“DISGUSTED” customers of a Christmas theme park have jammed the Daily Echo’s phone line with complaints.

Families contacted us in desperation after queuing for several hours on Saturday to see Santa Claus at Lapland New Forest.

Jane Barr from Bournemouth said she had paid £110 to take her mother, sister, nephew and niece on the trip to Matchams leisure park near Ringwood.

She said: “I’m absolutely disgusted; this was a complete waste of money. We queued for about an hour to get into the park and waited another two hours for Santa.”

After driving from Farnham with his two grandchildren, grandfather Kenneth Maynard queued for 45 minutes.

Mum-of-two Nicola Arnold who travelled from Swindon said: “It’s a complete scam. Hundreds of people are walking around and asking ‘Is this it?’ People are bitterly disappointed.”

Henry Mears, the event’s advertising chief, blamed family illness and unreliable staff for a “very serious problem.”

“It’s been a very bad first day. I’m a bit ashamed of myself, to be honest. I would like to apologise to all those people affected. But we will get it sorted out for tomorrow,” said Mr Mears.

One of three men booked to work at the park as Santa Claus had phoned in ill. Staff supporting the ice rink had been working all day to repair a fractured aluminium pipe, he added.

But yesterday the story was the same with families walking out in disgust. One father said: “It’s an absolute shocker; we paid £30 for me and my wife to get in; under-twos cost £10. It’s nothing like how it is portrayed on the website.”

Terry Powell from Swindon paid £160 for his family to visit Lapland New Forest. He said: “There weren’t any officials around to complain to so I’m planning to take the matter further. They are contravening the Trade Descriptions Act.”

Karl Moore, 24, from Portsmouth and his family paid £225 for the experience. He said: “We were planning to stay here all day but, after an hour, we’d had enough.

“There was nothing for the kids to do. We saw two donkeys and some deer in the forest but they were asleep. Jean Moore said: “It was a total waste of money”

Event advertising manager Henry Mears told the BBC: "People [should] stroll around instead of joining queues which is what people like to do in this country and take in the whole experience and then stay until about 4 o'clock.

"Then the light goes down and it is beautiful in the tunnel of light. You can see the real value at that time of the night.

"It is absolutely beautiful but you can't see a tunnel of light at 12 o'clock in the day. People should understand that, surely to God?"

Were you there? What did you think? Let us know by emailing newsdesk@bournemouthecho.co.uk or call 01202 411294

Ivan Hancock, principal Trading Standards officer for Dorset County Council, said: "I'm staggered at the number of complaints we have had in a short space of time. We've already had over 50 this morning.

"That's quite alarming. We are looking at what enforcement action is appropriate. It does appear as though some misdescriptions have been applied." He added that the department did not have the power to shut down the attraction.

"Anyone with tickets for the event needs to be prepared to be disappointed. If I was in their shoes, I would look very carefully at anything that appears in the media and try to get their money back in advance."

Disappointed customers should contact Consumer Direct on 08454 040506 for further advice.

Or you can contact Mr Henry Mears at info@laplandnewforest.co.uk

Following the many complaints we received about this Lapland experience we took the decision on Sunday, in conjunction with the advertiser, to pull all adverts connected with this event.