2018, Southport. The Pinfari looper wasn’t ready first thing because of ‘health and safety stuff’ and ‘the rain’. We camped it out far longer than necessary to eventually be told “Got problems with the brakes, probably won’t open today.”
Let’s give that another go then.
Fast forward 3 years and exactly the same thing happened. This time the park is paid entry rather than per ride, so it stings just that little bit more.
Luckily they have added one other cred in the meantime, one of these littler Pinfari things that used to live in Scotland – seems they’re all gradually defecting.
Not sure why it’s called #1 The Rocket, I guess because just plain old Roller Coaster was already taken. The station had an interesting feature in the form of some discarded seatbelts lying on the platform. Some seats had them, some didn’t, the restraint is hilariously awkward (but at least not over the shoulder) and off we go. It isn’t the first of these I’ve ridden this year that’s surprisingly smooth for what it is. How are they managing it?
With no signs of life from the looper, the only other thing to get some money’s worth from was the Ghost Train. Being Halloween season and all that, it was rather popular and attracting a sizeable queue. The ride host was having a great time entertaining guests with a fake bloodied hand, throwing babies into the crowd and generally being a bit of a legend. Inside the ride itself there were also a couple of roaming scare actors, which I wasn’t expecting, so that managed to be quite effective in getting to us. Makes me think it’s something that this type of low end dark ride could do with on the regular, to make it stand out a bit.
As the rain set in and the train for the spiting coaster wasn’t even parked in the station, with no one around, it was time to give up on it yet again. Although some staff claimed ‘it may open later’, something which we’ve heard far too many times, they had already cancelled their fireworks and late opening hours so it clearly wasn’t going to be worth sticking around, particularly when someone was waiting for us at another park. Stupid Southport.
In better news we had once again achieved some success thanks to our new best friend at Gulliver’s Milton Keynes. He put us in touch with the relevant people at the Warrington establishment who were happy to receive us for the afternoon and escort us to the coasters.
Upon arrival, our contact had gone AWOL, but the admissions staff appeared to have been briefed on what was happening and so yet again, we ended up with free roam of the place.
First port of call was a somewhat momentous achievement. #2 Antelope was that all-elusive final wooden coaster to complete the UK set for me, in fact I’d have every operating woodie in Europe now were it not for a certain spite over in Madrid.
The layout looked quite good for what it was, though somehow it manages to ride hilariously poorly for the size. The first drop was punctuated with a highly vigorous to-and-fro pumping motion as soon as the train gathered any speed, shaking us all about in a purely comical, yet not painful fashion. The first turnaround was taken at incredibly slow speeds, crawling around like an overly exaggerated version of my regular playful mocking of Balder.
This cycle continued throughout the rest of the ride. Gain speed, shake violently, slow to a crawl, including during such highlights as the double up, the double down and the bonus straight at the end. Terrible ride, but it made us laugh a lot and was a ton of fun for it.
With the park having sold on numerous coasters over the years (an astonishing 4 of which I’ve managed to since pick up in their newer homes), the only other one required here was the well named #3 Wriggler. Took a while trying to find it, eventually doing so and racking up a couple of proud laps on yet another Wacky Worm for the season.
Time to check out the dark ride selection. Sadly the Gilly Princess Ride was out of action. Doesn’t look like a gamechanger, but would have been nice to experience it for research purposes.
Temple Raider was going strong at least, though we sadly narrowly missed out on their Halloween overlay timeslot, with many costumed scare actors pouring out of the ride whilst we stood in the queue.
Which resulted in a rather humble affair, it could have done with a few scares. The ride had guns at some point though they appear to have been removed and you can still spot the targets as you travel around some generic ‘temple raiding’ type scenery. Nothing special, but rounded off the visit nicely.
And so ends the day on a not too unhealthy +3. Not the greatest of successes but I’ll take what I can get at this point and this time of year.
There’s a travelling coaster called (amusingly) Shrek that’s been teasing me for months now. It first came onto the radar when it was just 10 minutes up the road one weekend, the rain was chucking down all day and I simply couldn’t be bothered to get up and do something about it. The fair it was a part of then proceeded to tour around various nearby towns, only without the coaster any more. The one (of many) that got away.
Suddenly Shrek resurfaced in Corby, of all places (had to look it up), with just one day left to go again! I was loathed to make this into a six hour round trip for something that could and should have been so simple (and yet totally would have done anyway), so had a browse of the local options to see if we could make anything more out of the adventure. Things didn’t look promising, they’re all elusive, exclusive and many different kinds of trouble around that area.
We haven’t had any luck with them in the past, but a friendly email was fired off to Gullivers with zero expectations. If all else fails there’s an attempt at Billing Aquadrome on the cards – a name that’s been floating around in the back of my mind for years without even knowing what it’s about. Amazingly a response came back almost instantly. Of course you can come, happy to help, we’ll sort you out no problem! Where have you been all my life? Gulliver’s Milton Keynes
It felt like sacred ground, standing at the entrance to the UK’s largest purveyors of the dreaded ‘no adult groups’ rule, a rule that has haunted the common coaster counter for generations. A flash of our communications at the gate soon had our saviour with a clipboard appearing, who explained that while usually we’d get a chaperone for this type of visit, they were just too busy to spare anyone and so unleashed us freely on the park. Amazing.
To the coasters then. First one was #1 Crazy Mouse, in a shed, though we weren’t even sure if it existed any more because it didn’t appear on the website. It’s still here, in all it’s glory, complete with giant cat and grand piano theming. Not sure if it’s the norm, but the ride took one lap with the house lights on and then another couple in the dark for extra effect. L&T Systems at their finest.
I’d never even considered the place as anything but a cred run that can’t happen, yet it turns out they have dark rides too, making the mission twofold. Gulliver’s Travels definitely features Gulliver, though I’m not so sure about the travel part. I particularly loved the overly relaxed position of the seating on this thing and the ride system has an amusing habit of just letting empty or lighter cars tailgate those in front because they simply run that much faster.
