitness types; it could be a lot more physical than we tried).

I was worried that Go Ape would be too obvious and we’d get nagged to go, but it wasn’t too in your face at all, and the play park is great, so I’m sure the kids will be happy there.

Muddy Puddle At Wendover
A HUGE Muddy Puddle!

Of course of all the potential things to play on the boys were much more interested in the huge great big muddy swamp that was all iced over and covered in big sticks, and eventually we did have a catastrophe.

Luckily it was time to go home, so we wrapped Curly Headed Boy in a blanket and popped in the car.  I’d recommend a spare pair of trousers for each child just incase.  (And a hot toddy for you, when you get home).

 

The Numbers

A discovery pass for a year is £37, which gives you free parking.

Parking would cost you: £1.50 for 2 hours, £3 for 4 hours or £5.50 for an all day stay.

So if you went all day 3 times in the summer, and then for 4 hours more than 4 times a year, it would have paid for itself.

There are also a pile of other freebies or discounts listed here on the page about Discovery Passes, the most significant being 15% off forest holidays or  10% off trailbase holidays and the most useful being free refills on cups of tea or 15% off Go Ape (see details for exclusions).  So you could save lots more than the pass cost you.

You also get a few bits and pieces to start the kids off with ideas of things to collect and enjoy while they are there, which I think would be a great idea if you were the type of family who thought it would be a good idea to get out and about, but weren’t sure how to get the kids interested.

 

Overall

Boy covered in mud
I fell in!

 

Curly Headed boy said that ‘it was the best holiday he’d had’; he’s not always that easy to please!  Later that day he said he was really lucky to have me as a Mummy; now we know that’s true, but it’s not often that he remembers, so that was a lovely thing for him to say.

Little Dimples said ‘Forest was good. I loved the play ground’.

The Big Hairy Northerner thought ‘the woods were magical’.

I loved it, and really loved my hot toddy when I got home!

For me buying a pass would feel like a commitment and a reminder, and I think it would be well worth it.  I suspect very strongly that we will be renewing next year when our pass runs out.

We are bound to go back lots, so I’ll do another review in the summer and let you know what the BBQ sites are like and whether it gets too busy or not.

 

Disclosure: I was given a years Discovery Pass in return for doing a review, but my opinions are my own.  I’d like to thank the Forestry Commission for being so patient with me, as soon after they offered for me to get the pass I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and have been nervous of going and busy with sorting it out.