REVIEW: Statfold Barn Railway (Christmas 2022)

Discover why Statfold Barn Railway, Tamworth, might just have the UK's most authentic Santa – see why we're believers!

Max and Mia beside Father Christmas in a red suit, seated on a throne-like chair, sharing a joyful moment together.
Max and Mia sharing a moment with the attentive Father Christmas at Statfold.

AD/ Our Festive Adventure at Statfold Barn Railway! 🚂✨

On December 17th, 2022, we set out on our annual festive pilgrimage to one of our all-time family favourites - the enchanting Statfold Barn Railway, nestled near Tamworth in the heart of Staffordshire. We love it that much there that this visit marked our third consecutive annual outing.

Joe in his Coca-Cola Christmas jumper and scarf, with Mia and Max in festive red and navy coats, seated in front of a tinsel-lined train window overlooking green fields on their North Pole journey.
Joe, Mia, and Max relishing their North Pole-bound festive train journey.

Bundled Up and Ready for Festive Fun! 🎄🧣

Wrapped snugly in our festive attire, we took a brief stroll from the car park to discover a waiting room twinkling with festive lights and brimming with activities. As we "checked in," we were handed our North Pole passports. Our mission? To collect stamps from every magical activity post our whimsical train ride to the North Pole.

But first, a little indulgence! We were treated to some warming complimentary mulled wine and a savoury mince pie. Meanwhile, the kids were engrossed in the animated tales of The Grinch. All this, as we eagerly awaited our turn to step into the magical realm at our designated time slot.

Holly in red festive hat and coat, looking into the distance.
Holly preparing for the Statfold festivities.

Elves in Action: A Festive Prelude! 🎅✏️

Following a sprightly call-out from a jovial Elf, those of us in our time slot were ushered into another spacious room adorned with large circular tables. Here, the kids eagerly grabbed pencils and papers, their faces lighting up as they penned down their heartfelt wishes to Santa.

But the magic didn't stop there! This room was also our introduction to the enchanting world of Elf etiquettes. Through a captivating and interactive session, the team of Elves not only taught us the proper way to greet their kind, but also ensured everyone, young and old, was thoroughly immersed and engaged. A truly heartwarming preamble to our North Pole adventure!

Max in a fairisle bobble hat and navy coat, contemplating as he writes to Father Christmas.
Max deep in thought while writing his letter to Father Christmas.

All Aboard the Magical Steam Train! 🚂✨

The moment had arrived for us to line up at the platform, eager anticipation palpable in the air. For Max, this is always the highlight—he's utterly train-obsessed! The joy in his eyes as the train chugs into the station is priceless. Even under the sun, the train's radiant lights are evident. But we'd strategically chosen a late afternoon slot; past experiences taught us how surreal and beautiful the train looks when bathed in the evening's glow. Without hesitation, we made a beeline for the end carriage, ready to embark on our enchanting journey to the North Pole.

Green train engine pulling brown carriages of the North Pole Express, illuminated by multicoloured twinkling lights, arriving at the station.
The North Pole Express, adorned with multicoloured twinkling lights, arrives at the station for its passengers.

A Whistle-stop Journey to the North Pole! 🚂🎶

Our train journey was a brief but enchanting 10-15 minutes, circling along a looped track. As we travelled, heartwarming Christmas melodies filled the air, urging us all to join in.

However, it's essential to clarify: while the train ambiance is central to the experience, this isn't your typical prolonged train ride adventure. Our journey was solely to the North Pole, without a return trip as was offered in past years. So while the train setting sets the stage, it's the magical North Pole experience that truly shines!

Max and Mia in navy and red festive jackets, looking at the camera sideways on, enjoying melodies aboard the North Pole Express, with Mia in the foreground.
Max and Mia delighting in festive melodies on the North Pole Express.

Magical Moments at the North Pole Station! ❄️🎅

Upon our arrival at the North Pole Station, we were greeted with a delightful snowy surprise! Although it was just artificial foam snow, the sheer joy it brought to the kids was palpable, as their giddy squeals filled the air while alighting from the train.

One of the first wonders we encountered was a trio of animatronic reindeer serenading us with their melodies. A big red button beckoned visitors to set them in a singing motion.

As seasoned visitors, we strategically decided to make a beeline for Santa, skipping some of the other attractions to minimise our waiting time. Our daughter Mia, who's autistic and non-verbal, can find long waits challenging. She also struggles to convey her feelings to us.

On our swift journey to Santa, we stumbled upon the "Magic Talking Postbox." Here, we seized the chance to send off the kids' letters—a delightful new feature this year!

Fortune smiled upon us that day, as the queue to see Santa was surprisingly short. In just about five minutes, we found ourselves at its front. We were welcomed by a compassionate Elf, to whom we explained Mia's hidden disabilities, especially her fear of camera flashes. We kindly requested no professional photos this year. Her understanding and sensitivity were commendable, as she promptly communicated our concerns to another Elf. Moments later, we were led down a whimsically decorated path to Santa's enchanting cabin abode.

Max placing a letter into a Royal Mail-styled red postbox with large eyes, the letter slot resembling its mouth, addressed to Father Christmas.
Max dropping his letter into the magical talking postbox for Father Christmas.

A Truly Magical Encounter with Santa 🎅✨

Even though this was our third rendezvous at the North Pole, the sight that greeted us still evoked a profound sense of wonder. There he was - the Santa of every child's fantasy, as authentic and enchanting as ever. His interactions with the children were heartwarmingly genuine.

