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Hop Farm in Paddock Wood extends opening hours after Christmas market cancelled

The Hop Farm has altered its opening hours after families booked in to meet Father Christmas were left disappointed after finding out the rest of the venue would be closed.

Festive folk can book a place to meet the man himself at the Paddock Wood venue until Christmas Eve but were told the rest of the farm would be closed from 4pm and the Christmas market is no more.

It has been running for the past three weeks, but due to "unforeseen circumstances" the family venue has pulled the plug and will not be running the concessions between December 20 and 24.

Meet Santa in his grotto
Meet Santa in his grotto

This means those with tickets to meet Father Christmas can still do so but won't get the opportunity to enjoy festive stalls and the rest of the Family Park after 4pm.

The area will now be fully lit to allow customers access to Santa's grotto but the Family Park will continue to shut at 4pm.

Customers unaware of the closing times were being informed through an e-mail from the company behind the Father Christmas visits.

It read: "My elves tell me that you are coming sometime between 4:00pm and 5:00pm and we're really looking forward to seeing you, but, oh dear, our friends at the Hop Farm have told us they want to go home at 4 o'clock, and that it will be a bit dark in the park because all the rides and the Christmas markets will have closed at 4 o'clock as well.

"It's a shame as we like people to enjoy themselves, but don't worry, we'll still be here!"

One guest who booked for her family to see Father Christmas on December 24 said the Hop Farm's actions were "disgusting", she added: "It seems the good ol' hop farm have decided to shut most of the facilities and Christmas stalls completely for all families booked to see Father Christmas from the 20th December. Disgusting.

"I have paid for the 'whole' experience. I will not be very amused if the park closes before our experience starts, especially as our children are very excited."

A spokesman for Father Christmas in Kent said the company was upset by the circumstances and staff are trying to alert customers that "the Hop Farm has moved the goal posts not the concession."

"At the end of the day, the blame lies firmly on the Hop Farm managements decision to close an hour early knowing that we had sold out the entire allocation of tickets at the start of September until 5:00pm."

A statement apologising to pre-booked customers read: "They have even closed the Christmas Market completely from the 20-24 December so that leaves just a few concessions and us.

"We are disgusted by these actions and can only offer a full refund."

The festival is now being held at The Hop Farm
The festival is now being held at The Hop Farm

However, The Hop Farm has hit out at criticisms and claims the Father Christmas in Kent organiser didn't follow the park timings.

A spokesman said: "The market always shut at 4pm and this was widely advertised to the public.

"Unfortunately the concessionaire ‘Father Christmas in Kent’ didn’t follow our instructions and took bookings beyond the 4pm close time that was agreed and advertised by The Hop Farm.

"The farm has had to therefore open later than planned and also provide more lighting for health and safety reasons."

The spokesman said venue bosses have now changed opening hours so that families aren't left disappointed and that the farm encountered issues as the take up of stalls in the run up to Christmas was "poor".

"The feedback we received was stallholders were already to committed to family or Christmas travel arrangements, which is understandable at this time of year.

"The markets ran over the previous 3 weekends as advertised, along with carol singing from our local primary school and other Christmas activities.

"Due to unforeseen circumstances we had to pull the plug on the market, it is out of our control", he added.

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