25 years of family fun at Crealy

The rollercoaster ride is a popular attraction at the park

The rollercoaster ride is a popular attraction at the park - Credit: Archant

As Exeter’s Crealy Adventure Park turns 25, GEMMA CLAPP looks at how the park has changed and chats to owners Chris and Katie Down about their plans for the future

Animals are still a big part of Crealy's success

Animals are still a big part of Crealy's success - Credit: Richard Austin

It’s hard to remember a time without Crealy Adventure Park. Over the past 25 years it has become a key part of the local tourism industry and has provided families from all over Devon, and further afield, with an exciting, jam-packed day out.

Chris and Katie Down on Crealy's carousel

Chris and Katie Down on Crealy's carousel - Credit: Archant

Rides, indoor playzones and animals await, and with over 60 attractions to explore, plus many more on the way, no two visits are the same, inspiring families to come back again and again.

But the park hasn’t always been the attraction-filled space we know it as today. In the quarter of a century it’s been open, Crealy has transformed from a dairy parlour surrounded by a staggering 100 acres of land to one of the county’s biggest attractions.

“We started in 1989 trying to interpret modern farming,” explains owner and Managing Director, Chris Down, whose family has a strong farming background.

“We had a dairy parlour which, at the time, was state of the art. Being close to Exeter and just two minutes from the motorway, we saw an opportunity to have viewing galleries above the parlour. We realised we could educate people while at the same time they could have a lot of fun with admittedly quite simple playing grounds outside.”

Simple is one word you can’t use to describe the playgrounds and rides on the at the park today. As demand grew, Crealy slowly added attractions, trying to give visitors exactly what they wanted from a family fun park. With rollercoasters, log flumes, indoor playzones, swinging pirate ships and go-kart racing to name just a few, there is plenty of fun to be had, while the animal zone still keeps true to Crealy’s roots.

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“There’s definitely more than one day’s worth of activity, which is great; there’s no ‘typical’ day at Crealy as there’s so much to see and do,” says owner Katie Down.

“If I’m here with my older two children (aged seven and five), we’ll go on all the big rides, whereas if I’ve got my youngest with me (aged three), we might go and see the animals. When the weather’s good we will go down to the bridges or play in the soap zone. You can literally have four or five very different days.”

Speaking of the children, Katie and Chris say they have the perfect trio to give their seal of approval on rides and ideas. “They certainly tell us what they want!” Katie laughs.

One new attraction to pass the Down children test is the Dino Jeeps, which was set to open shortly after we went to print in early May. Here kids will see animatronic dinosaurs ‘roaming’ the area and will get the chance to excavate fossils. “It’s very Jurassic Park,” says Katie.

The Dino Jeeps area is part of a £1million investment Crealy announced earlier this year. This investment has already seen the new Atlantis area open in February half term, which houses four new rides, an indoor play area and a coffee shop for the adults to sit and relax. The Flying Machine ride also opened at Easter, which proved a roaring success with visiting children.

The catering areas have also been upgraded and more undercover seating has been added to provide shelter from those unfortunately all too frequent showers.

“We’re making sure we’re listening to the customers and adding the things that are important to them,” explains Chris. “We’ve recently added a reviews section to our website, so we get lots of amazing feedback from that that we try to work with.”

“We had a comment on our website the other night that said ‘We’ve been here for the fourth day running’ and you just think, how much energy do these people have?” exclaims Chris. “But it’s great that we can offer something that is such good value for money.”

One thing that proves popular is the seven day pass – when you buy a ticket to enter Crealy you can get it validated, meaning you can enter the park again within seven days for free.

A vital key to Crealy’s success in the local community is their dedication to sourcing local produce. The burgers and other food on offer at Crealy’s eateries are mostly sourced in Devon.

“We are incredibly lucky being so well regarded in the community and we try hard to do what we can. Sourcing locally is really important to us,” explains Chris.

“We are – Katie and I – just a family with three children and farming is our background, and we just want to be part of the community. We want to do the best that we can in the area.

“If you go out there today, you see people laughing and smiling and its fantastic, isn’t it? It’s infectious.”

New visiting hours

Crealy’s new visiting hours will help you make the most of the exciting attractions on offer. Rather than closing on weekdays throughout the winter, the park has recently announced that it will now be open 361 days a year.

The top area of the park – including the Adventure Zone, Atlantis, the animals and the catering – will now stay open during the week in winter months, with the whole park opening on weekends.

“It’s great because members, and other guests, can just pop in for a couple of hours after school for a fun treat, or if your kids are too young to go to school you can bring them to play during the day without worrying they’ll get knocked over by the big kids,” explains Katie.