The Silver Mine cars did the same, though this time there were more immediate distractions in the form of targets to shoot at, ones that set off various effects such as shaking rats and… shaking bats. No scoring systems, just fun, it’s the taking part that counts.
The beast of the park was having all sorts of adventures by the time we arrived, immediately ejecting hats (they were warned) on the amusingly profiled first corner. In case no one noticed, it’s been a million degrees here recently and the train was coming in too hot and failing to park in the station properly. The capacity of the ride had already been reduced in order to compensate for this, but the engineer was called and decided the best solution was to cut down to loading just 2 cars out of 5. I’ve never done something from EOS rides, to my knowledge, and am now that much richer for the experience. #2 Twist and Joust has charm, it has clunk, it beats those SBF Visa spinners any day. I also love the minimalist attempt at theming.
The lineup is completed by an absolute staple of this game, the Zamperla 80STD. Rides called #3 Runaway Train are fast becoming the new ‘Roller Coaster 1’ too – it may not even be the last of the day. This one had so much glorious shade, it was great. It rode rather brutally too, for oversized adults on a children’s coaster at least.
With our lap of the essentials complete it was time to depart with an immense sense of satisfaction. Great stuff from Gulliver’s. Now, about those other parks…
Just up the motorway is this place. It had been sold to me as ‘pay £5 to a man at a gate to get into the ‘resort’, then rock up to the funfair bit and pray that the cred is open.’ As if things weren’t already going swimmingly enough, ‘the man at the gate’ nodded us straight through, no questions asked, no cash required. Well now it doesn’t even matter if it’s not running (it totally does).
Of course it was open. After an amusing episode with a token machine that appeared to be dispensing hand sanitiser simultaneously with the tokens (at least we hope it was that), it was all aboard the second consecutive #4 Runaway Train. I thought I knew my Cavazza Diegos coasters when I saw them, but this one is actually from Big Country Motioneering, of ‘The Ultimate‘ fame no less.
Can’t forget about #5 Shrek though, the instigator of all this glory. If you ever see him on the road, make sure to give him a wave. He was parked up on the side of a roundabout in the middle of nowhere, also known as Corby. Disappointingly the operator just referred to the ride as ‘The Dragon’, but it’s one of those entertaining extended oval rides that begins with a backwards launch and then just keeps on going and going. It brought back fond memories of roughly this time last year, an afternoon spent in Southampton on the exact same ride type, during Covid restrictions part #17. Their one even had bubbles. What a birthday that was…
All in all another spontaneous (and fabulous) +5 from the UK. These really are unprecedented times.
It’s been a relatively long time since I’ve been to the Towers, over recent years I’ve become a little unenamoured with the place, in the cliched way in which we tend not to appreciate that which we have easy access to. I’d like to say it haruns deeper than that and that I’d find the place burdensome even on a foreign holiday, but this visit left me less sure about the whole thing.
Arriving in the car park at 9:30 is burdensome, particularly when the express parking is unavailable and the only options are a 20 minute walk to the entrance or an offensively long queue for a monorail. The walk hurts even more in that moment when you glimpse Nemesis through the trees and realise that it’s going to take you half an hour to get there on foot, although I did at least learn something new in that moment from a nearby guest – that was ‘The Air’ and Nemesis is actually black.
Nevertheless we reached Forbidden Valley in relatively high spirits to find a lovely short queue for Nemesis. It broke down almost instantly, but was promptly fixed and we got two laps in back to back including a visually stunning front row experience and a violently stunning ride towards the rear. Either it’s been far too long since I’ve actually ridden something properly good or it was running really well. Probably both. I’ve sorely missed the sensation of a coaster attempting to rip my feet off and it’s one of the main reasons this remains a top tier invert. My feelings remain the same though, I love it, but I’ve never found myself desperate to marathon the thing, like I would for so many other rides given the opportunity. Is that because I subconsciously know I can always come back? Is it because Nemesis is not excessively standout in the Alton Towers lineup? Or because it’s just not that type of experience? Deep philosophical questions.
The Air (Galactica) was almost walk on, so it felt rude not to round off the incohesive Forbidden Valley experience (garish travelling flat ride aside). I love the soundtrack for this thing and spent the walk moaning like an audiophile about how their sound system wasn’t doing it any justice. The ride itself managed to be even more excessively meandering than I remember and it’s one of the main reasons this remains a bottom tier flyer. Fun though.
I’m attempting to be (relatively) positive today, so I won’t mention the jarringly tacky elements of the recent Duel overhaul. Instead here’s two points of interest before I move on. For the benefit of disabled friendly access, Duel’s queue no longer has the wonky floor. The staff were making a particularly big fuss over filming and photography on the ride via the PA, even bringing the system to a halt (bonus points for spamming the reaper’s eyes during this).
We then made the biggest mistake of the day and entered the Rita queueline for an advertised 45 minute wait (by this stage, one of the shortest in the park). Through some sluggish operations and a poorly timed breakdown as soon as we were tantalisingly close, it took 2 hours. 2. Hours. I don’t even like Rita. I did manage to find that elusive mild airtime in the back row though.
During that time the app was being useless and wouldn’t let us book any food, so we rocked up to the nearby woodcutters place and were seated almost immediately only to find out, via having to then order the food on the app anyway, it would take an hour for them to cook a bit of chicken and chips. So that was half of the operating day gone. Football based fortune began to favour us though. We had inadvertently ended up visiting on Euro cup final day, in which England happened to be participating. The crowds began to very noticeably disperse throughout the afternoon, in order to get home and watch it.
So it was over to Smiler, down to a humble half hour wait. It’s quite often running four trains these days and as such the two train duelling aspect of the coaster has become a rather consistent spectacle, one that I absolutely love to behold, ride interaction is just the best. I’m already a low key Smiler fan as it’s just so gloriously intense and silly, but this took it to another level – egging the trains on up each lift hill, hoping for that perfect timing, watching the rival train dance around you through the million inversions. I would have declared it the best ride of the day had it not attempted to detach my retina in those notorious final moments.
