UK: Cadbury World, Tummy Aches and Bournville Village

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One of the buildings in the factory complex

“I’ve got a bucket, some water, a roll of kitchen towel and some poly bags for each coach.”

The Girl Guiding leaders are halfway to frazzled and it’s only 8:15am. You are unaffected by it because there is a happy wet dog saying hello to your shins and you have a paid-for ticket to the chocolate-scented purple foil-wrapped promised land. “We’re missing two rainbows.” Says a panicked voice at 8:30am. The coach was supposed to have left fifteen minutes ago.

“Are they still coming?”

“I see them! They’ve made it!”

You hang up your damp umbrella to dry and nestle yourself into one of the window seats at the front of the coach. You wonder how many of the brownies are going to vomit and whether you’ll be the one dealing with it.

“How long is it going to take?” One of the girls asks part-way into the journey. You’re now cruising in the slow lane of the motorway. The sky is iron-grey and descending as fog on the fields of brussels sprouts beside the road, and there is a horribly cold muggy quality to the air.

“About two hours, love.” One of the leaders replies.

“Two hours? Is Birmingham in London?”

“No, love.”

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A Happy Pigeon on the Cadbury Train

Thankfully, the poly bags and bucket go unused. As you wait in line to begin the tour, the rehearsed spiel of a purple-jacketed assistant is blared at you through loud speakers and a little train full of strange anthropomorphic chocolate eggs on a suspended set of rails makes perpetual loops of the ceiling.

“How long do we have to wait?”

“A few more minutes.” You say.

“How long is a few more minutes?”

“Count to a thousand and then we’ll probably be at the front of the queue.”

“1 … 2 … 3 … 4 … 5 … ”

Twenty minutes later, you’re being shuffled through fake jungles and replicas of Victorian high streets and not a single bit of chocolate has yet graced your mouth. Then, after a quick look in at the packaging and manufacturing portions of the factory, you spot a fellow girl guiding leader carrying a carrier bag full of Wispas. All is not lost. Photography and video are prohibited within the factory. Slugworth, Prodnose and Ficklegruber have ruined it for everyone- though in all honesty, there isn’t much to photograph.

Cadbury World Giftshop
Cadbury World Giftshop

Much to your surprise, the chocolate in the giftshop is not extortionately expensive; in fact, it is a little cheaper than in the shops, and there is even a dedicated room full of cheap bulk sweets and bags of misshapes. You load up with bars of yet unreleased Marvellous Creations and remind some of the girls that they have only brought £5 and therefore cannot buy that £10 notepad. At the end of the tour, the rainbows and the brownies are given an hour to exhaust themselves on the climbing equipment at the back of the factory, and you decide to walk to Bournville model village.

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The high street
The high street

Developed to house the large number of workers at the factory, Bournville village has since become ‘one of the nicest places to live in England’. As pioneers of good working conditions, including the implementation of one of the first pension schemes and a five and a half day working week (which the factory tour was eager to highlight), the Cadbury family built large houses with gardens for their workers and encouraged them to take up sports.  Land was purchased to create cricket and football pitches, swimming baths were built and all were available free of cost. Bournville is a nice example of the quaint British country village. There are a few places to buy picnic supplies, and the carillon provides a fitting soundtrack.

I wish my local bank was this pretty
I wish my local bank was this pretty

Lloyds Bank The carillon is made up of a few dozen church bells and is complex enough to be able to play classical music. There are demonstrations several times a week and the public are welcome to watch.

The carillon, as seen from the factory grounds
The carillon, as seen from the factory grounds
The Carillon
The Carillon a little closer

Bournville Green

Selly Manor
Selly Manor, a 15th century house, open to visitors on weekdays.

The coach will depart for London at 4pm. You leave the village at 3:30pm to rejoin the group.

“What’s that you’ve got there?” You ask one of the girls. She’s playing with a personalised keychain torch. “Did you manage to find your name?”

“No.”

“Did you pick one with your initial on it then?”

“I just picked my favourite name.” She says sheepishly.

You take a look. “I think Lisa is one of my favourite names too.” You say.

I would like to know why this tank is shaped like that
I found out why the truck is shaped this way- to allow the syrup to drain better. Thanks Jonathan!
Cadbury Factory
Entrance to Biscuit Store

The sun is shining and your umbrella has dried by the time you return to London. The leader who organised the trip swoops in to give you a thank you kiss, right as your face stretches into a yawn.

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20 comments

  1. Were there Oompa Loompas, and did you notice a Wonkevator? 😉 The Cadbury’s we get here in the States are not quite as good as those over by you. I’ll need to get back to the U.K. one of these days for the real deal.

    • I remember buying a Creme Egg in New York and being unable to finish it.. and Hershey’s tasted like soap! (I know, I know- it’s not Cadbury’s).

      Butterfingers are amazing though. Shame they are 3x the price over here.

      And as for Oompa Loompas.. I did see one orange factory worker, but I think it may have been fake tan.

  2. I’m planning on (maybe, perhaps, crossed fingers!) visiting England next year, and after reading this post, I think i’ll be putting Bournville on my list of places to see and drag my London dwelling friends to 🙂

    • Bournville village really is lovely, and a proper ‘English village’ too.. tons of perfect picnic spots, cricket being played on the green, a canal, traditional celebrations like May Day..

      No pubs, mind.

      I also think the volume of visitors it gets off the back of Cadbury World means they’re more used to foreigners than your average English village. My Indian friend and I were openly stared at when we passed through a small town in the Norfolk, which was not an experience I particularly relished.

  3. Actually, Hershey does make a Special Dark chocolate that’s pretty good, so I usually go with that choice when I see them. Other than that, I usually look for the better European chocolates in the International Food section of my grocery store (Wegmans). When I have some extra cash, I usually go for some mile chocolate covered Hob Nobs.

    I also love Petit Ecolier dark chocolate covered biscuits..

    • My grandma used to have a constant stock of biscuits that were almost identical to Petit Ecolier. We’d take a pack and go look at the ponies in the field near her house 🙂

  4. THAT tank truck is shaped like that…to encourage the thick sweet fluid to drain toward the middle and out the drain spout. They actually weld the two halves at a certain angle to encourage this. Great tour! We have a number of older mill villages here across the pond…none quite as well-preserved or fancy!

  5. Lana,

    We went years ago (pre American take-over) and were not that impressed.

    I remember hearing about how Cadbury treated his staff, and how he geared the thing up for mass production. That bit was really interesting.

    So it was a bit of a let down when there virtually no visibility of how things are produced now.

    Your trip picked up on the Bournville Village, and that looks like it may have been the best part.

    Very good article.

    Stephen

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