It’s only a few hundred miles.

P9070205 …with some ups and downs along the way

Well, it’s been an interesting week or so. Driving the best part of 900 miles in 5 days, visiting 5 themeparks, 1 snow-dome, and spending time with some friends. Overall it was a good week, although there were a few moments when things didn’t go quite to plan, and the strain of the journey took it’s toll… But anyway, on to the trip reports… I’ve already mentioned the tobogganing and the snowdome in an earlier post, so will resume at the next morning, at nearby Drayton Manor Park, where we were met by John P. James has beaten me to make most of the points (link to his post here), the park appears to be suffering towards the end of the season, with many rides not operating at their best (the tilts on Apocalypse and Drunken Barrels, James already mentioned) with many rides clearly in need of a little TLC. Excalibur was closed, with all the boats removed from the cable, so I suspect that won’t open again soon…

The evening saw a 2 hour drive to York, a bit of messing about trying to park and get into town for a meal, and our Travelodge which was getting some TLC, and as such looked rather like a building site. Apparently this hotel was affected by the floods earlier in the year and was getting it’s ground floor rooms refitted, however this wasn’t a problem as we were upstairs, and the restaurant next door (used for breakfast) had either already been sorted out, or was unaffected.

Tom gets a bird! Now we come to the first of the new-to-me parks on this trip – with Tom B joining us, we went to Flamingoland Park and Zoo. Formerly the home of two large steel coasters from Schwarzkopf, both have been removed – however the park was very well presented, clean, tidy, with friendly chatty staff and a really good mix of attractions, ranging from animal shows, one of which provided Tom B with the chance to have a pretty bird on his arm, to launched rollercoasters. This is clearly a park that a family will likely enjoy with areas and attractions for everyone.

Their current signature attraction is the “Velocity” launched motorbike-themed coaster, very reminiscent of the similar ride at Toverland (link/pic), with a nice punchy launch and a series of turns and swooping drops to make the most of the space. This is a park which seems to have a great future ahead of it, if the rumours are true, and the areas which have been developed recently are all very smart, even at this late stage in the season.

This is probably as good a time as any to mention the biggest problem on this trip, as a somewhat heavy individual, not used to walking for hours at a time, my feet took a pounding during this week – and I now have more blisters on my feet than I could get blister-plasters for (the chemist shop near the hotel only had one packet)

Big One... Anyway, our next (and by far the longest) drive took us across from York to the entertainment capital of the North West – yes, it’s time for Blackpool. As we arrived early enough, we decided to take a tram ride down to the Pleasure Beach, and view the famous Illuminations. It’s been quite a few years since I last visited Blackpool at this time of year, and whilst not cold, you know you’re on a westerly facing coast.

The illuminations were pretty spectacular (as far as animated light shows can be) with the usual decorated trams making their way up and down the promenade.

John and James emerge Of course, no trip to Blackpool would be complete without some time at the Pleasure Beach – it still amazes me how they can cram so many rides into such a small space – but that’s half the character of the place. Even with the Grand National unavailable, everything else was running, allowing us to ride everything we wanted easily, and make a nice relaxed day of things.

Valhalla is still as wet as ever, Rollercoaster has now aquired new seat-belts. This puzzles me as it’s run without seatbelts since 1933, and now, after 74 years, they add them!

P9070230 The 2007 International Fireworks Championships took place that evening on the central promenade, with the Canadian team showcasing a superb display of pyrotechncial mastery. It was a bit cold sitting there in just a T-Shirt (not having had time to go back the hotel) but the show was spectacular. Rather than joining the huge queues for the trams right after the show, we went and spent some time checking out the “New” ride in Coral Island – a “shooting” partial dark-ride located in the amusement arcade. It was a little odd to say the least, some of it being on a monorail running over the games area, and other sections being enclosed in tunnels with various Pirate themed show-scene, all with dinner-plate sized targets!

Jousting Show The next park on our schedule also marked the our joining the ECC trip “Knights and Legends”, taking us first to Camelot, and what is by far the most interesting new ride in the UK for 2007 – Knightmare yes another Schwarzkopf machine gets a mention in this post – this one is 20 years old, and still packs a punch rare for a ride in the UK.

Camelot’s other highlights included a very good Jousting Tournament show – a bit silly at times – but entertaining, and far above the standards expected of a park this small!

Our fifth and final stop was Alton Towers – a park that needs little introduction here – and it’s main rides and attractions are very well known. Generally the park looks tidier and smarter than before, and the hospitality shown to the club was the usual high-standards.

Thanks especially to James, John and Tom for their company over the week (putting up with me for 5 days solidly cannot be easy!), and to everyone who we met up with along the way!

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