‘Shambolic’ drive-thru Santa’s grotto organisers promise improvements and refunds

Some visitors to the Santa's drive-thru grotto at Taverham Hall experienced queues for more than two hours. 

Some visitors to the Santa's drive-thru grotto at Taverham Hall experienced queues for more than two hours. - Credit: Louise Purdy

The company behind Norfolk’s first drive-thru Santa’s grotto that sparked a deluge of complaints from unhappy visitors has blamed opening night “teething problems” and promised improvements. 

Families branded the attraction in the grounds of Taverham Hall, just outside Norwich, ‘shambolic’ after traffic chaos left queuing for hours.

The event's Facebook page was subject to a barrage of complaints with others unhappy about the quality of the experience once they got inside, ‘spooky’ live performers who scared children, and what they claimed were poor quality gifts.

Many who attended the opening night on Friday said they had turned away having queued for more than two hours. 

Ollie George, producer of Santa’s Drive-Thru Grotto, blamed some customers for not arriving at allocated time slots leading to congestion and delays. He advised those unhappy to contact the company for a refund. 

Santa's drive-thru grotto at Taverham Hall has been plagued by traffic problems.

Santa's drive-thru grotto at Taverham Hall has been plagued by traffic queues. - Credit: Submitted

Speaking to BBC Radio Norfolk, he said: “We are asking everyone who didn’t have a great experience and some people who decided to not come to the event altogether to get in contact with us through our website - norwichchristmas.com - and we are in the process now of refunding people who are eligible for refunds.”

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Changes to the traffic entrance into Taverham Hall had meant the second night had run much smoother and promised further improvements, he said.

He said: “The road entry system was altered after the first night to address congestion concerns and unfortunately a broken-down car in the entrance during our second evening caused additional traffic problems. We are working hard to address this to ensure passage into the grotto can be smoother.

Un-festive looking inflatables as part of the event. 

Un-festive looking inflatables as part of the event. - Credit: Jenny Yaxley

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He claimed feedback from customers attending on Saturday night had been more positive after improvements were also made to the experience, which is billed as a way to experience a visit to see Santa while social distancing.

“There was also a large amount of feedback around the Scrooge character being too frightening for very young children," he said. 

“Working with the creative team, we have adjusted the route and removed the Scrooge-style character after the first evening.”

Some characters prompted visitors to compared the event more to Halloween than Christmas.

Some characters prompted visitors to compared the event more to Halloween than Christmas. - Credit: Jenny Yaxley

Among those to attend was Leanne Reed who said they had still queued for nearly two hours to get in. 
“We enjoyed ourselves, the actors were fun, friendly and my children enjoyed chatting to them and Santa,” she posted on Facebook.

“I’m glad we went as the children have had little to go out and do this year and they had fun but I feel that £55 per car was still very steep.”

Emma Cleveley added: “It seems to have improved from yesterday's reviews as nothing scary but really wasn't worth the two hour queue. 

“Only 30 minutes to go through but nice atmosphere and all the characters made an effort to engage with the children, not easy through the car window. Lacked enough entertainment but the staff were working hard to do their best.”

Santa's drive-thru grotto at Taverham Hall. PIC: TMS Media.

Santa's drive-thru grotto runs at Taverham Hall until Christmas Eve. - Credit: TMS Media

However others were still unimpressed including Nathan Moore who said his family had queued two and half hours beyond their time slot. 

“This was nothing at all magical and anyone who says it was has done all the hard work themselves in the car. This was a four hour round trip, from Great Yarmouth,” he said. 

“My feeling now is the organisers had a nice idea, and put it on sale without planning anything to see if the event would be viable.”

Andy MacMillan said although congestion had been removed from outside Taverham Hall they had been forced to wait inside the grounds for two hours with no staff to assist those waiting.

Santa's drive-thru grotto at Taverham Hall.

Santa's drive-thru grotto at Taverham Hall. - Credit: Submitted

He said: “The whole production was cheap and did not represent good value for the excessive fee charged.
“Bearing in mind that the route had changed, but the event had not, so the plan to end up seeing Santa resulted in seeing him first.

“I have a strong events and security background and have run large scale events. I am passionate about the events industry and I cannot abide seeing events of this nature being poorly managed.”

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