I remember my first visit to Southend a whole decade ago and I wasn’t too impressed. None of the rides were much cop and the whole experience was a bit bland when compared to the Merlin parks I was frequenting. So I hadn’t been back in what felt like forever and in that time they’d only really added their smallest coaster yet and I was expecting this trip to be nothing more than a token cred hunt.
So how come Adventure Island just became one of my favourite parks in the UK?
The most significant factor was just how friendly all of the staff were. It was a freezing but bright day at the very end of the season with minimal guests on park and you’d think most people would have given up caring at this stage. From the point of collecting our wristbands and then on to each and every ride operator and attendant in the park, they were all putting their time and effort into making their guests both happy and comfortable, something I have gained a much greater respect for over time.
The star attraction Rage isn’t actually all that bad (glowing praise indeed). For a clunky Gerstlauer Eurofighter it was behaving rather well and I ended up taking an unprecedented amount of laps on it, using the time to appreciate the more endearing features it has to offer.
The pace of the loop is the best of these, providing a satisfying pause at the very top with a little flop into the restraint to break the flow of positive force. Aside from that I was finding it rather intense throughout, in a good way.
Something I never would have appreciated the first time round is the fact that Green Scream isn’t one of the prolific Zierer Tivoli clones found around the world. Again I’m stretching for praise here, but it put me in a good mood and it really was a day of the little things.
The Spooksville dark ride has had an overhaul since I last experienced it, with a total change in interior theming. I had enjoyed the quirky fake ending of the previous iteration for the scare factor, something this update lacked, but it was still amusing.
Why have one custom Zierer Tivoli when you can have two? Barnstormer is smaller but potentially packs more of a punch.
With the rate I get through uninteresting rides, there should have been no reason to enjoy the neighbouring Pinfari, Mighty Mini Mega, but again a little staff interaction goes a long way into bringing out the best of things.
Enough of these token rerides, it was on to the main event. It’s only a Zamperla speedy coaster but a +1 makes a visit worthwhile all by itself.
I had no idea this existed and upon seeing that it looked like a dark ride I could get behind, we decided to give Adventureville a spin. It has one of those stupidly catchy soundtracks and is packed full of mischievous little bear characters up to all types of antics. To top it off, after the first vanilla lap the train goes round a second time in ‘party mode’, the music and lighting changes and you get double the fun out of the tiny footprint. Genius.
I had been asked several times by staff during the day as to whether I had tried ‘the new one’ yet. Again I didn’t know this was a thing and even though it’s not really my cup of tea, after so many friendly recommendations I figured it would be rude not to give it a go. Axis is an evil flat ride that leaves you suspended upside down far more than I would deem necessary, but I still managed to have a good time on it. There’s something satisfying about the visuals of more mundane surroundings (such as Southend town) with the sky at your feet.
To my own amazement we lasted a full day here just chilling (in more ways than one) and riding, much longer than I ever had previously and it was highly enjoyable. My own perspectives have changed over the years of course but no queues and a relaxed atmosphere can go a long way, two things I don’t think I’ll ever find at a Merlin park again.