Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Into the valley...

We've had a couple of days off as it is half term. Yesterday, we went up to Lightwater Valley, near Ripon. It describes itself as the ultimate family day out but what what you get in amongst a couple of gems is a selection of moderately clapped out fairground rides and fast food that arguably contravenes the Trades description Act (as far as the word fast applies).

The oddest ride there is something called Toad Hole which is a sort of watersplash from inside a cave down into a pond below on a rope tethered carriage. It wasn't working yesterday though...

My favourite ride of the day was the Twister, a spinning wild mouse style ride very similar to the one on the end of the South Pier at Blackpool and which was bought new a couple of years back. Their headline ride is called the Ultimate and is a very long coaster that used to be the longest in the world. It looks like a Woodie with two large wooden lift hills but is actually of steel construction. The lift hills are excruciatingly slow, particularly the 2mph chug round the top of the second hill. It then enters a very fast undulating run curving & banking fiercely through trees , swooping through two tunnels and giving you a good bone rattle until eventually sauntering back into the station some seven minutes or so after you set off. Consequently the throughput on the ride is very poor, with only six trains an hour and some of the back seats not available/water ballasted yesterday (apparently due to the lap bars being faulty). The ride didn't open until mid-day (we queued from 11:55 and boarded at 12:28). It had what looked like 40 minute queues every time we walked past the station so we couldn't be bothered to ride a second time. They can run two trains but the crew would have to work twice as hard and why should they bother? They have your gate money already...

They have an in-the-dark coaster called the Sewer Rat that has a particularly well themed entrance route where you walk through sewer pipes and down rusty stairs surrounded by the sound (& sight) of rushing water. The Coaster itself is rather mediocre and would look particularly unimpressive with the lights on in its underground bunker but the inability to tell what is about to happen next does bring the element of surprise when you suddenly find yourself dropping like a stone.

They were promoting a ride called the skyrider as being new for 2006. It is a giant swing ride where the chained seats spin as the central support rises then it swoops as the upper structure tilts and counter-rotates. I'm sure the ride itself isn't new and was there last time we visited. What is new is the theming- it has been painted with musical motifs and the control hut is covered in Feux posters for Rock groups. Previous to this there was another swing ride which was much bigger but somewhat simpler, not having the swoop motion. What it did have, however, was an enormous moon-like structure which counter-rotated so that it looked interesting. It was all painted green and there were a couple of rectangular hatches missing on the surface of the moon to give it that uniquely British look of negligence.

A large yellow swing ride looked interesting- the Eagles's Claw. This was a circle of 24 inward facing seats on the end of a pendulum, a smaller version of Drayton Manor's Maelstrom and apparently an earlier design. Regrettably, I was too big to ride, but David got a go (and didn't like it as he didn't realise why I couldn't).

Is it worth a trip there? Yes, if you don't go with high expectations of it being Disneyland or a major league Uk theme park. Also, be on the lookout for discount vouchers, we managed to get in for £5.95 each with a coupon out of the Manchester Evening News that a Gran had supplied. Don't bother if it is raining though, most of the park is out of doors and the grass was very squelchy. The shops are worth a look at the exit (which can be visited without having to enter the park) and the home made fudge in the courtyard gift shop is sensationally sticky!

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