Don’t worry, there’s still time for a new worst ride of the day on the Wicker Man. I know the preshow is potentially boring on rerides (though who manages rerides at this place?), but I was sad to see it out of action. It used to be the best part for me. Hold up. When did this lad get a bit rough and ready? He’s developed a bit of character, he tried to shake me up a bit. There was movement, there was motion, there was feeling. I… kinda liked it. Watch out Wildcat, this thing might not be the worst GCI in the world any more.
We’d booked a slot to check out the Alton Towers Dungeon in the late afternoon and our time had now come. They currently allow for up to 4 groups per 15 minute interval, each designated their own spot on the floor of each room for spacing reasons. We were one of only 2 groups for the tour in the end and ended up being dubbed the Rotten Rascals, though I rather had my hopes set on being an Ugly Peasant.
I’ve previously done and enjoyed both the original London and Warwick Castle Dungeon, along with the new London one, which is meh. As such, basically everything that was on offer here is a rerun of scenes I’d seen before, usually with some local twist in the wording. Rooms like the courthouse, in which you get shouted at and humiliated, and the torture chamber, in which you get shouted at and humiliated, lost their impact somewhat with lack of a good crowd.
Two words come to mind for the ex-Charlie and the Chocolate Factory boat ride and they are ‘grim’ and ‘sparse’. It was weird to recognise parts of the layout and think that this used to be chocolate, now it’s a bloke hanging from his wrists and being sliced in half by a two-man cross-cut saw. The twist on the pub scene was that it’s Dick Turpin instead of Jack the Ripper. It also used some elements of Sweeney Todd for a bit of ASMR in the dark, air cannons to the neck and a collapsing seat. Probably the most interesting one for me. I thought the whole experience was paced quite well considering it’s part of a theme park and doesn’t want to eat up too much of your (overly short) day. It’s worth a shot if you’re into that kind of thing and haven’t done too many others in the brand before. It could probably do with an Extremis drop tower though, at the risk of rendering the dormant Nemesis Sub Terra more irrelevant.
The gameplan devised over lunch was working out nicely now, as the park was a ghost town. We walked straight into Hex, as should always be the case. The music was turned down a bit low and there’s more ambient light in the preshows these days, but it’s still the best madhouse in the business.
Jogged round to Thirteen to get a token lap in. It was so quiet they were having to wait for thirteen guests to despatch each train. There were two dummies in the back row of each train and if they’ve done that specifically to make it that requirement, then well done. Still a blast of a ride to me, if you can look past the comedically trimmed first drop.
Of course we hadn’t forgot about Gangsta Granny, the one and only real reason for the visit. With the worst queues all day and a capacity to match that of the former Wobble World bouncy castle, making it the last item on the agenda was a stroke of genius as we walked straight on to it, twice.
The queueline is are rather quaint, though clearly not designed to take the star attraction level crowds it currently receives. Once it settles in and stops being the ‘new thing’ (and when Covid goes away) I’m sure it’ll do just nicely. I liked some of the pictures on the wall, most notably the 15th Earl of Shrewsbury, though they haven’t quite captured his legendary scowl at the Ugly Peasant. There are a couple of repeats of these throughout the attraction, which is less than ideal.
Expectations were low for the ride and they were easily exceeded. It’s actually really well done, with a solid range of scene styles, a great use of the very limited space by means of various subtle sensations of movement to keep it dynamic and some amusing extra details to give it that rerideability factor. It has that charm that all dark rides deserve and I can see it becoming a staple for any future visit.
And so ends the day, it was time to go home, even though football wasn’t going to join us there. One more long trudge back to the car park – the monorail somehow had the worse queue we’ve ever seen, so I’m assuming most of those who left early, making it nice and quiet on park, missed the match anyway (and may still be queuing to this day). It was fun, one of the better days I’ve had at Alton in a good while, but I don’t see myself increasing the frequency of my visits any time soon. All the signs are still there for it to go wrong and really we just got lucky with certain things (football), unlucky with others (Rita) and familiarity (knowing your way around a gameplan and what constitutes a skip the monorail queue) is obviously still a requirement for the most rewarding day out.
Talking of gameplans, I think this long overdue USA trip is well and truly stuffed for yet another year. I feel anotherEurodemption coming…
Legoland was my first true theme park experience as a child and it’s ridiculous to think I’ve been visiting on and off for over 20 years now. In some ways the place is almost unrecognisable, particularly in terms of layout, though there are still a couple of corners that remain just how I remember them in those opening years.
The focus has definitely shifted somewhat, away from ‘Miniland centrepiece featuring a few rides’, with the ‘big’ rides all tucked away at one end. While the charming lego models of various landmarks across the UK, Europe and now the world are still present, they’ve gone rather full blast on the attraction front to flesh the place out and keep things fresh. This is great news of course, as far as I was concerned, there were three new dark rides and a coaster to be had since I last visited.
An overbearing threat of rain appeared to be keeping (some of) the crowds at bay as we arrived just after opening for a pain free bag and temperature check. The Legoland App gave us a good indication of where all the early risers had headed first (the two newest attractions), so we attempted to circumvent the major queues and started off with Haunted House Monster Party.
This Vekoma madhouse had flown completely under my radar somehow. The last I remember hearing is that the park wanted to get their own version of Ghost, the haunted drop tower ride found at other Legoland properties but that planning permission had been denied and then I must have simply stopped paying attention. It’s great to see that this type of attraction is still being sold and that a fresh idea was born out of the situation.
The experience begins with a preshow in which Mr vampire lego figure invites us to a social gathering (of less than 30), some mad scientist fellow attempts to explain his latest party trick and guests are then encouraged to do quick dance under the disco balls before boarding the ride itself. It’s fairly standard haunted swing fare from there, the satisfying sensation of illusion that comes with the eyes not agreeing with what the body feels. It’s still a genius trick that I admire greatly, though it seems there are only so many ways the story can be told by now. I was reminded of how refreshing the version at Parc Astérix was and I’d love to see another park think outside the box a little more with how they use this hardware one day.
