Newest Review: ... that you do not see on the high Street. One customer had a candle made whilst he waited in 'African colours'. We all watched the candle mak... more
I won't be waxing lyrical about this place!
Cheshire Candle Workshops
Member Name: Darkstar101
Cheshire Candle Workshops
Advantages: You can have a go at making your own candle, offers a good selection of candle related goods.
Disadvantages: Candlemaking sessions are rushed, car park is awful, upper craft floor is not disabled friendly
As we were nearing the end of the school holidays and I would probably have slit my wrists if I had to watch another episode of Spongebob Squarepants, I was determined to drag the kids out of the house away from the TV with a view to going somewhere different.
After much deliberation, I eventually decided on a trip out to Cheshire Candle Workshops because it wasn't too far for us to travel, we hadn't been there before and if it had turned out to be lousy, there was always the nearby Cheshire Ice Cream Farm for back up.
Situated in the beautiful Cheshire countryside not too far from the city of Chester, the Candle Workshops are accessible from the A49, A51 and A534. Follow the brown Tourist signs for Candle Workshops or type CH3 9PF into your Sat. Nav. You do travel down lots of narrow winding country lanes, sometimes feeling as though you've missed the turn off, but be patient and you will get there. One important thing to note is the final turn-off into the car park is located on a blind bend, remember this particularly when you are leaving because it is very difficult to see if there is any oncoming traffic.
The Workshop is open all year round, seven days a week from 10am-5pm including Sundays and Bank Holidays.
Car Parking and entrance to the site is free and there are several car and coach parking spaces on a dusty, gravelly potholed surface. We were able to find a space quite easily but I would imagine on a sunny Sunday afternoon or Bank Holiday Monday it could be quite a fight. On the day of our visit there were a few torrential downpours which turned the dust bowl into a quagmire within a matter of minutes. If there is any message here it is don't travel in a brand spanking new car and do wear sensible shoes. I would recommend that disabled visitors and people with pushchairs park as close to the main entranceas possible to avoid the bulk of this uneven surface.
Access and facilities
The ground floor of the Candle Workshops is ramped to facilitate disabled and pushchair access. The upper floor as far as I could see was reached by a flight of wooden stairs and access for disabled was not obvious. It is possible there was a hidden elevator or something, but I didn't notice it. Assuming access to the upper floor is possible for wheelchair bound people, movement around the floorspace would be very tricky as the gangways and aisles between the displays and gondolas was very narrow. Movement around the ground floor seemed relatively unrestricted in comparison as the main area is much more open-plan. Toilets and baby changing facilities are available, but I can't really comment on them because we didn't use them.
The Make It Yourself Workshop
On the day of our visit, there was a large queue for this activity, which I was told was typical most days. The cost of making your own candle is £1.40, which is payable to the cashier just outside the DIY candle area. Upon payment you are presented with a small home made laminated ticket and instructed to put on an apron or tabard from the coatpegs hanging in the corner of the messy area. These are difficult to access during busy periods and would be better located adjacent to the cashier.
Making your candle
Once you have donned your protective apron you are invited to gather around a relatively small workbench which accommodates about 12 people at a time. A member of staff them gives a short presentation on the subject of wax and candles followed by a quick demonstration. Each person is then give a length of pre-treated candle wick which is held at the mid-point and dipped into the uncoloured wax. Once it is removed from the melted wax, the excess is allowed to drip back into the wells and the wick is dipped into cold water. This process is repeated about 10 times until each end of the wick looks like a thin candle. At this stage each end of the wick may be dipped in different coloured waxes using the same procedure outlined above; the only difference being colouring only requires 2 or 3 dips. Whilst still warm and maleable, the two newly formed coloured candles may be twisted together to make a single two coloured candle. The whole thing is then dipped in clear sealing wax and put into a tub of cold water to cool down before the finished article is hung to dry on a hook for collection 15 minutes later. Take care to note which number hook your candle is on, because when you go back later, it looks pretty much the same as everyone elses creations.
Although my children enjoyed making their candles, I felt that the work area needed to be bigger to accommodate the number of people and I also felt that the staff were a little pushy, rushing the smaller children to progress through each stage in order to keep the queue moving. Although candle making isn't rocket science, the staff cannot possibly expect a six year old to progress through the activity as quickly as an adult, and should refrain from chastising the child for taking their time. I felt as though the member of staff in charge of this area effectively took over the projects of the smaller tots just to hurry them to the end point and out of the workshop to let the next lot of would be candle makers into the somewhat restricted space. Talk about we've had your money, so get lost wasn't in it. Whilst I can genuinely appreciate they are running a business, in my opinion it is things like good customer rapport and service that promote repeat custom, thus benefitting the business in the long term. In my view, this blatant hurried throughput of customers has left my opinion somewhat tarnished.
The ground floor
Apart from the DIY candle making area, the majority of the ground floor is a candle and candle accessories showroom. Candles are available in all colours, shapes sizes and aromas complete with or without holders, candelabra and dishes of all shapes and sizes. The choice is pretty much endless.
There is also a small section which sells specially shaped and scented soap and bath products. Some of the soaps are a work of art. And come in all shapes, sizes and prices starting at around £1 for a small piece, something to suit every budget. Not only do these soaps look fantastic but they smell great too. I bought a "slice" of soap which resembles the cross section of a Bakewell tart, it is visually stunning and actually smells of almonds. I would recommend a visit to this area if you are looking for an unusual, unique gift. Also available in this area are boxes of bath bombs which are fashioned and presented like a box of luxury chocolates. These aren't cheap ranging from £5.99 for a box of six small bombs up to £11.99 for a larger box but they are novel and would make a great gift.
A tiny area of the ground floor houses a small collection of restored vintage arcade games which children can play on if they purchase tokens from the booth at the entrance to this area.
Also on the ground floor there is a tired looking café area where basic hot and cold meals, snacks and beverages may be purchased at captive audience inflated prices of course. We didn't bother eating here because it didn't look that great and I begrudge spending money on food for the kids to leave. When we left we went to the Ice Cream Farm a couple of miles down the road and ate there instead.
The Upper Floor
Accessed via a wooden staircase, the upper floor was in my opinion a claustrophobe's nightmare. There was so much stuff up there you could hardly move without risking knocking something off a shelf. The majority of the floorspace is devoted to the promotion of mass produced Taiwanese or Chinese c**p being masqueraded under the banner of "crafts". Admittedly some of the more tasteful items on display were of decent quality but as you might expect, they were ridiculously overpriced. In addition to the plethora of tat occupying valuable floorspace were a number of DIY craft stalls where for around £1.50 a time children could make their own badges and other bits and pieces. I know £1.50 per activity doesn't sound much, but multiply this out by the number of children you have in tow and the outlay really does mount up. I felt these activities didn't really offer good value for money.
If you are in the area then Cheshire Candle Workshops is certainly worth a quick visit. You will not be able to spend a whole day there, in fact you may struggle to pass more than an hour or so, but it is only a couple of miles from the Ice Cream Farm which makes a worthy tie-in. The Candle Workshop offers an excellent selection of candle related products (obviously) and I was impressed by the soap and bath bomb gift ideas. From a child's perspective, the DIY candle section offers the opportunity to try something new and creative, but I did feel an overriding sense of being rushed by the staff in a bid to keep the queues down. Not a bad little trip out, but as my old school teacher used to say "could do better".
Summary: OK for a short trip out if you live locally but not worthy of a special, lengthy journey.
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