Walking through a wood at night isn’t an obvious crowd-pleaser but the Enchanted Christmas light show at Westonbirt is different. In fact, it’s become so popular this year sees advanced booking only and timed tickets.
The annual display is now in its 20th year and for many families seeing hundreds of lights transforming the National Arboretum is a traditional start to their Christmas.
Last year, more than 35,000 people visited the 12-day event, which runs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings from the end of November until just before Christmas.
It’s the increasingly popularity that has led to the change in ticketing, explains arboretum spokeswoman Emily Pryor.
“We’re striving always to improve the quality of visitors’ experience. We want it to be the best we can give.”
As a result, there will no longer be the option to pay at the gate and all tickets to the route will be issued in one-hour time slots, although people can enter the arboretum any time after 5pm to visit the restaurant and shop.
And Emily stresses that once on the illuminated trail there is no pressure to get around in a given time.
“Visitors can take as long as they need,” she says.
As well as new arrangements for tickets, the display in the Enchanted Christmas has also seen some changes with a complete overhaul of the equipment used to ensure an even brighter and more dazzling show.
This includes a more powerful machine to pump bubbles out into one part of the trail where they will be picked out by UV lights.
“It looks quite amazing in the dark,” says Emily.
Meanwhile, an ‘elf village’ for Santa’s helpers will have tiny houses lit up among the trees, while Father Christmas – dressed in the original, traditional green – will be taking Christmas requests and Mrs Christmas will be telling stories.
Although the one-mile trail follows a different route through the Old Arboretum each year, the concept remains the same. Lights in every shade from red, blue and white to green, purple and orange transform Westonbirt’s trees, picking out twisted limbs, fissures in bark or the graceful shape of weeping specimens.
Some trees are lit with a steady spotlight, others are part of an ever-changing display as lights go on and off with timers.
Among the most popular elements are those that involve audience participation. The ‘singing tree’ has lights that are sound sensitive and visitors are encouraged to sing or shout to illuminate it. Elsewhere, a sequence of lights is triggered by visitors beating on drums.
And there is the chance to light up the Enchanted Christmas with pedal power by riding on a bicycle.
“It’s a huge hit with kids.”
There’s even a touch of disco with a huge mirror ball that reflects back onto the trees.
• The Enchanted Christmas opens on Friday November 25 and runs on every Friday, Saturday and Sunday until Sunday December 18th.
• The trail is pushchair and wheelchair friendly. Stout shoes, warm clothing and a torch are recommended.
• For more details and booking information, visit Westonbirt
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