With actual queuetimes not reflecting what was advertised by this point, we opted to try (and fail) to beat the system with logic instead and head for the new for 2021 attraction, Flight of the Sky Lion, in the hopes that the initial rush had died down. The queue itself is rather less pleasant than the Haunted House with its outdoor soft floor, instead being endless switchbacks of tall plastic screening broken up by a single wall of empty trays and lego boards to serve as an unfortunate reminder of the ongoing situation.
At long last we were batched into the preshow area, to be greeted by an amusing door that allows guests to ‘skip the ride and exit’ after an hour and a half of torturous waiting, along with some screens that set the scene. This UK’s first Flying Theatre is part of a whole new land called Mythica, a place in which all Lego sets can come to life, with a particular focus on imaginative creature builds. Maximus the Sky Lion wants to take us on an adventure through this land and, of course, mild peril may ensue along the way.
It’s then time to board the suspended, single file, 10-seat-across pods that act as your flight vehicle for the ride. Though it’s a first for the UK I no longer have enough fingers to count how many flying theatres I’ve already encountered and I have grown a little tired of the concept. Luckily, with this being a fantasy based adventure, it was a completely refreshing experience and one that reminded me of other motion simulator attractions in the way that the vehicle movements juddered and responded to activity on screen, as opposed to gently tilting to the left and right whilst ‘soaring’ over some landmarks (every, single other one I’ve done so far). I rather liked this one and it just goes to show that there’s still hope for the ride type yet.
I’m guessing some recent rain had put most people off the idea of the rapids, so we took the opportunity of a 10 minute queue to get reacquainted with an old friend Viking River Splash. I’ve always enjoyed the excessive violence on this ride, it collides with the walls far too hard in certain places and generally gives an above average rapids experience. Sadly most of the other water effects are turned off these days for what I’m led to believe are safety reasons.
Suddenly we were on a roll, the new for 2020 cred #1 DUPLO Dino Coaster was basically a walk on after having been reported at some ridiculous queuetimes earlier in the day. The ride hardware is about as +1 as you can get, though the theming is of course higher than the usual standard for this scale of attraction. One thing I noted was that the audio doesnt follow the entire layout – if the dinosaur you’re riding is supposed to be the one making all the “wahey” noises, then it sounds a bit strange onboard because this only projects from the far end of the layout, even though there are speakers available throughout the lift hill (the ones used for other audio in the introductory lap). Basically it sounds better off-ride. Am I overthinking a children’s coaster? Yes.
Would have felt rude not to give the nearby Fairy Tale Brook a go for old times sake, particularly as didn’t seem to be garnering much attention from other guests amongst all the latest and greatest. Can’t go wrong with the simple elegance of a storybook boat ride (other than when the boats happen to be full of water).
The Atlantis submarine attraction has undergone a retheme into Deep Sea Adventure since I last visited. I didn’t really care for the ride before, it’s a cool concept that’s rather underwhelming as a visual spectacle, nothing more than a good sit down. I didn’t notice any real difference here other than the building exterior, though I’m guessing the narration had changed as well. It still has that same issue of announcing “wow, look now, we’re in Atlantis” when there’s really nothing wow about the moment, and then it ends.
Also Poseidon has lost his trident.
Ninjago The Ride has been kicking around here for a few years now, though I never found the need to come and try it after experiencing the Legoland Billund equivalent prior to this ones existence. I did always like these for the sights and sounds, it’s a solid enough dark ride attraction in its own right. The interactive part – shooting by flailing your arms like a ninja as opposed to with a gun is a fascinating concept but rather difficult to get the hang of (for some at least, myself included). I always try many techniques and inevitably end up shooting directly into the floor or straight up into the sky, never inbetween. Sometimes it’s better to just sit and watch.
Which is what I chose to do for Laser Raiders. This Windsor version is more advanced in the layout (not difficult) and theming department than many of it’s worldwide counterparts so I thought I’d take the opportunity to soak that up a bit. One thing I noted is the presence of some cartoon mice at the bottom of some walls, in the cracks, mice that don’t seem to fit the theme or even the concept of Lego one bit. Strange.
Of course we had to ride the other classics before the day was out. The Dragon holds fond memories for me as my first ever rollercoaster, even though the truth behind that sentiment was shattered by a Wacky Worm I don’t recall at all. The dark ride section at the start was in surprisingly good shape, with the Dragon himself being all in one piece and operating fully as far as I could tell – haven’t seen him that way for a long time. The outdoor section with its over abundance of lift hills is always a laugh and a welcome change from any of the other stock model equivalents used these days.
Spinning Spider can easily become the most intense ride in the park at the hands of the right individuals. I could potentially attribute my yearning for strong forces and violent attractions to taking multiple laps on this as a 6 year old whilst my Dad relentlessly cranked out a dangerously fast spin. We channeled that spirit again of course and by means of taking turns probably hit about 50% of his output back in the day – still felt like too much.
All that was left now before the park closure announcement was to spend some time in Miniland. Here’s a photo dump.
They’ve added a few new areas recently to cover some further reaches of the globe as well as some easter eggs based on the new Mythica stuff. It was an educational experience, as I now know to look out for that giant arch that I’d never heard of before, if I ever make it to St. Louis this century.
Overall it was a solid visit and probably my favourite UK park so far this year. I expected grim things based given the more recent reputation for excessive crowding and poor value days out, but they seem to have reached a crucial tipping point at which there’s more now than enough major attractions to disperse the numbers fairly effectively and it’s actually a far more decent lineup than I ever give it credit for these days. Your move Alton.
Weston-super-Mare, the gift that keeps on giving. I’ve visited the Funland park threetimes already since they came on the radar back in 2018, picking up 4 creds along the way. They’ve got a very high rotation rate of new rides and sure enough for this year again, it was out with the old and in with the new – 2 coasters gone, 3 more in their place.
An unpleasantly early Sunday morning start got us to a nearby multi-storey car park just as the rides were due to open, where we spent far too long attempting to pay for parking via apps, websites, texts and phonecalls as, although this is the 21st century, card payments were not an option.
