While everyone on social media seemed to be baking sourdough bread during lockdown, we struggled to make a ready mix cake, let alone design this impressive large wooden building which stands before me in the middle of Stockeld Adventure Park but that’s exactly what Estate owners Peter and Susie Grant did.
Peter described it as a lockdown “passion project,” albeit taking years in the making and costing a whopping £3.5 million.
The Playhive alone can fit 2,000 visitors per day so it is ideal for a rainy day out when your family need to burn off energy.
As a single parent of two young children aged seven and ten, I’ve experienced my fair share of soft play centres from the great to the grim.
For me a day at the soft play is a parent’s weather forecast of “it’s chucking it down outside, so we can’t even bear the soggy albeit free park.”
As an alternative, the children usually insist we spend a year’s wages on entering an indoor soft play and then spend more money on the adjoining amusement arcade machines.
They then pay little interest in the actual soft play until they laugh at mama who has accidentally wedged herself between the two foam rollers. Just to demonstrate how fun (and paid for) it is.
I am the “embarrassing mum” who normally gets told off by playcentre staff over the tannoy for using the kids monkey bars or climbing up to the top with my daughters.
The good news is that the Playhive at Stockeld Park is built for both children and adults alike, granted you need to take a child as an excuse but it’s all about learning, getting active and exploring together.
What’s even better is the 33-foot centre tower where you're encouraged to meet one another if (when) you get lost (this is one of Europe’s largest indoor playcentre after all), is semi-outdoors adding to great ventilation and much-needed fresh air.
Incidentally on losing my children I decided to climb up the tower to find them and bumped into Countryfile and former Blue Peter presenter Helen Skelton chasing her own sons up the climbing frame.
Then on reaching the top and still not finding my own children, I decided to attempt the Helter Skelter slide to get back down. As I waited patiently behind some children I asked the other older person in the queue if I was definitely allowed down it. I then realised it was the owner Peter who assured me that it was fine and he and his friend Alistair were also venturing down too.
On finding my own children were not at all vexed and had discovered you can use the helicopter and aeroplane speakers and video calls to chat to one another from afar.
During a game of hide and seek tag, I managed to explore the rest of the centre which is large, elaborate and really good fun, especially for older children, like mine (seven and ten) who are hard to prize off their screens these days.
There’s plenty of roped walkways to run down, slides, monkey bars and more elaborate play sculptures such as a spaceship, mini climbing walls, a pirate ship and watch towers.
And as a mate of mine, Barnsley and the world’s best Dad blogger turned author of Man Vs Baby Matt Coyne, said: “It is very impressive I wasn’t sure what to expect, it’s really clean there’s normally lots of sticky bits at soft play.”
This may have been the launch party but the whole site feels robust and Stockeld Park is very well kept with plenty of friendly staff, after all it can be a costly day out.
While each zone is themed beautifully around the ocean, space, jungle and air they all interconnect and add to this colourful adventure.
With the spongy flooring, little trampoline craters and the many climbing frames, strong socks are needed or you can buy some playslippers from the machine.
There’s also plenty of lockers to keep your valuables safe as well as a large open plan cafe which is all stylishly done out combining colourful seating with mural paintings of animals painted with artistic elegance.
We spent a good few hours here, which is fine if you pay for an all-access anytime pass, otherwise you choose an allotted one and a half hour slot.
I was happily exhausted by the end of our play and fairly relieved it was closing time as most of the carers I chatted to had also been struggling to round-up the kids.
On our way out we passed the magical maze on our way back to the carpark. We definitely want to return for a full day out exploring The Enchanted Forest, Spider’s Lair and outdoor adventure playground again, as well as our new favourite indoor playcentre.
There’s plenty of places to eat and drink around Stockeld Park from the Playhive’s pizzeria and pasta offering which includes affordable pasta options, places to grab a snack, coffee or to eat a picnic.
Prices per person for access to the adventure park and Playhive start from £19.50.