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Chuffing Brilliant Way for Kids to Let Off Steam this Easter

Easter didn’t get the Spring weather memo, but it’s testament to Audley End Miniature Railway’s beautiful Easter experience that despite the moody, wintry skies, we were transported to a Technicolor Wonderland, which our children did not want to leave.

The jolly, steampunk bunny staff greet us at the grand gates to the attraction, set in the rolling green countryside of Saffron Walden's Chocolate Box-pretty, Medieval town in Essex.

After warming up with creamy hot chocolates, piled with marshmallows from the pastel egg-festooned cafe, we head to the tracks, where more bunnies herald the arrival of the little, red steam train. It emerges dramatically through a plume of smoke, tooting its horn to the excited little ticket holders.

Children are given pencils and I Spy booklets, to check off magical Easter scenes studding the 1.5 mile, private track through the stunning woodland, landscaped by green fingered maestro, Capability Brown.

As we zip over picturesque bridges, past peacocks, pheasants, ducks and deer, through woods and beneath tiny tunnels, our children excitedly tick off wonderfully intricate, Easter scenes, from rabbits flying huge carrot planes, to giant eggs and elaborate bunny homes, bursting with giant daffodils - a tradition started by the Braybrooke family, who have owned the magnificent estate since 1762.

The train pulls into a Wonderland marquee, filled with pastel-coloured orbs and colourful Easter decorations, where we meet the Easter Bunny and Alice, along with their mischievous rabbit friends, who interact with the children, perform song and dance routines and earn a train-load of helium cackles from their slapstick comedy, before presenting each child with a fluffy chick toy.

We continue our train journey to the beautiful, woodland play area for the next part of the Easter experience, where we are greeted by Wonderland’s Dormouse.

Our daughter spots a fairy in the woodland, beckoning us over, so we follow her through floral arches to the pretty, fairy craft cabin, where two glittering fairies seat the children and help them to make colourful flowers.

From there, we walk through the Enchanted Fairy and Elf Trail, which is pure magic. Ticking each fairy off the I Spy booklet, the children discover a whole village of beautiful, handmade fairy houses, with intricate details and we learn about each of the tiny inhabitants, from the tooth fairy to the shoe fairy.

There are surprises around each corner, from an enchanted, talking mirror, to the troll living beneath the bridge. The children notice colourful biscuits and cakes dangling from the roof of a cage and are lured inside, like good little Hansel and Gretals, for the perfect picture opportunity inside the cage, which is emblazoned with a "Troll Food" sign.

There is also a wonderful nature trail, including a Bug Hotel and worm house, which the children delighted in. And we emerged at the stage area of the picnic field, just in time for the Mad Hatter’s show, where our children worked up an appetite, clapping, dancing and screeching demands at the patient Hatter. Afterwards, we head over to the Woodland Cafe for children’s fairy lunch bags and excellent, Stone Baked pizzas for the grown-ups.

The rain continues to hold off for another hour, so our children tear around the beautiful, wooden adventure playground, climbing inside the gingerbread house, through the giant train, over and beneath the bridges and viewing platforms.

For four hours of magic, train rides, fairies, two Wonderland shows and adventures, £17 per person is pretty amazing value.

When the first few drops begin to fall, we eventually have to bribe them back home, because they didn’t want to leave this magical, Easter wonderland... and we couldn’t really blame them.

Audley End Miniature Railway, Audley End Road, Audley End, Saffron Walden, Essex CB11 4JB. Until 16 April. Adults and children over 92cm £17. Children under 92cm £8.50. Under ones go free.

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