A friend of ours used to run a B&B cum adventure holiday camp in the West Country a long time ago, and she keeps talking about how much fun the paintballing games there were. As it happened we accidentally stumbled across an online ad for the UK’s biggest paintballing provider, Delta Force Paintballing (3 sites around London, plenty across the country): £9.99 for a day pass plus £9.99 for very 100 paintballs you purchase. We booked ourselves tickets to the Upminster venue and purchased 100 paintballs each.
We got up at 7am, hopped on the tube, picked up our rental car at London City Airport at 8:30am’ish, and arrived early at the venue after a 25min drive. You sign in, you are being assigned to one of several groups (with an armband signifying the group), then pick up your combat gear (helmet, goggles, battlesuit, body armour) and magazine plus the pre-ordered paintballs. You crack open the plastic bags that contain the paintballs. Then you open the main opening of the detached magazine and COVER THE PIPE through which the paintballs leave the magazine into the gun with your hand, BEFORE YOU START POURING THE BALLS IN. This should prevent the precious ammunition falling onto the ground and bursting before being used by you to annihilate dozens of enemy combatants. You’re not allowed to pick up any paintballs that have fallen to the ground and there are bust and un-burst paintballs everywhere on the ground. Apparently even an un-burst paintball picked up from the ground and put back into the magazine will make your gun jam and lead to your immediate demise.
Half an hour later the briefing starts. It’s what you expect: don’t ever take your helmet and goggles off while in the game zone, don’t shoot people intentionally in the face (it’s perfectly fine to do so accidentally of course), under-16s are not allowed to use grenades (it’s perfectly fine to throw grenades at them, though). We were told that our pressurized oxygen guns’ gas containers should not be banged against hard surfaces. The guns were set to manual mode, meaning that holding the trigger would not result in rapid fire but simply in us being shot ‘dead’ after the one shot had left the barrel and us wondering why no further shots were doing so while acting as sitting ducks.
And then… each group gets partnered up with another group and called into the reception area of the combat zone where you pick up the guns and attach your filled-up paintball container to the gun. Then you’re being led to the first game zone, which, in our case was an abandoned village with a church and a few military defence structures. One group becomes zombies with unlimited lives for the next twenty minutes, the other becomes humans defending their village from the zombies. As all humans, they only have one life. This means if you are a human and a zombie shoots you, then you have to walk over to the so-called dead zone and stay there until the game is over. If, on the other hand, you’re a zombie, then you will never die. If one of those annoying humans shoots your face off, you simply run to the back of your zone, “touch in” again, by touching a yellow barrel, and off you go again, wasting humans yayy.
Once twenty minutes are over or once every human is dead, you switch sides and do another round. It was great fun. Especially the kiddos in our group were adding to the experience. You don’t know what war is like until a battle-hardened 10-year old tells you to “f###ing get off your arse and smoke the sniper at the church over there” or else while making a cut-throat gesture and staring you in the eyes madly. Some of the adults started out on the day slightly inhibited and coy, but those children were in full-on combat-mode from the first second as if that’s what they were born for… some time around 2010. Truly inspiring haha..
The next game was set in an apocalyptic London where there is one team that has to protect the visiting U.S. president, while the other team tries to kill him or her. The movie-like set was even more impressive for that second game, we found. We liked the London street signs, the derelict carcasses of burnt out two-storey Routemasters and black cabs. All very fun.
By the time we had finished the second round of the second game we had fired all our paintballs. I’d imagine we could’ve easily purchased a few hundred more of them and continued, but we decided to leave when on a high. This Delta Force Paintballing experience had been a 5 out of 5 experience, so much fun! Now was the time to make use of the rental car and get on with our plans for the rest of the day.
We had lunch at the Lobster Smack pub, which was frequented by Charles Dickens, who liked it so much that he even included it in his famous novel “Great Expectations.” We had lobster bits for starters and lovely pies for mains (review here).
Our afternoon we spent seal-spotting along the Essex coastline. Unfortunately, even when we went for a short walk from Wakering Boatyard/Bullmans Wharf, we didn’t see a single one of those cute furry creatures. This was despite the fact that we were just 6km away from the county’s largest seal colony at Wallasea Island, connected to the same system of rivers, creeks, salt marshes, and estuaries. Hopefully more luck next time. We still enjoyed the vistas and the walk, and there was no disappointment on our side, when we hopped back into the car to make our way back to London City Airport to drop off the rental car. This March we’re planning to visit England’s biggest seal colony in Blakeney near Wells-next-the-Sea, North Norfolk (which we posted about before here). The hundreds of grey seals there give birth to their puppies in December/January, so watch this space for your prescribed dosage of baby seals.
For more ideas about what to do in the UK, feel welcome to check out our posts about Canterbury, the Jurassic Coast and the Cotswolds. For adventure adventure inspiration, perhaps eyeball our articles about caving, our rides on a jetlev, jetski, powerboat, a vintage airplane, a hot air balloon, very fast rubber boat, and an Amphibian Vietnam War vehicle.