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In The Press…

The boy who wanted to be Brunel

Growing up on his parents’ farm near Launceston, Pete Jones’s schoolboy hero wasn’t Superman or a premiership footballer but one of the world’s greatest engineers, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Obsessed by the great man’s work, in his twenties Pete took a mechanical engineering degree and later returned to work on the farm. But it wasn’t long before his mind turned to things more imaginative.

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In the early 90s Pete set up a small attraction based on a treasure hunt around the farm where visitors had to solve cunning clues in order to find the treasure – rather like a rural version of The Crystal Maze. Over the years the attraction called Hidden Valley added more aspects: a children’s play area, a miniature railway and as the clues became more devious the park expanded with Pete’s hobby becoming one of the most unique tourist destinations in Cornwall.

A few years ago on the back of the park’s success, Pete started to formulate an idea for the ultimate treasure hunt that would be inspired by Brunel’s creativeness in a new development at the site. And three years ago saw the opening of The Forbidden Mansion, a unique family attraction that incorporates Pete’s love of both adventure and engineering.

Located near the visitor centre, an impressive red bricked building with a towering chimney inspired by a Brunel pumping station, the mansion is a deceptively large labyrinth of rooms where visitors have to solve fiendishly clever conundrums. Furnished with authentic Victorian fixtures and fittings, it’s like stepping on to a film set with secret passageways, concealed doors, upside-down rooms and exciting surprises.

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This year also sees the opening of the first our landscape gardens which will add a whole new dimension to Hidden Valley. Starting with a traditional Cornish cottage garden, complete with full-sized thatched cottage, which opened in May.

Entry is free to the cafe, so it’s an ideal place to drop into for lunch or afternoon tea even if you haven’t got time to visit the park.

The original outside treasure hunts have been updated and now include the cunning Sherlock Holmes Trail for adults and older kids as the fun Indiana Trail for the young ones. There’s also the children’s favourite the Hobbit House to visit and the ever popular miniature railway to ride on.