Lightwater Valley is heading in the right direction. Today we visited a bustling park that is undoubtedly improving its prospects as it moves past the first third of its five year plan of investment.
My visit last year featured me witnessing a super re-theming of the old Rat Ride into the dinosaur animatronic-featuing Raptor Attack. They created one of the most immersive environments of any dark ride or enclosed rollercoaster in the UK.
The park has a five plan in which it is aiming to increase its profile and visitor numbers, and it has been given significant financial backing from its owners – believed to be prepared to invest seven-figure sums in the park every year.
This year’s main addition – which like Raptor Attack is demonstrating their skill for in-house creativity – is Skeleton Cove – the new pirate-themed area.
It was a change of plan from bringing in an ageing Vekoma Whirlwind rollercoaster that came about when Loudon Castle sadly closed, making a numbe rof rides available at an afordable price for Lightwater Valley.
The area features great theming, with models, figures, lots of woodwork and even its own soundtrack – a very nice touch which rivals that of Mutiny Bay at Alton Towers.
The result is a number of piratey flat rides including the inverting ship the Black Pearl. These rides are capable of being run on longer cycles with more inversions, but it has suffered downtime this week and may not be currently at its best.
As today was busy, particularly in Skeleton Cove, the Skull Rock (a small Breakdance model) was also on short cycles, but there is moderate intensity to be had on these things – although not to the extent of their bigger brothers.
In Whirlwind, the Mondial Top Scan purchased for this season, they have one of Britain’s most intense flat rides. John, the veteran operator in charge today was a cool and silent figure behind his shades, but once he entered that control booth he unleashed a fierce barrage of twists and turns.
While the seaside seasonal nature of Fantasy Island enables them to run their equivalent on five minute cycles, Lightwater Valley’s is certainly a brilliant mixture of being crazy and also a queue shifter – as opposed to Samurai at Thorpe Park which barely gets up to speed before the cycle ends.
The Ultimate is running true to its name, its the definitive eccentric British rollercoaster. It roughens, rattles and rolls better than ever – it is hysterically good fun. long may it continue to cause minor bruising to passengers!
The park’s marketing team are currently eager for feedback on catering, welcoming suggestions for improvement in value and quality.
Their food and is extremely expensive here (with the pictured meal deal costing £6.95), but which theme parks don’t have high prices for catering?
The greatest improvement the park can make is increasing quality and variety. There is simply not a wide enough selection to choose from.
Meals incorporating salad, pasta, oriental or freshly-prepared elements would add a great deal of character to their menus. At the moment there are simply too many burger and hot dog outlets.
All-you-can eat buffets are popular at the larger parks such as Blackpool Pleasure Beach and the Merlin giants, and there is no reason why something similar couldn’t be added to Lightwater Valley.
If the five-year plan is to truly propel the park into the big time, then it will need to bring imagination and diversity to an area that’s among any theme park’s most vital.
I’d like to thank the park’s marketing duo Ashley Young and Simon Edward for making our group feel very welcome and proving complimentary hospitality. The way they embrace enthusiasts is miles ahead of any other park in the country.