Funland Theme Park
A quick lap of the establishment told us how many tokens would be required, some quick maths told us the most cost effective way of purchasing as the pricing changes with scale and then it was time for the day to begin in style.
The confidence with which we approached and boarded #1 Runaway Train, along with our having some shameless Liseberg apparel on display, appeared to have caught the eye of a local enthusiast who was also here for cred hunting reasons and took the opportunity to piggyback on the reduction in potential embarassment that comes with safety in numbers when riding such undersized creations. I had done one of these models before, but didn’t quite remember how limited it was when it came to the legroom department and the extortionate number of laps we then received was quite the endurance test for the knees.
Now that our mutual goals had been established, we headed for #2 €uro Coaster. Not the famed travelling Inverted wild mouse that’s a regular at Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland, but rather a Zyklon Galaxi that’s toured through Asia as a tantalising glimpse into what quality of rides Europe has to offer. The shoulder restraints felt highly unnecessary for one of these, but it rode smooth like butter.
Last up was #3 Crazy Coaster the SBF Visa spinner (two loop edition) that brought back bittersweet memories of the trip that contained 4 of these bad boys. Summer 2020 feels like a lifetime ago. It was upon his departure that it suddenly occured to me – that lone cred hunter from Bristol could have been the legendary Hixee of Coasterforce fame, and it turns out I was right. It’s a small world after all.
Pure cred hunting can lead to many oversights, one of which would be the Grand Pier just down the beach here that doesn’t have any rollercoasters. They’ve got a robot arm flat ride that they claim is the ‘smallest coaster in the UK’, but my imagination just can’t stretch that far. They do happen to have a dark ride though – another attraction I would never known about were it not for the DRdb.
The House of Horrors Ghost Train was due to open upon our arrival and has a big red ‘call attendant’ button on the entrance turnstyle. I expected it to be a setup to some form of jump scare but in actuality the staff member hadn’t actually arrived or even started the thing up yet.
The cars are unusual contraptions, sealing riders inside intimidating looking cages for that extra fear factor I guess, though I doubt this one could go too hard with the advertised ‘PG’ rating on the signage. This ghost train was far more detailed than the one from my previous excursion that I declared at the time to be the Wacky Worm of dark rides, though it was still pretty standard fare in the grand scheme of things.
Perhaps it’s the Vekoma Junior of the dark ride world.
As our itinerary for ride establishments was already halfway complete within the first hour and a half it seemed appropriate to do some general sightseeing of some things in the area I’d never before taken the time to visit. First up was Cheddar Gorge, just 30 minutes in from the coast, with some great natural scenery intersected by a winding road.
I do particularly enjoy tourist attractions that can be experienced entirely from within the comforts of one’s own car, and this was no exception.
Next was the Clifton Suspension Bridge.
Though you can drive across it, it seemed more fitting to actually use our feet for this one and soak up some views, despite the ever increasing unpleasantness of the heat.
I’m just not used to sunlight (or the outdoors) any more.
After a leisurely late lunch we headed over a much bigger, though far less historically significant, bridge (the Severn crossing) and into Wales. I wasn’t keen on returning to Barry Island so soon after the travesty of my last visit (it got the job done at least), but I was the only one of the party who already had the Zyklon cred and then, yet again, I noticed that they had a ghost train.
Barry Island Pleasure(?) Park
The same police riot van was in place exactly as before, though disappointingly no youths were being bundled into it and I was unable to park (for free) knee deep in fish and chips on this occasion, instead getting stuck up a dead end of a road with several other cars and having to perform amazing reverse manoeuvres while dodging the general unsightliness of the surroundings.
Yet again it was in and out as fast as humanly possible, not helped by, in the 21st century, a token machine that declared it could accept ‘all major credit cards’ refusing to accept any of our major credit cards. With coins sufficiently distributed I took to the second Ghost Train of the day which appeared to have rather similar cars to that one in Mablethorpe from a few weeks ago. The layout was at least different inside, it lasted a bit longer and had somewhat more going on, though it wasn’t the most impressive of the day.
The final stop of the tour was Porthcawl, another place I had no particular desire to return to (a general feeling shared amongst all South Wales amusements it seems). It had at least been a couple more years since the last visit however and there was a far worthier prize on the cards. A shiny new Wacky Worm AND yet another Ghost Train.
Coney Beach Pleasure(?) Park
It appeared that disaster had struck as we entered the car park for this one, with Walibi Holland levels of queues and depravity attempting to merge into a single line and leave the premises for the day. It was too late to react, we’d made our bed as soon as we turned in. Looks like we’ll be sleeping here overnight.
They’ve added a queueline and ticket booths to the entrance here in what I assume was an attempt to alleviate the crowds. The rule appears to be that you have to pay to get in and walk around, though unless you walk up to the desk and actively channel what a great man once declared on a bench outside El Toro (‘I don’t like riiides’), you can just buy whatever tokens you need there and get in with those hassle free.
I was concerned at the sight of the decoration for this #4 Family Roller Coaster, that crude painting of the Ladybird from A Bug’s Life looks far too familiar and, not for the first time, I began to question the validity of this whole travelling, counting nonsense (still fun though). Subtle differences on deeper analysis at least, the one I recall was actually at the first park of this report, Funland, back in 2018, and didn’t have an op box, whereas this one does. It appears Güven Lunapark are knocking out these facades on a mass production scale and I, for one, welcome our new worm overlords.
This Ghost Train has been kicking around for an impressive number of years. The very open 4 seater cars must have had a few overhauls in that time.
It was dark, there was luminous paint, there were obnoxiously loud noises. There’s no real narrative or anything in the way of sensations to these, so I’m struggling to say anything much about them. I’d rank it middle of the three today.
