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Lightwater Valley 2006
Lightwater Valley (North Yorkshire)
Member Name: blackfire71
Lightwater Valley (North Yorkshire)
Date: 29/07/06, updated on 29/07/06 (1273 review reads)
Advantages: Some good rides; plenty of open space; family-friendly
Disadvantages: slow ride operation; too many fairground imports
Lightwater Valley styles itself as Ďthe family sized theme parkí and is situated in North Yorkshire, close to Ripon, and easily accessible from the A1. The park is spread out across quite a large area and the attractions range from small family rides to moderately scary roller coasters. The overall theme of the park is simply generic and, in some ways, it feels like an enlarged travelling fair. Apart from a couple of anchor attractions, most of the rides have been shipped in after their retirement from other parks rather than designed specially for Lightwater Valley. In some cases this doesnít detract from the enjoyment, but in others you do wonder if the park couldnít afford to do better.
*Admission Prices and Opening Times*
Presently, it costs around £16 per person, but small discounts are available if you purchase a family ticket. If youíre only fond of small rides, I may as well be honest, you will not get your moneyís worth at Lightwater Valley. You have to ride everything in the park twice over to make the price worth paying.
The park opens at 10.00am and the rides open between 10.30am and 5.30pm, depending on the time of year. This doesnít seem like a long time, but itís more than ample to see everything in the park Ė youíll also have bags of time to ride and re-ride your favourites. You can leave by 4.00pm and have everything on the list ticked.
On the whole the staff were reasonably friendly, with only a couple of exceptions that we encountered. For example, the member of staff at the admissions kiosk was bad mannered and rude. They gave us an old-issue £5 note with our change and when we pointed this out he just walked away to get the supervisor Ė without a word of explanation. When the supervisor arrived they compared the note to another, current, example and merely screwed their face up and thrust us the new one, rolling their eyes. At no point were any of us thanked for having added £72 to their daily turnover. However, after that small incident, the rest of the staff were fine. Some of them clearly took their job seriously and made it their business to entertain the guests.
*Food and Facilities*
I can only comment on what I saw in terms of food, as we chose to take our own. Generally, the offer consisted of burger vans and ice-cream stalls which were ludicrously overpriced - £1.65 for a Magnum Ice Cream. Drinks were available from vending machines at £1.30 per bottle. There are small amusement arcades dotted around the park. There were around 3 sets of toilets and all were pleasantly decorated and clean. There were also plenty of litter bins (watch out for wasps!) and benches. There is also a train which travels between three stations around the park. At the final stop you are forced to exit via the gift-shop Ė I wonder why?!
This is the important part. As Iíve already stated there is a reasonable variety of rides, but you will find yourself becoming bored after around 4-5 hours. That is, unless you like riding over and over again which, as you will find, is not always as straightforward as it sounds due to criminally slow ride operation.
The parkís star attraction is a steel terrain-hugging roller coaster. It held the title of the Ďthe worldís longest roller coasterí from 1991 to 2001 and has a unique design Ė construction was overseen mostly by British Rail engineers, not coaster experts. Opinion is divided on the result but, for most riders, the experience is enjoyable.
The train leaves the station and crawls (and I mean CRAWLS) up the first lift hill. At the top of this there is a drop of just over 100ft Ė but the train isnít released onto this drop until the end of the train has left the chain-lift, so ride at the back for the best airtime. After this is a series of small hills which follow the terrain; they are so small, and your speed is so high, they have you flying out of your seats. After this is a second chain lift (so prepare for another saga) and a slightly longer drop which hurls you down into a valley. Now this is where the ride blasts off. You are thrown around a series of sharp twists and turns at high speed with unrelenting brutality. This is where the lack of coaster expertise shows as the track is poorly banked and extremely rough. At some points the ride is just plain ferocious and youíre thrown into the person next to you. I came off with several bruises and a banging headache. It is, however, a unique coaster experience, so donít miss it.
The biggest problem with the Ultimate is not with the ride itself, but how it is operated. There are two trains, each with a capacity of 38. But every time Iíve visited Lightwater Valley, only one train has been in operation. Considering Iíve only ever visited the park in late July or early August, surely their busiest time of the year, I find it frustrating that they donít operate the star attraction to its full capacity. Because of the length of the ride, one-train-operation means there is an interval of around 6 minutes between the train loading up and returning to the station. This makes the queue long and monotonous. But with such high-capacity trains, if they operated both the queues would move very quickly Ė which equals happy guests! Try to ride this either early in the morning or late in the afternoon when itís possible to walk straight on.
