Furious parents slam 'creepy' drive-thru Santa's Grotto

Furious parents slam ‘creepy’ drive-thru Santa’s Grotto after ‘freaky’ actors left children ‘petrified’ with one telling a four-year-old that Father Christmas had ‘smashed up his sleigh’ and wouldn’t be delivering presents

  • Parents warn of ‘Halloween experience’ after visiting Santa’s Grotto in Norwich
  • The drive through grotto opened on Friday at Taverham Hall, near Norwich
  • Mother said daughter left ‘petrified’ after ‘Scrooge’ said Santa wouldn’t deliver

Parents have warned others against visiting a drive-thru Santa’s grotto after ‘creepy’ actors ‘petrified’ children, with one telling a four-year-old that ‘Santa won’t be delivering any presents this year’.

The Christmas event which opened in the grounds of Taverham Hall, near Norwich, on Friday, has been hit with a flurry of negative reviews claiming the event was ‘more Halloween than Christmas’.

Visitors complained that after queuing for hours and paying £50 per car to get in children were ‘harassed’ by performers, including a ‘freaky Father Christmas’, before being handed ‘Poundland’ presents.

Gemma Louise Murley-Lown, mother to a four-year-old, said the event was a ‘shambles’ that left her daughter ‘petrified’.

The Christmas event opened in the grounds of Taverham Hall, near Norwich, on Friday, but has been dubbed ‘more Halloween than Christmas’. Pictured: A scrooge character at the event

Ms Murley-Lown said: ‘It is the worst event i’ve been to, after waiting 1.5 hours to get in we were looking forward to the ‘magical’ experience you wonderfully advertised.

‘Well it was nothing like you advertised and I was left gobsmacked and angry when Scrooge decided to tell my four-year-old that Santa won’t be delivering any presents to any child this year as he had smashed up his sleigh. He didn’t even do this in a joking manner. (…) She was petrified. What a shambles.’

The mother told the MailOnline: ‘A couple of actors were chained to trees staring at cars, a ghost just walked past the car staring. By this point we did our windows up so nobody could speak to her any more.

‘She’s been talking about Scrooge since the event and has been pretending to call him telling him he’s not a nice person and to never come back.’ 

One mother warned others to ‘roll up windows’ when approaching the Scrooge character as her son. Pictured: A ‘christmas’ character wearing chains

Another mother told the MailOnline: ‘A couple of actors were chained to trees staring at cars, a ghost just walked past the car staring’. Pictured: Characters at the event

One family was also shocked to find the ‘big finale.. The freakiest looking Father Christmas’

Another parent Jenny Yaxley, from Norwich, wrote: ‘To all my local friends, don’t waste your money on the ‘drive thru Santa’s grotto’ at Taverham Hall. If you’ve booked get your money back! 

‘We arrived on time, and had to wait 1 hour and 20 minutes before we could even get in. We then with 4 slightly harassed children snail paced it through the trees. Took another hour. Every so often we’d see a delightful character like this one?! I honestly thought it seemed more Halloween than Christmas. 

‘A few ‘elves’ were at the bottom of the drive. Then the big finale.. The freakiest looking ‘Father Christmas’ ! We left with our ‘Poundland gifts’ and all cheered when we were eventually released!!

‘It’s been a long evening. Thankfully the children saw the funny side and we all declared it ‘very 2020′. We enjoyed the hot choc and cookies I made to bring with us. The highlight I think! I’m trying to forget I paid £50 for this delight of an evening. Sigh!’ 

Taverham Hall, Norwich, where the event was held in the grounds

An elf character dances alongside the trail as cars queue up moving at a ‘snail’s pace’

Another mother warned parents to ‘roll up their windows’ to avoid their children being scared by a ‘scrooge’ character. 

Harriet Christine wrote: ‘I strongly advise you rolling up your window if you see Scrooge – my son was ready to go home after that halloween experience.  

The mother added: ‘It’s a lot of money for not too much of an experience. Might be worth seeing if you can get a refund or read the reviews before going.’ 

Sarah Otter told MailOnline: ‘It was horrendous, a three hour wait. An elf threw my child’s letter to Santa on the floor Scrooge told her the reindeers have died.

‘The actors were sticking their heads through the window, there was no social Distancing.

However another attendee had a more positive time, Clare Homewood, wrote: ‘No children were scared in any of the cars we saw at 3:45pm. Father Christmas looked fine, so did Mrs Claus and all the elves.’ 

She added: ‘Not a scary elf in sight, kids loved it, cars beeping and clapping, we were all very happy.’ 

The event was organised by We Make Events, based in Norwich. 

Inflatable decorations were seen deflated at the side of the trail by one parent, who said the event was ‘very 2020’ 

MailOnline has contacted Ollie George, the producer believed to be responsible for creating the Grotto with We Make Events, for comment. 

Mr George told the Eastern Daily Press: ‘A lot is happening in Taverham in the run-up to Christmas and we are delighted so many people are visiting.

‘Equally we want to avoid traffic issues and so we are asking everyone who visits from Saturday December 19 onwards to take our preferred route.

‘This will help speed up entry to the attraction and ensure you can enjoy the festive Drive-Thru experience with minimal delay while also easing traffic flows around the area.’ 

Danny Banthorpe, an event organiser from Norwich who is not linked to the event, criticised the poor organisation of the grotto, writing: ‘To the organiser of the event at Taverham Hall school this weekend!

After a slow crawl around the site one mother said her family ‘all cheered when we were eventually released!!’

A section of the trail seen illuminated. The trail is said to feature 700 lighting effects and 3km of fairy lights

‘You have made staff & customers late for our event six miles away putting unnecessary pressure our well organised event! 

‘My wife was stuck in gridlock traffic trying to get home with a very hungry baby! You have upset our local community and my friends event next door to you!

‘How the hell have you f***ed up a second night in a row after what happened last night!

‘Shame on you if you have over sold your tickets & this has backfired on you – you are giving the events industry a bad name !

‘Would love to know how your plans were passed and see your risk assessments!’    

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