There we go then, another +4 (and +3 on the ghost trains). I suffered for it though – still sunburnt, achey and bruised, clearly I need to warm my body back into these types of excursions, particularly if it ever comes to multiple days of it. If that even happens this year…
The road to Skegness could only ever be tolerated for the sake of creds and so with a potential +4 on the cards (pretty huge for the UK these days) we made the arduous journey up, far too early on a Saturday morning for what I’m used to these days – really need to get back into the swing of this business.
First stop of the day was Mablethorpe for their beachside funfair.
a.k.a. Dunes Leisure
There’s the beach.
And here’s the fun. As I’ve now taken it upon myself to have a secondary counting obsession (dark rides), the first port of call was their Ghost Train. Foolishly anticipating cashless systems these days, we had arrived unprepared for such eventualities as “the card machine doesn’t work”, so this plan was immediately scuppered.
Tried our luck with #1 Roller Coaster the Wacky Worm in the interim where, after much tension and waving of technology through the air, the transaction went through. I was informed that “the back is the best row” (of course) and in jest that the Ghost Train operator “can’t even use a Microwave properly, say no more.” Several glorious laps ensued, during which I took the time to observe the depth of the show building for the other ride (seemingly non-existent) and some donkey races on the beach.
I’d scraped together enough coinage to brave the Ghost Train alone and boarded in anticipation of a life changing experience. It was over in about 20 seconds, utilising no more than a handful of light up scary figures in each corner with the expected accompaniment of an overly loud noise. The building was impressively dark however, to the point of not seeing your hand in front of your face and there was a single effective scare with a mirror in which, for the briefest of moments, my brain couldn’t process what was happening and got spooked a little. Oh wait, it’s my face riding this thing. The most terrifying imagery of all. Fair play to the operator, he was going for the classic jump scare at the exit too. Have to work with what you’ve got. I then contemplated for the first time such philosphical debates as – are low end attractions like this going to become the analogous +1s of the dark ride counting experience? Doing it for purely for the numbers and the entertainment of adventure, rather than the end result. Probably, I decided, and I’m ok with that.
Some on the fly maths and geography dictated to us that the next stop on the trip would have to be Fantasy Island, and so we soon arrived at the familiar sight of surprisingly massive Vekomas in the middle of nowhere, except it wasn’t quite so familiar. That new Millenium paint job is… striking. At least you can tell them apart now, weather permitting.
The paint job of the new spinner, which resides in the prime parking lot coaster location, gave me vibes of Steel Curtain and the inevitable thought that I should have been riding that and a million other things next week instead of this but, you know… pandemic spite.
I count my blessings every day that I’ve already ridden Odyssey as it seems to be unavailable more often than not. Sure enough today the train is parked on the lift hill following a reported chain failure – that won’t be going anywhere for a while.
It potentially wasn’t worth it due to the pace at which the day was moving, but we had pre-booked wristbands for the wrong day – a last minute change of plans due to impending weather conditions had overruled proceedings and, thankfully, the staff were happy to swap the dates on the spot.
Headed straight back to the car park for the new and exciting stuff, beginning with #2 Family Roller Coaster, a second Wacky Worm on the bounce – I do like a bit of consecutive consistency in such matters and I wonder what the current record by anyone is for the most of these in a row.
The Maurer coaster #3 Spinning Racer is also from the travelling circuit, including certain visual clues such as the safety instructions inside the cars being written in German. True to form it was operating fairly efficiently and the layout is rather better than I remember from any previous iteration (somehow putting Laff Trakk in a building didn’t do it any favours), though the actual spinning was sporadic at best.
We had noticed on our way in and out of the indoor section that the queue for Millenium looked particularly grim, spilling well out of the entrance and into the surrounding area, as well as being complimented by plastic screening that looked straight out of a horror film – I don’t remember this one being great at the best of times. Would have quite liked to get reacquainted with the ride but decided to pass on it. I like it, but not that much.
This sentiment was reaffirmed while we queued for a token lap on Rhombus Rocket and watched the single train despatch intervals for Millenium exceed 10 minutes. The powered coaster turned out to be a good decision as it was punching well above its weight, with some striking acceleration for one of these and there was a particularly violent transition that I have no recollection of, one that tried to cause serious injury for all parties involved.
The only other planned activities we had here were to revisit the two dark rides back indoors. Seaquarium was up first, with its simple circular boats and underwater scene theme. I never tire of the catchy soundtrack on this one, it’s an instant earworm.
Sadly Toucan Tours was also out of action for the day, so after a quick snap for the database it was time to hit the road again.
Final destination for the itinerary was a temporary fair in Lincoln (a second compelling reason to have changed this trip to the Saturday as this was their final day of operation). Cashflow issues arose again, getting in was fine with the token £1 entry fee on another card machine with signal issues. The operator for the Dragon however didn’t even own the necessary tools, resulting in the need for a quick trip to a nearby cashpoint, which the admissions staff were happy to let slide.
One tenner and many snacks later it was time for the final cred of the day, and what a way to end it, in helical powered #4 Dragon Coaster fashion. What can I say? It performed seven laps and I rather like the unpainted steel effect on this one.
4 new coasters by the end of the day then. Nothing spectacular among them of course, but what did you expect out of the cred hunting series?
In a bit of a break from tradition there’s no new creds to be seen here today. Though it’s just about my most local major theme park it feels like forever since I’ve actually visited Chessington properly. There have been a couple of zoo days or winter events here and there that I’ve checked out with very limited ride availability, but free reign of the whole place? Has to be pushing a decade.
Their investment cycle during that period has seemed… sporadic at best. Aside from Zufari in 2013, which may well have been the last reason I came here, the focus on attractions has remained almost entirely on rebranding and repurposing each and everything they already have, sometimes more than once. With nothing truly new and exciting coming through, the prices and queue times steadily rising and seeing all the rides I’d grown up with/on receiving facelifts it was inevitable that my attention would fade and drift elsewhere over the years, as it has with a number of UK parks. We do tend to neglect that which is in right front of us at times.
