Get up to Heaton Park for light in dark days with enchanting displays

The son et lumiere down on the boating lake was the stunner.

The sound and light effects through a screen of water from a fountain created a shimmering, coruscating display complete with lasers that when encountered made you go ‘wow’. The Christmas animations here were delightful especially the Father Christmas whirling through the moisture laden air with sleigh and reindeers.

The best of this marvel was the ethereal and mesmerising vision of a spinning globe, of our Earth, levitating through water and light (main picture above). This was simply beautiful.

I'll return, especially for that show on the boating lake. I want to see our planet untethered spinning over water.

Elsewhere the Chinese-looking dragons on columns outside the back of the beautiful Heaton Hall were eye-catching as was the illuminated 1770s building itself, which round the front was ablaze with colour. Did the City of Manchester miss an opportunity with the hall to allow visits inside the house which has one of the most splendid interiors of its period in the country? At night time it must be magical.

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On the lawns outside the hall there was a dynamic Christmas tree illumination surrounded by handsome flower beds resembling tulips, bulbs in both senses of the word. Then it was a walk through a tunnel of lights strung among an avenue of trees to a large silvery moon tethered to the lawns and framed by a tossing sea of hundreds of electronic flowers, each with a motor, to set it in motion. My visit took place on a windless night so the effect was surreal. 

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The nearby woodland filled with illuminated lions, tigers and other beasts was rewarding too and given their occasionally fierce faces provided the only frisson of threat. This could have been ratcheted up a notch or two. Lightopia is aimed fairly and squarely at kids and kids love a bit of pantomime scariness.

There are kiosks scattered around for burgers, chips, bratwurst, nachos and so on. You can refresh on coffee, tea, hot chocolate. But no alcohol in Tier3chester. 

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If there was one drawback it was you-know-what. Most people are fed up with the threat of Covid-19 and the wartime limitations it imposes on our lives, even if we recognise its deadly effects, especially for certain risk groups. We are reminded, by the minute, to keep our distance, wear masks etc…

Given that Lightopia is about fantasy and escape there was far too much reminding us of the dreary reality of Tier 3-life and how it infantilises us. With restricted numbers this year and timed entry then why couldn’t Lightopia allow us to lose ourselves in the fantasy rather than keep returning us to the grim reality? 

The addition of the rainbow NHS display with a big ‘Thank you’ was, of course, inevitable and predictable. The Manchester bee ensemble is similarly inevitable but properly done, not rushed. Still I preferred the reindeers. It's Christmas after all.   

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There were a few teething problems on my visit (please fix that speaker down at the lakeside for the sound and light performances), otherwise it was all extremely engaging and impressive. 

The amount of work put in by the organisers and their team was clear and it has been delivered at real scale too. Visitors will discover this for themselves. The walk around the park via the various installations is a decent length and good for getting those daily steps in.

This was my first time to the winter Heaton Park extravaganza. I'll return, especially for that show on the boating lake. I want to see our planet untethered spinning over water. Lightopia is enchanting and very much recommended. It gives us light in dark days. 

More information on Lightopia website here. All tickets and car parking spaces have to be booked in advance. Adults £20, kids £15, family tickets £15 per head

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