Monkey Puzzle Maldon
Monkey puzzle. With it’s trading estate parking, massive square footage and brightly muralled walls, the kiddy play centre on the outskirts of Maldon should have everything to offer parents and children alike. So why is it that I’m beginning to detest coming here?
With an on-site restaurant and even a bar, not to mention the sister companies offering roller skating and bowling, the whole Madison Heights complex which hosts it is always a busy area.
Yet there are a few reasons why I dislike the place, and I’m happy to list them. Partly because I am sat in here at the moment, and am slightly vexed, and partly in the hope that someone from the company stumbles upon this and listens.
First. 1999 called. They want their lack of wi-fi internet connection back, please. I find it inexplicable in an age where mobile phones are set to get 4G, which is faster than most broadband speeds a few years ago, that a company like this wouldn’t offer WiFi.
I would honestly happily subscribe to an email list, offer up personal details or – and I should perhaps whisper this – paying a modest price for it. As it is, I’m relying on a dodgy 3G connection on my phone, with a rapidly reducing battery, to keep me sane as my kids burn off their energy.
Second. 1999 called. They want their layout and carpet back. Yes, I appreciate I’ve opened two paragraphs with the same jibe, but as I sit here, at a table in a dark corner wedged between to soft play corridors, I can see two grimy carpets, in different colours, which have vast swathes of black tape holding them together and covering what I suspect are various rips.
It’s been this way for as long as I can remember, and I have been coming here for at least seven or eight years to my memory. It’s a big place. I understand that it won’t be cheap to recarpet, but consider it an investment.
Third. Seating. After having to sit on a plastic garden chair for the first fifteen minutes of today’s visit, I am now luxuriously basking in the glory of having found a wooden seat and – wait for it – a table!
Yes, the shit-eating grin that is currently permafixed to my face is simply due to a chair that doesn’t bend when even the lightest of children sits on it and actually having a table that means we don’t have to place drinks on the floor and run the risk of someone kicking the bloody things over.
You must know how popular this place gets at busy times. I can see space for more tables and chairs. Sort it out!
Fourth. The equipment. Eight years I said I’d been coming here. In that time, I’ve known the bouncy castle once, which I suspect was due to the imminent death of the old one.
Oh, and an inflatable slide was installed at the far side of the room, running from top floor to bottom, after spending several years being a taped off area. Other than that the physical frames of the various equipment haven’t moved, changed or been improved in that time, other than a possible recovering which I guess has taken place a few times.
Fifth. The lighting. I’ve mentioned already that I’m sat in the shadows. This isn’t an exaggeration. As some point in the past, a table and chairs were thrust here, with seemingly little thought for the fact that the overhead light is blocked by the structure that the table is next to.
Sixth. The twirly slides. I know that the equipment isn’t designed for adults, but let’s be honest, we’ve all had a sneaky go. These two plastic slides, which again go from top floor to bottom, and are covered in a thick layer of dust being so out of reach, are bolted together in sections.
For some reason, as you slide down the slides, not only do you feel every bloody segment on your backside as you slide down with a donk-donk-donk sound accompanying every bruise-leaving segment, but they’ve cunningly managed to make it so that a static shock shoots through you too.
As you arrive at the bottom of the slide, tumbling into a small ball pit, you look and feel shell-shocked and your kids wonder you then refuse any further attempts to get you to play.
Roller skating next door at Madison Heights - Is it any better? Read about roller skating at Madison Heights here.
Seventh. A cup of tea will set you back a small fortune. £1.10 for a cup, to be precise. A mug of tea will set you back slightly more at £1.50. I know I am a man and, therefore, prone to fibbing about size, but trust me, the portions are tiny. I drank my tea so quick primarily because I thought it may evaporate before reaching my mouth.
Not only that but I poured a cup of tea into an empty mug to see if there was much difference in quantity, and I feel a bit cheated at the extra 40p I paid out for a mug of the stuff. Also, due to the inadequate seating, and subsequent tables being placed any and everywhere, each trip back from the tea bar is hazardous.
Rogue plastic balls are in the way as you make your way back to where you’ve sat. Children run amok as you carry piping hot drinks back, and woe betide you find one of the small pieces of carpet that aren’t taped down.
Eighth. The staff. I’m sure I’ve touched on this before. Ever heard the phrase “Nothing is too much trouble”? This place is the opposite. The staff, in their standard uniform of orange polo shirts, all varying shades of orange, are on the whole rubbish. Ask for a cup of tea, and you’ll be met with huffs and puffs.
Dare to request that a table be wiped down or cleared up and it’s as though you’ve urinated on the open casket of a recently deceased relative. If you don’t want to serve the public, find a job in an office somewhere. This is driven home even more when you go to somewhere like Kids and Koffee in Chelmsford, where the staff seem to do everything they can to make the visit a good one.
Bizarrely, the venue has posters all over the walls boasting that it has been voted “WINNER – Best indoor play area in Essex” by Primary Times. That’s a Hell of a boast. Essex is a big place, and I’d be hard pushed to describe Monkey Puzzle as the best indoor play area in Madison Heights, despite it being the only place that would qualify for that description. That said, the same piece also goes on to name PartyMan World in Basildon as the best party venue, and I’m no fan of that, either.
In summary, I would heartily recommend Monkey Puzzle. To my enemies. For anyone that I really dislike. Or if I’m in a crappy mood. I come here because the kids enjoy it, but no other reason. It costs a pretty penny to get in (£6.25 per child over 5 years of age), the drinks are overpriced, as is the food, and the place is in need of a bloody good scrub and some modernisation. I’ll visit here in the future, if only because the kids will inevitably beg to come here again sooner or later, but it’ll be a long time coming, hopefully.
A big thank you goes to my eldest daughter who helped take the photos.
Since writing this article, I took a look back through the archives and found that I had indeed blogged about being here before, and the original review was equally as scathing.