Tuesday, 16 April 2013
Bournville and Cadbury World
I've grown up with Cadbury's and, although they don't produce my favourite chocolate, the brand does have quite an emotional effect on me. I recently read Deborah Cadbury's revealing book The Chocolate Wars about the history of the chocolate industry and the key families involved who were in many cases Quakers (eg Rowntree, Fry, Hershey, as well as Cadbury) and committed to social welfare. The harsh irony of Kraft's takeover of Cadbury in 2010 is not lost in the book which is a fascinating read. The Cadburys, like several other powerful Victorian industrialists built model villages for their workers with the aim of improving their living conditions (think of William Lever's Port Sunlight and Titus Salt's Saltaire near Bradford) and they're attractive places to visit, particularly, if like me, you're interested in social history.
During the February half term 6 year old daughter Alice and I headed to Bournville and Cadbury World by train with an old friend and her son. We had to change at Birmingham New Street for a local train to Bournville – a bit chaotic, but once on the second train we were at our destination in a few minutes. In contrast to central Birmingham, Bournville has a sedate tranquility, and the walk from the station to Cadbury World took us past the company's offices and recreation ground (with cute half timbered pavilion). It was like strolling through a university campus.
On reaching the Cadbury World visitor centre our children were able to let off steam outside in the large play area while we waited for our admission slot. The staff could not have been more friendly or helpful, explaining what to expect from your visit. Once inside, the tour explains where chocolate comes from, how chocolate and the individual products are made, as well as outlining the history of Cadbury's. It's a multi-media experience, using some high-tec devises, as well as actors physically bringing things to life. As well as it being a visitor facility, you do often see some real action as a large area within the factory is covered in the tour, although on our visit, things were a bit quiet as they were between packaging runs (but we did see some great quirky special orders awaiting collection – see the chocolate teapot below). However, there is something to appeal to children of all ages and the crowds are effectively managed throughout the tour, reducing queuing times. They hand out a lot of chocolate, too, as well as give you the chance to stock up in the shop at the end of the tour. Thankfully my daughter doesn't have much of a sweet tooth, so we've still got some complimentary Crunchy Bars and Curly Wurlies squirrelled away.
It's quite a full visit and, after three hours or so, our friends dashed off to catch the return train to London. However, Alice and I were staying overnight in Birmingham so had time to take a look at Bournville village as the sun was going down. It's a distinctively pretty place with the kind of utopian 'garden city' feel that you might expect (and quite photogenic) and offers a timely reminder of the Quaker approach to business. Cadbury might not make the best chocolate, but it's a great story.
Family ticket: £45.80 (two adults and two children)