THE SEWER RAT
This is an interestingly themed dark-coaster. After queuing you go down into a mock-sewer with water pouring from everywhere, walking along metal gangways and climbing up and down spiral staircases. When you reach the station there is another short wait before the ride begins.
The coaster itself is not frightening or intense. There are two reasonably thrilling drops, some twists and turns but the chief thrill comes from the lack of light Ė you canít see whatís going to happen next.
Again, the cars only carry four people and there are just four of them, so the queues tend to be long and boring.
THE EAGLEíS CLAW
This ride stands out as being the only imported ride in the park that is genuinely thrilling. Itís a livened up version of the old swinging ship. Riders sit in a circle facing inwards and swing from side to side whilst also spinning round. The ride goes very high Ė it doesnít look as bad from the ground but is terrifying when youíre up there. It stops slightly short of turning you upside down, but that doesnít detract from the thrill. The ride is at its best on the three or four occasions you are facing downwards for the plunge, where you drop from around 70ft up with your whole body pressed against the restraint.
A standard swinging ship which is nonetheless an enjoyable ride, particularly in the rear seats. The ride is hidden away amongst trees, so doesnít tend to attract obscene numbers of riders. This means you can normally ride numerous times without having to get off and rejoin the queue. This ride also had a very friendly and lively operator which always enhances the experience.
FALLS OF TERROR
This is a group of three water slides which you ride down in rubber dinghies. Number 1 is a straightforward drop chute, which isnít quite high enough to provide any real thrills but is worth riding as it always has the shortest queue. Number 2 chute is a downward plunge with a straight-section in the middle and is only moderately enjoyable. Number 3 is, in my opinion, the best of the three, but not spectacular. Itís an enclosed chute with twists and turns and a short drop at the end Ė the only real difference from the other two is that you get soaked on this.
This ride will always suffer from the reputation is has. A 20-year-old female rider died after a brakes failure resulted in two carriages colliding in 2001. Itís no mystery that it has short queues. It is a steel wild-mouse coaster with spinning carts. There are two small drops and a lot of sharp turns, which are enhanced by the spinning of the cars. Worth riding, but not spectacularly thrilling.
BLACK WIDOWíS WEB
This is another fairground import. The ride is based on the old centrifuge principle and riders spin around with the structure raising so that riders complete a number of complete loops. Although you go upside down, there are no restraints in this ride as the force of gravity holds you in place. Like many rides in the park it suffers terribly from painfully slow operating times. Although the capacity is high, the queues arenít long meaning you have to sit in your car awaiting enough riders to fill it up. After this there is an excruciatingly slow check and double-check that all cars are secured before being sent off on what is, possibly, the shortest thrill ride in England.
The parkís website gives the impression this is a thrilling drop-ride on par with Blackpool Pleasure Beachís Ice Blast (still widely called the PlayStation). In reality itís no higher than your average house and is ridden primarily by small children as tired parents look on. That said, itís worth (one) look although the Lightwater Valley hallmark of slow operation is present again.
THE GRIZZLY BEAR
A small mini-steel coaster of the generic pattern found in many seaside amusement parks. Itís not high, the drops arenít steep, the turns arenít taken at any great speed, but itís fine for passing the time. This ride seems to spend a LOT of time broken down however.
A small coaster aimed at children, but noticeably more Ďadultí than most such rides in that it is not laboriously slow. Itís been a long time since Iíve ridden this, but itís fun for small children practising for The Ultimate.
Lightwater Valley also offers a number of other thrill-less rides which are good for novelty rides and also help you to squeeze every last drop of value from your entrance fee. Thereís the chain swings, uncomfortable but deceptively fast; go-karts; an Octopus twister ride; a skateboarding circuit; dodgems; merry-go-round and a boring two-minute fence maze.
Lightwater Valley is very much a middle-of-the-road theme park. It doesnít offer the same value or thrills as its main competitor, the nearby Flamingo Land and it doesnít have the wow-factor of the likes of Alton Towers, Blackpool Pleasure Beach or Drayton Manor. The entrance fee is high and you really need to ride everything to make it worth paying. However, it is still an enjoyable day out, most suited to family groups. Although youíll spend far more time queuing at other theme parks, Lightwater Valleyís queues are a lot longer than they need to be. Visit, but donít visit with the expectation of a white-knuckle day out Ė there are only two rides that will deliver in that department.
Summary: Overall a decent enough family day out with a few fun-killing drawbacks
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