Drayton Manor

It has been more than 9 years and about 650 roller coasters ago since I first visited this park with Emanuel. At the time, it was one of the two ECC days which merged with our tour of English amusement parks. The other day was for Alton Towers, the park Hellen and I will go tomorrow. In those nine years a lot has changed for this park too. It looks like a lot has been invested in the rides they offer, while the old highlights have been preserved. This has resulted in an impressive list of awards the park received since 2006 amongst which three times the Best UK Attraction for Children. Also commendable is that Drayton Manor has remained independent and has not been bought out by a large operator like Merlin.

This morning we arrive early in the park. So early in fact that most of the attractions are not yet open. The presumption is that Ben 10, being the lastest rollercoaster added and accessible to a wide audience, will soon develop a proper queue and thus we go there first, waiting until it opens. Meanwhile taking some pictures of Apocalypse and other attractions nearby.

Ben 10 - Ultimate Mission Accelerator (#831) is a junior boomerang made by Vekoma. Unlike a full size boomerang, this one doesn't go upside down but otherwise the track layout is roughly the same. The train is first reversed into one of both arms and then released. After rushing through the station, there are a few sharp turns before the other arm is travelled. We then reverse back into the station again. It is not particularly an exciting ride but something different for a change.

We walk back to the front of the park for G Force (#832), the X-Car coaster by Maurer. This coaster is not even much faster than Ben 10 but is clearly a lot more thrill. It already starts with the lift hill that stretches to the top of the first inversion. The riders are slowly hoisted on their backs until they're upside down before the rest of the loop is finished. This is followed by a steep hill and immediately afterwards a double inversion. And that with only a bracket over the legs. The ride is short but very nice.

From here we take the Chair Lift to the other end of the park. Always a great way to take pictures from this position. From here we can also see that Shockwave does not operate. There seems to be a train stranded on the lift hill.

In Thomas Land we find a collection of rides for the little ones. The area is added to the park in 2008 and looks very cheerful and pleasant. We're searching for a while to find the entrance to Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster (#833), a small coaster which also allows small children to ride. It sounds like they are very excited to do so.

It is remarkably quiet at Pirate Adventure so we walk in and immediately board a small boat. The ride through a number of pirate scenes comes a little dated about and is not comparable at all to Pirates at Disneyland Paris - Disneyland Park.

It is about lunch time and we find a dining place where they sell Humble Pies. The steak & ale pie with mashed potatoes and peas is delicious and something different besides hamburger with fries.

I do remember the Golden Nuggets Wild West Shootout from the previous visit. This is an interactive dark ride in western style in which the mobile carts pass the targets we have to shoot at. The implementation is very playful. Also Maelstrom, the Intamin Gyro Swing, could not be skipped this time. I am still fond of these giant swings.

In the meantime, test runs have started again on Shockwave so we check to see if it will open again soon. And indeed, I'm lucky because they just opened to allow visitors in. Just in time because the station is still practically empty. Shockwave is a stand-up coaster, one of the 13 roller coasters in which one does not sit in a chair, but has to stand upright on the train. Setting the height of a kind of saddle and shoulder braces often takes some time but eventually we leave and we go up the lift hill. Then something goes wrong again and we come to a standstill. After a short time the whole thing moves again but after a few meters falters once again. For a few tough guys in the back the tension is now too much and loudly they make clear they do not want to continue. This poses the operators to a dilemma because if these guys are really sincere than they have no choice but to respond. One of them climbs the stairs next to the lift hill to ask the men if they really want to evacuate. This appears to be the case, and thus some actions are required in order to be able to open the restraints here at the spot the train is in. Because this also takes quite some time the men decide to take their chances and remain standing where they are after all. The ride can finally proceed and so it runs smoothly without further interference. This must have been the longest time for me on a roller coaster train ever.

Shockwave lives up to its name because there are some major slams during the course. It is still a pretty nice ride though. Standing up through the four inversions at high speed is a unique experience and with your head firmly pressed against the side, the blows aren't that bad.

After a second round on G Force, we have done the most interesting attractions for today. Unfortunately, Stormforce 10 is closed all day. So we move on to Alton on time where we will visit the park tomorrow.