‘Sandringham is for the obsessed’: Offering two major attractions, which one do you visit more?

Helen Cahill A different theme park announced yesterday that they will introduce a Paddington Bear coaster and an interactive Fairy Godmother playground, with the latter expected to open its doors in March. The adjoining…

‘Sandringham is for the obsessed’: Offering two major attractions, which one do you visit more?

Helen Cahill

A different theme park announced yesterday that they will introduce a Paddington Bear coaster and an interactive Fairy Godmother playground, with the latter expected to open its doors in March.

The adjoining Windsor theme park, Iffley Road, is usually considered to be a further step away from the Potter products in Sandringham, but both the Institute of Christmas Studies (IoTS) and Potter historian Virginia Banks agree that, for both tourists and visitors, the two destinations tend to complement each other.

Banks is a Research Fellow at the IoTS and also teaches at Leeds University’s National Centre for the History of Children’s Literature, while the Institute of Christmas Studies hosts the annual ‘Christmas at the Paddington Encounter’ which draws well over 20,000 people.

She says that the range of attractions at Windsor is proving popular with visitors of all ages, as well as with locals who visit for more leisurely breaks.

“The whole is a quite nice sort of business,” she says. “Sandringham is for the obsessed, so people go up there to be like the people they see in the story books. It’s very big and popular and very small, intimate and small. You can get a taste of all three.”

Jamie Lawson, spokesperson for Iffley Road, says that they have seen their trade increase by more than 20% in the last few years – made all the more notable by their proximity to the other theme park, which recently celebrated its half-century anniversary.

“It’s virtually unheard of to have two major attractions in one area, so it’s quite amazing that both are enjoying good success”, he says.

Despite the convenience of their distance from other attractions, both Banks and Lawson agree that the two parks will offer different experiences that cater for different tastes.

Banks says that on her research trips to Sandringham, she often spends a few days reading about and studying the fascinating life of the Potter author in the Sandringham Magazine.

“I would want to spend the day there, because it’s very special. It’s about a writer. I’d go and experience the real life. There’s a whole history to it.”

Jamie Lawson adds that Windsor will likely attract more families that will book tickets on the basis of the local story: “Harry Potter, perhaps, but it’s a lot more about the period of the 20th century. It’s very different in character from the current Harry Potter [fans].”

“We certainly haven’t got as big of a fan base as our sister theme park,” he says. “We’re trying to increase that.”

“It’s not only about providing accessibility for families. There’s an appeal for parents as well.”

For Banks, the real lure of visiting Sandringham is having a peek behind the scenes of one of the world’s most popular authors. She says that, as the only woman and non-local in the trenches of the First World War at the time of Harry Potter, the Hogwarts years were very much of her mind.

“To me, Harry Potter is Helen’s tale in a slightly different form. It’s very important for me and for my family and I think for other generations, it’s just one of the characters to connect with.”

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