Yesterday my husband and I took our children to Barry Island for a day out during the summer holidays. We live in Newport, which is about a 30 Minute car journey from Barry Island.
Barry Island is located on the South East Coastline of Wales, in the Vale of Glamorgan. It has always been an attractive location for people from South Wales, The Vale of Glamorgan, and the South Wales Valleys to visit for a family day out.
THE HISTORY OF BARRY ISLAND
Barry Island Promenade was first connected to the mainland and Barry by the Switchback Railway, which was built up to the west end of the promenade in 1897. Prior to this visitors had to be Ferried via Paddle Steamers to and from the Island to visit the pleasure resort with Promenade in the late 1880`s when the promenade was first built as a pleasure resort.
Much later in 1912, a large figure of eight rollercoaster was built on the site, but sadly closed in 1914. In 1923, the promenade was re-developed and the pleasure park and figure eight roller coaster were moved to the permanent site adjacent to the promenade. The figure eight rollercoaster was also rejuvenated when the White Bros leased the new location of the Pleasure Park, at which time they added a few more rides to the Parks new site. In 1929 when the White Bros tried to renew there lease on the Pleasure Park, Pat Collins the owner of Evesham Pleasure Park outbid them. Outraged by this the White Bros retaliated by outbidding his lease renewal on the Evesham Pleasure Park. Pat Collins was of course unhappy with this and renamed his new lease Pleasure Park on Barry Island to Evesham Pleasure Park knowing that this would outrage the White Bros.
The White Bros still owned the figure eight rollercoaster itself though so they proceeded to move the rollercoaster to a new site just adjacent to the Evesham Pleasure Park in Barry Island in competition and named it Cosy Corner. Sadly, the figure eight rollercoaster was bringing in enough income and began to run in to disrepair so in 1939 it was demolished and was replace by a new Giant Scenic Railway.
In 1950, Pat Collins handed the business over to his brother John due to ill health and it remained in the family for many years and went from strength to strength. Especially when Billy Butlins opened his new and last Holiday camp on Nell's Point. Billy Butlin chose this location as it was the most suitable site near Cardiff. Unfortunately Billy Butlin was restricted to the leisure rides he could put in the park due to a clause in the land contract due to its location directly across from Barry Island Pleasure Park, which John Collins renamed the site after his brother Pat sadly passed away.Butlins did manage to get permission for some leisure activitities and in 1967 The Stair Lift Cable cars were added.
The Collins Family were by now making massive amounts of profit from the campers at Butlins coming across to go on there Pleasure Park rides, and continued to build bigger and better attractions to keep the visitors returning. Sadly, the novelty of Holiday Camps started to decline and as Barry was the Smallest and the Camp itself was limited to leisure rides, it was announced in 1986 that it was to close its gates for the last time on New Years Eve that year. However the Collins Family still continued to obtain huge amounts of visitors to there attractions on day trips for the family.
The Majestic Holidays Group bought the site from Butlins in February 1987 with promises to spend 15 million pounds in renovations. The site was closed until the may of 1987 when it was due to re-open. Sadly, it suffered a huge amount of storm damage during the march and April of 1987 so the renovations were mostly confined to the worst hit areas by the storm, the outdoor pool and all the buildings had to be reclad, but they also managed to totally refurbish the indoor pool as well before it opening in May.
After that Majestic did not come true to there word about further renovations, all the accommodation, and other facilities began to deteriorate and become in desperate need for repair. The cracks in the business began to show so in 1990 the Majestic group put a clause in there holiday contracts, that stopped anyone from being able to claim more than 20% of the holiday costs back should they choose to sue.
More and more debts were run up by Majestic and finally it closed its door for the last time in 1996, when the Vale of Glamorgan refused to renew there entertainments licence due to health and safety concerns. The Vale of Glamorgan then bought the land and began to demolish the Holiday Camp in the spring of 1998 at which point they sold 75% of the land to Bovis Homes for a new housing developement.Some of the Holiday Camp buildings still need to be finished demolishing to this day which the Vale Of Glamorgan are working on as a new university of Wales and campus is to be built there for students wishing to obtain a degree in leisure and tourism.
During this time in the 1990`s the Collins family decided to sell the Park lease and it was bought by Mr Ken Rogers the owner of the Hypervalue Group.Mr Rogers had been trying for several years to gain the lease and was overjoyed when he finally got his hands on it. His reasons for this was his Hypervalue company all began 25 yrs earlier in the form of a small market stall on the Market that was situated near the entrance to the main Island Pleasure Park and he built it all from there. After finally obtaining the Lease Ken Rogers made huge great changes to the Barry Island Pleasure Park, including the demolition and building of improved rides and by the year 2000 it was a massive success. Sadly, at the Pleasure Parks Highest time Ken Rogers Passed away and the company to this day are run by his son Ian Rogers, However, the company at present is going on a down hill climb financially fast and many Hypervalue stores are now closing down. This is also having a huge effect on the Pleasure Park, which is looking in a bad way now, and showing it, as you will find out later in my review on my Visit to the Barry Island Pleasure Park and beach three days ago.
My Previous Personal Day Trip Memories
Having lived in Newport all my life, I have grown up with regular family day trips to Barry Island every year. If we were lucky, we would go three times in one summer season, but usually due to our family's financial situation, sometimes we may only get to go on the Fairground once in those three visits and some years we might only get one visit.