Admittedly, his voice was gentle and hushed, a bit challenging for my adult ears. But to Max and Mia, it was as if the whole world had gone silent, their attention riveted on his every word.

Our little Holly, however, is going through a phase where Santa seems a tad intimidating, so she decided to sit this one out. Here's hoping next year will be her year!

Max chatted away, sharing both his and Mia's Christmas wishes. The time they spent capturing moments together was special, made even more touching when Santa communicated with Mia using some basic sign language. It melted our hearts.

Our adventure then led us to a room filled with toys, where each child gleefully selected a treasure to take home.

Exiting that magical space, we found ourselves amidst a spectacular display of vintage train carriages, all showcased in the grand roundhouse adjacent to the turntable. This section is always Max's playground, and he took in every detail with glee. For anyone with even a hint of passion for trains, young or old, this is an absolute must-visit.

Santa, in sharp focus, holds Mia's hands and gazes into her eyes. Side profile shot with Mia, in the foreground, slightly blurred.
Father Christmas warmly interacting with Mia, showering her with attention.

Savouring the Magic, One Activity at a Time 🌟

Having met Santa, we decided to take a more leisurely pace and immerse ourselves in the festive activities we had breezed past earlier.

Venturing back to the outdoor section, our first stop was the reindeer food-making station. Presented with a charming bag and a whimsical twisty tag, we settled at a table of our choosing. Before us lay an array of glass jars filled with delightful ingredients, each accompanied by instructions tailored for every one of Santa's trusty reindeer. With enthusiasm bubbling over, we crafted meals for Rudolph, Dasher, and Prancer. The step-by-step guide was easy to follow, and watching the kids smile away was the cherry on top.

Max, in sharp focus in the background, fills his reindeer bag with food. Foreground shows large jars containing various types of reindeer food.
Max happily scooping food into his reindeer bag from the available jars.

Sprinkles, Icing, and Gingerbread with Mrs. Claus! 🍪🎄

Our next stop was a delightful gingerbread decorating session led by none other than Mrs. Claus - not me - no, Statfold's very own! Nestled in another quaint building within the courtyard, this activity was brimming with festive warmth. Each child was handed a gingerbread tree, accompanied by a bag bursting with colourful sprinkles and candies. With tubes of icing adorning every table, they dove into their creative endeavours with sheer delight. Joe and I enjoyed this activity just as much as the little ones did. Engaging with Mrs. Claus was truly special - she felt as genuine and heartwarming as the stories depict.

Mia using a black icing tube to decorate her Christmas tree biscuit as Holly observes closely, all under a red-purple tinted lighting.
Mia adorning her Christmas tree biscuit with gel pens, while Holly watches intently.

Discovering the Courtyard’s Wonders and Indoor Delights 🚂🍭

The courtyard housed a delightful array of activities. There was a charming mini train ride, reminiscent of those found at funfairs, tailored just for the tiny tots (£2.50 a ride). Diggers awaited, allowing children to playfully excavate gravel. Sweet treats beckoned from a vendor, and cosy train cabins invited visitors to pen special messages, later to be hung on the wishing trees.

Our adventure then took us back indoors to explore more. This year, the gentle chair swing ride has found its place inside. Although Max and Mia have outgrown it and our unpredictable Holly might not have found it her cup of tea, it's a lovely inclusion for younger visitors. Other attractions included face painting, a serenading musical owl, and a charming bar and café. The café boasted an appealing menu—complete with child-friendly and festive options. But a word to the wise: their delicacies come with a slightly upscale price tag, so you might want to plan your meals accordingly, either before or after your visit to Statfold.

The indoor space also featured a brand-new soft play area. Though we'd reserved a slot, we didn't venture in, so I can't offer insights on that experience.

Venturing up to the second floor, we were greeted by a serene space showcasing vintage engines and train-themed relics. It was the perfect tranquil spot, offering a breather from the vibrant festivities downstairs.

Having soaked in all the wonders, we concluded our visit and headed home. To put a cherry on top of our day, we indulged the kids with a quick McDonald's treat, a delightful end to our memorable outing.

Max, puffing his cheeks, diligently shovels gravel in a large sandbox-like area. Two children's play excavators are visible in the background.
Max working diligently, moving gravel with a shovel.

Another Year, Another Magical Experience at Statfold 🎄✨

This might be our third dance with Statfold's festive offerings, but every year brings its own charm. While our inaugural year still holds a special place in our hearts, primarily due to the emphasis on the train journey, this year's setup had its own unique allure, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

A tad more signage would have been handy, as pinpointing each activity's location wasn't always intuitive. It's a minor hiccup, and one that newcomers might feel more acutely. However, that tiny oversight doesn't take away from the sheer magic of the afternoon.

And oh, let's talk about the man of the hour: Santa. Every year, Statfold's Santa has been an absolute delight, embodying the spirit and authenticity that make kids—and let's admit, adults too—gaze in wonder.

Year after year, Statfold solidifies its place in our family's Christmas traditions. I earnestly hope this annual pilgrimage continues as long as our kids hold onto their sense of belief.

A big shoutout to the generous souls at Statfold for gifting us the tickets for today's escapade. Immense gratitude to the diligent staff and organisers who craft this enchanting experience year after year. The countdown for our next visit has already begun!

Close-up of Holly at North Pole Station, her big brown eyes bulging in wonder as she's mesmerised by the falling snow.
Holly, captivated by the falling snow at North Pole Station.