Take note of this name if you ever dream of England: Stoke-on-Trent. This amazing area known as “The Potteries” is where you might find the birthplace of some of the very dishes in your cupboards at home. We happened to be driving through on our recent trip to England and we needed a place to stop for lunch but if I could go back in time I would IMMEDIATELY have tried to stay here overnight. I actually think I could spend days in this city exploring. We only spent an afternoon here, but I was suprised at how much my whole family enjoyed our visit to the Wedgwood factory and we even found wild-roaming MONKEYS in England too!
Because we only had a short time to visit, I really wanted to see a factory that epitomized what pottery in England would mean to me when I went back home. I had no idea how long the boys in my family could handle pottery factories and I knew we had a long drive ahead of us. Thankfully because we have a T-mobile plan (I switched to T-Mobile in December and have LOVED my phone plan for travel in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and England) I had unlimited data in England and it was easy to search places to visit while we drove. I found a site that talked about the ceramics trail and decided we would eat at the World of Wedgwood before heading to London where we were staying that night. (Stoke-on-Trent is about a 3 hour drive from London and this was an incredibly hard decision because there were so many intriguing pottery factories to choose from!)
I am so glad we stopped where we did. Along our way to the World of Wedgwood, I noticed a sign that read “MONKEY FOREST” and I filed that in the back of my mind and this teeny sign totally changed my life forever.
We arrived at the Wedgwood factory and it was stunning. I loved the tea garden play area for the kids and if we weren’t so hungry or pressed for time we would have stopped to play outside for a while. But we headed into the restaurant and found out even the kids’ meals here were superb-there were lots of choices for vegetarian and gluten-free too. There was even a beautiful and contained play area in the restaurant for young kids. This is the type of place I would spend a lot of time in if it was in Seattle. We were so enamoured that we decided to forgo our original plan of heading straight to London after lunch and spent the whole day in Stoke-on-Trent.
We wanted to see the factory so we went on a self-guided tour. I was suprised at how much of the factory we were allowed to see (ALL OF IT!). We saw the whole process a piece of pottery went through before it was finished and I loved how the factory workers were so kind to my family and welcoming as we toured even though we were just touring the factory ourselves. The end of the tour was my favorite because we had the option of throwing pottery. I spent a lot of time a few years ago learning pottery so I was amazed at how quickly my kids were able to pick it up with the help from the Wedgwood professionals and it was so adorable to watch them create vases on a wheel. The World of Wedgwood even fires the pottery for you and ships the finished vases to the USA if you want to keep your souvenir. (It was a little spendy but I love that they arrived a few weeks after we got home.)
I almost didn’t want to leave, but I remembered the “Monkey Forest” sign and had looked it up at lunch. I couldn’t believe our luck. The Trentham Monkey Forest was mere minutes away and it is an area that is home to over a hundred free-roaming monkeys. FREE ROAMING MONKEYS!
I didn’t know what to expect when we arrived.
How could I? Who would expect anything like this in England?
Monkeys were everywhere.
This was my perfect day.
It was my kids’ perfect day.
And even my husband thought it was amazing too.
Pottery and monkeys.
If you love these things, I hope you find Stoke on Trent in your future too.
(PS. I’m always a little worried about how animals are treated, but it seemed like the monkeys here had a lot of choice whether or not they wanted to be near humans and it seemed like they were well-taken care of.)
(PPS. There is an afternoon tea at the World of Wedgwood that looked absolutely fabulous-just dining on the beautiful dishes would be spectacular. I also found some kind of coupon on the Stoke on Trent website that gave 10% off the visit and there were other coupons that might be useful there too.)
(PPPS We went to another pottery factory that did not ship to the US and I was so disappointed so it’s pretty amazing that the World of Wedgwood does send the make yourself things here. I know the vases will be souvenirs I treasure for a long time!)