Even to this day with a family of my own I try to take my children there every year on day trips to keep up the family tradition I suppose, although I love the childhood memories it brings back to me every visit.
My Latest Visit and Experiences.
We visited on Thursday of this week 03/08/06, and we arrived at 11 am. The Welsh Volleyball Championships were being held on the beach that day but there was still plenty of room for day visitors. I was quite surprised at how quick we were able to find a parking space, especially on a hot sunny day during the summer holidays, and on the sea front as well.
After we parked, we took the children down to the beach to play, and as I said, there was still a lot of room for visitors to the beach even though they had cordoned off a large section for the Volleyball Championship.
The beach is extremely clean now compared to previous years, where you can see they have brought it up to the E.U standards required. I can still remember having to wade through all the rubbish, and having no problems finding accessories in the rubbish for your sand castles.
The water is also much cleaner than it used to be so overall; I think they have done a great job on improving the beach and water quality for the Tourists.
The Promenade has had a great deal of work done to it also. It has all well maintained gardens, and the Promenade itself is in an excellent state of repair with regular patrols being carried out to check for rubbish.
After a few hours on the beach and a walk along the Promenade, we went to have a sit down and a drink in one of the family bars called `Dolphins`, that is on the edge of the Fairground and faces the Sea. It was a lovely place to sit and relax and enjoy a drink, relax and still be able to see the Sea and boats in the water. The owners have taken great pride in Dolphins to keep a high standard of quality, service and presentation.
Our next stop was the Fairground before we bought Food as they had now had plenty of time to allow there previous sandwiches go down. We went to buy the tickets required for the Rides and were extremely surprised to find the large price drop compared to last year. It was always renowned for being expensive to go on the rides in the Pleasure Park. The tickets cost us £15.00 for 20 tickets, so we bought 40 tickets as we remember having to use between 3-4 tickets per person per ride last year.
As we approached the rides we saw that the maximum now was two tickets per person on all adult rides and only one ticket per person on the lesser thrill rides and children's rides. As we proceeded to the first ride that the children wanted to ride on, you could not help but notice that several rides were closed for repairs and the park grounds themselves were in a very bad state of repair, not to mention the rubbish.
The further we went and the more rides that we used, the more noticeable it was that the park was in a terrible mess. Some of the rides were showing a lot of rust. The log flume only had half of its carriages running. The water on the jungle ride was dirty and muddy and to make matters worst you could see the chicken wire where the plaster had fallen off and left huge great holes showing. The viper rollercoaster looked so bad that my husband would not even go on it because it looked so unsafe and rusty.
Enough was enough; we ended up leaving the Pleasure Park not even using half the tickets. Instead we went to a place called `The Burger Bar` and had some food which considering it was fast food was very tasty and good value for money. After our food, we went for a stroll around the shops, which were all in a good state of repair. There was a nice selection to choose from as well. The variety of shops has improved now so that it is not just candyfloss, souvenirs and beach accessories. There were clothing shops and other good shop selections to choose from.
Our final visit to finish the day as always on our daytrips to Barry Island is to spend a few pounds in the Amusement Arcades. There are many Amusement Arcades to choose from so we went in one called Cesar's Palace. The Arcade was very up to date and very clean. The staff were well mannered and well presented, we had a lot of fun on the games that you earn tickets to get gifts with and managed to get a little keepsake for each of the children to remind them of the day. Then we went to the Arcade attached to and owned by the Pleasure Park named `Just Pennies`. I really recommend to anyone who chooses to take a day trip to Barry Island not to visit this arcade.
The staff were very impolite and ignorant, the rubbish was overflowing, there were dirty slot machines and at least 10% of them do not even work, and the floor, well I must say it was that dirty, that our feet were sticking to the carpet. As you guessed, we did not stay.
Apart from that, overall we had a very pleasant day. It is sad to see that Hypervalue is going down hill and taking the Pleasure Park with it, but I still recommend this to anyone who wants a nice day out with plenty to do
There is also The Switchback Railways Museum site just across from the Pleasure Park, situated at the Railway station site just next door. The is also lots of nightclubs and bars for Adults to visit, but we didn't visit the railway museum, as the children were tired so I am not able to comment on this and I cannot comment on the bars and nightclubs as we were with the children on a family day out.
Barry Island Pleasure Park, 'Wales' Premier Pleasure Park'. If this is one of the best in the land I dread to think what some look like. It boasts over 50 rides and attractions - for all ages, all weather facilities, restaurants and disabled facilities. On my visit to the park my first impressions were of a park stuck in the past - the cleanliness of the park was appauling - litter bins full with piles of rubbish stacking up beside them. *The Rides* For families with young children the rides (or lack of them) are limited, many rides did not open on the advertised time and many rides in the current park brochere are not present. As for thrill seekers Evoloution is recommended, it is made up of four inclined pillars fixed on concrete foundations and converging on top where a rotating arm is connected by means of two swinging bearings. On the arm top are fixed some counterweights. The Rotating centre holds 10 vehicles with 4 seats each. Both Arm and Rotating Center may rotate in both direction and the speed is adjustable by the Operator. *Value for Money* With books of tickets available at six pounds each it is most dissapointing when rides are closed. The Park itself doesn't offer value for money with high food prices and rip-off merchandise My visit to Barry Island was most dissapointing and do not recommend the park to anyone.