But here we are, 2021, with local restrictions beginning to ease again and nothing else to do for a minute, may as well do something, right? Oh, and they have actually built something new too. Visiting on a the weekend of a public holiday probably wasn’t the smartest of ideas and this was soon made clear upon our arrival, with a half hour queue to get into the car park and a further wait of almost an hour on foot to get into the south entrance of the park. I’d usually opt for the ‘premium’ car park here as it doesn’t involve fields and gets you in via the ‘proper’ entrance that was actually designed to start your day, but that’s not an option right now.
First order of the day ended up being one of the more recent attraction facelifts I hadn’t yet encountered. I’m not convinced that there’s been a visual improvement here from Dragon Falls to Tiger Rock, though I do appreciate the sentiment of trying to spread the zoo aspect of the park further around and integrating it into more of the ride areas.
What’s that looming on the horizon? A huge crocodile engulfing a drop tower. I have to admit I paid little to no attention to the construction and development of this new for 2021 attraction. I knew it by name alone, I didn’t realise the classic flat ride Rameses’ Revenge was dead, nor that this was going in it’s place and that it would be an attempt to revitalise the old ‘Forbidden Kingdom’ area (as I know it from ~2000) with the accompanying Egyptian theming.
Some images of the final product caught my eye however and I was rather impressed with what I saw. I do like a visually striking attraction and it certainly is one of those. The queues around the park were just about hitting ‘capacity’ at this point, with staff attempting to clear the masses spilling out into pathways outside the entrance and we just about managed to slip into the back of the Croc Drop line for an advertised wait of 50 minutes.
These queue times throughout the day were pretty accurate on the whole and eventually riders are batched into a waiting area before the doors to the Temple of Sobek open. The overarching narrative is a little lost in proceedings, though I like that they at least attempted to provide one for the attraction. A rousing chant of “brave the drop, release the curse” fills the station before the ride cycle begins. Upon return to the ground you’ve “broken the curse, saved the Nile and sorted out Sobek” (paraphrasing), just not sure where those last two came from.
This isn’t the first time the UK has seen one of these SBF Visa models, with local rival Paultons Park having owned one for a number of years beforehand. The up and downy bouncy cycle errs on the family friendly side of thrilling of course, though there should be enough of a tingly sensation in there for almost anyone to enjoy and naturally there’s some good views out over the rest of the park. It’s nice, fine, good to see them do something new here. It’s not a patch on the recent investments on that same local rival and I would never normally go out of my way for this level of attraction, but these are strange times.
Speaking of things I wouldn’t usually go out of my way for, a reride on a wild mouse with a full queue? To be fair we’ve had some great times on Rattlesnake over the years and it’s a pretty punchy version of the hardware more often than not, with this occasion being no exception. There was a bit of a concerning crunch in the bottom of the last drop that reminded me of El Toro’s ‘Rolling Thunder hill’. Ah, memories.
Might as well reride them all then. I’m not convinced there’s been a visual improvement here from Runaway Train to Scorpion Express, though I do appreciate the sentiment of adding a fire effect. The ride was only completing two laps as opposed to the usual three and that was no doubt helping the queue move along much more nicely.
Zufari, the jeep based safari attraction has seen a few modifications over the years, most notably for me it now lacks an interactive pre-show (perhaps for the better), the on-board commentary has changed (perhaps not for the better) and the mystery ending in the cave is slightly different (as much of a missed opportunity as it always was). All in all it’s a solid way to see some animals up a little closer, though if that’s your thing it’s worth weighing up the wait times against time spent in the actual zoo.
And time was indeed running away from us. Looking back it’s a depressing number of attractions that we actually achieved in a full day on park, but at least we saved the best for last.
Dragon’s Fury is the one thing I’ve truly missed from not visiting this place. It’s one of my favourite coasters in the UK, one of the true standouts of its ride type and a total gem in the Chessington lineup. This is all speaking from experiences up to half a lifetime ago though and it’s ridiculous to think how much I’ve done since then. Had it faded by comparison?
Not in the slightest. This thing was on fire. Bombing down the first drop, hauling through that immelman and never failing to surprise with (ashamedly) a couple of the UK’s best airtime moments. It’s when we hit the questionable second lift hill that things really got serious though. The snakey series of turns out of here kicked up a spin like I’ve never ever seen on a Maurer before, it was pushing fairground Reverchon levels of blurred vision and hilarity which managed to stay with us right until the final brakes.
There’s rumours on the horizon of more new things coming to this park in the near future and I sincerely hope it’s not another decade before I get reacquainted with this old friend. Love it too much.
With UK parks finally back up and running last week it was inevitable that the cred hunting (and trip report!) drought had to be broken at last. This could well have involved a bite of a big apple, something dirty like the one now lurking in Gloucester on Coaster Count, but good old Paultons have been putting some huge effort in over the last year or more and it would be rude not to get started with something ‘proper.’
Just a heads up on the logistics for anyone planning to visit in the near future, on a day that ends up as busy or sold out on the pre-book system – the signposted route is struggling to cope with everyone arriving for opening, with quite severe queues backing up towards the M27 roundabout. It’s basically a circle between the entrance to the Paultons driveway and the motorway however, so going against the flow (on Google’s instruction – surprised no one else was using this) potentially saved us a good half hour of stewing in the car before getting parked up.
Figuring that half the world was still stuck queuing to get in we headed straight for the new area before there was too much of an opportunity for everyone else to do the same.
There’s a fine looking sight to greet you upon arrival at Tornado Springs. I was particularly impressed with the way the ride supports frame the entrance to the area, the finer details around the footers and a certain buzz in the atmosphere that was already being generated by the overall spectacle.
The park seem to have developed a real knack over the past few years for integrating major attractions and pathways as one, which is always great to see.
So straight to it – #1 Storm Chaser. Because it’s me, I couldn’t get overly excited about this one, if at all, because, well, it’s a clone. I knew what to expect and purely as a ride experience it delivered exactly that.
It’s a solid layout. I like the teasing start, the build into the highlight which is the low, fast and tight helix and subsequent transitions that slither out of it.
If you’re looking for thrills, this model is rather heavily dependent on getting a good spin through the fast section to really give you something to think about and that doesn’t seem to happen a whole lot – we had one lap on this occasion that could well have been an axle mounted POV, with the front car following the layout almost dead straight throughout.
If you’re looking for pure fun though, it’s a winner. The indoor queueline for the ride was rather nice and a good step up for Paultons again. The theme tune got stuck in my head within a single ride cycle, which is always a sign of a quality package, and I was happily humming it regularly throughout the rest of the day.
I think it’s mainly thanks to the aesthetic that I’d rank it in the middle of the Sierra Sidewinders – there’s plenty more going on around when compared with the original, but the fog machines, indoorness and samples I got of spinningness keep the Spiderman version at the top for me.
Time for a token lap on the other coasters. I remember picking up an actual park map for Paultons in a service station as a child in the early 2000s (not just a leaflet, and not £3.50, those were the days) and obsessing over it, being particularly fascinated by the crude drawing of Stinger, thinking ‘that’s a cool and unique looking bug coaster, I hope I get to go there some day.’ It currently lives on as a cat-bug hybrid and how naive I was when it came to the unique part.
Turns out Storm Chaser with it’s two trains was coping far better than the other end of the park. The most arduous queue of the day ended up being Cobra which, due to distancing, started well outside of the entrance. I’ll rarely say no to a Gerst Bob, but there are obviously finer examples out there. The step down in presentation in this area has become a little jarring although the ride still has that all-encompassing touch around the pathways, which is good for spectating some elusive British airtime.
My last visit in 2016 feels like a lifetime ago, when this dinosaur craze hit the country – I wonder if the American craze will catch on next and whether Paultons are now the trend setters? Velociraptor has held up well on looks, just not so well with me for the fact that these are everywhere now.
Speaking of looks, what’s happened to the paint on Flight of the Pterosaur? Brown has faded to green in rather unexpected fashion, yet it still manages to pull it off rather elegantly. The final corner wasn’t kicking as much ass as it did back around opening day – you could feel the sway of the shocks fighting the continuous push. Still love these trains and of course there’s sooo many of them now.
At the risk of turning this into a history lesson, I remember when this one was a frog. Did I get two Zierer Tivoli firsts from this park? The dinosaur retrofit, theming package and paint job reminded me why Paulton’s previous expansion was so impressive and important as well.
After some lunch we did the done thing and hit up some gentle rides.
Just like Dino Chase, Trekking Tractors has had an overhaul to integrate with the new surroundings, one that includes groundhogs and references to Tornados.
Oh, and a chicken getting excited about the construction of a new cred.
That wonderful framing is back again over in the queue for The Dinosaur Tour Co.. I do like it when things are well thought out.
The ride itself was misbehaving, cutting the Australian narrator short halfway through and looping the audio round twice. The indoor baby dino was still jiggling well, but the evil water spraying one was out of action.
Not being much of a flat ride connoisseur, figured we’d give Cyclonator a try to see what the fuss was about as it seemed the most popular thing all day. It worked out surprisingly well with what I thought would be a lack of heft. Takes a long time to get up to full swing, but once there it can give some unnerving dangling out of your seat moments with great interactive views. I guess Thorpe is technically redundant now.
And with that it was time to close out the day on Storm Chaser thanks to some on the spot extended opening hours. A token gesture really, an opportunity to goon out about where the transfer track was (under the station – great space saving) and avoid catching the eyes of the kids in the Wicker Man t-shirts.
On departure it initially seemed like the car park situation was going to repeat itself in reverse – desperately didn’t want to sour this return to form with a Walibi Holland experience. Thankfully it all flows rather well in the outbound direction and the queues trundled along smoothly. All in all a pleasant day, I’m delighted with the park and what they’ve done for themselves.
It is what it is on a purely personal basis though – I think with every local investment there’s an underlying wish that you’ll get that next great thing to keep you actively wanting to come back for more. While Paultons stick to the formula of tried and tested coaster layouts it’s not going to happen for misery guts me, but we can of course say that the future’s looking bright.
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.
There’s no slowing me down now. A quick look at the Coaster Count nearest list highlighted that there was an opportunity for yet another +3 much closer to home. Finally something to do on a weekend.
South Parade Pier
Fortunately the beach at Southsea wasn’t full of half a million people desperate for a bit of sunlight.
Brand new for 2020, paint still gleaming, they’ve got a new Wacky Worm lads. Apparently the token man wanted to take cash rather than contactless, but he was denied – them’s the rules. The ride was deceivingly violent, more so than the Barry Island Galaxi. With no braking at all in the station between laps, it just flew through and had me clear out of my seat on the little despatch dip. I can’t remember the last time I sat back row in one of these and the lateral whip into the drop ended up being rather painful, particularly with my reluctance to hold onto anything.
B. Cole & Sons Family Fairground
The other two creds were temporary pop-ups at a fair in neighbouring Southampton. A highly reliable temperature check was administered here before we were allowed to purchase tokens.
First up was ummm… <squints sideways> #2 Runaway Train. It began with calming Reggae music before the official Thomas the Tank engine sponsorship kicked in over the sound system. There wasn’t much airtime to be found and an inversion would have been nice, but there was still a surprising amount of fun laterals in the imaginative oval layout.
The #3 Crazy Dragon was an absolute beast. Couldn’t understand a word the operator was saying through his face shield, but once the ride was up and running it turned into a professional slew of alternating “yubbagonnagetyahandsupwannahearyagonnamakeyascreeeeeeeeeeeeam” and “noneahereyougonnawannagottaputyourhandsintheyubbaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiir” every time the station was navigated, complete with a bubble machine going off in riders’ faces. I enjoyed the shuttle aspect of the ride, with a slight roll backwards out of the station before the intense tyre launch kicked into action. The larger and even more imaginative oval layout provided a great sensation of speed, with the wind in my face reminding me that I’m well overdue a haircut.
So there we have it, a successul run with no spites on some of the finest creds in the country. I’m inching ever closer to the big 1K and why would I need Voyage when I can make it one of these?