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Dinos and Dragons (UK South Coast & Midlands – May 2016)

witchfinder

Hyper Poster
My wife and I had a short break in the New Forest over the Bank Holiday weekend, so we took the opportunity to visit a few parks on the South coast that we've never been to before, and also visit West Midland Safari Park on our way home. In total I managed 13 new creds from five different locations over a five day period, starting with...

Day 1 – Paultons Park (Friday 27th)

Having made most of the trip down from Stoke the night before, we had just a 45 minute journey from Basingstoke to Paultons Park. The master plan was that Friday would be the quietest day as the schools were still in session, but the car park was pretty busy when we arrived.

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Not quite a Six Flags calibre view of the coasters from the car park, but not bad!

Our arrival at the entrance plaza confirmed that our thoughts of it being a quiet day were misplaced... :roll:

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Turns out most of the schools had inset days on Friday so seemingly everyone had decided to visit Paultons due to the promise of nice weather. Our best hope was now that the majority were there for Peppa Pig World!

Once we got through the turnstiles we headed straight for the new Lost Kingdom area and joined the queue for Flight of the Pterosaur, which was already looking quite sizeable. Actually, at any other park this only looked like a 30 minute queue at most, but with so many small children riding and some lacklustre batching by the ride attendants, we queued for nearly an hour, with the ride only dispatching every 5 minutes or so. :(

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From standing in the queue line, it seemed like the ride looked a bit slow and boring. Thankfully once we finally got on, it was more exciting than it looked and is good fun, particularly the part where you’re hung out over one of the shop buildings, and the final helixes that lead back into the station. Obviously it’s nothing too thrilling but certainly one of the best family coasters I've ridden in the UK, if only for the superb theming.

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Next we headed to the other new coaster, Velociraptor, expecting another long wait. Surprisingly there was no queue at all and we walked straight on! Even more amazingly, this ride was being efficiently run by a single operator, whereas FotP had 3 or 4 people running it and still wasn't dealing with the queues very quickly.

The queue line for this ride is awesome by the way – the cages with the ride going overhead and the motion-activated raptors are great touches that would be appreciated much more if we’d actually had to stand in a queue! :lol:

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The ride itself was very enjoyable. It seemed faster and more thrilling than the Ben 10 ride at Drayton Manor, especially in reverse, and the station flythrough was great! I also finally got to ride one of these Family Boomerangs on the front and back row, which I’d never managed at DMP.

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Next up was the last dino-themed coaster, Dino Chase. No thrills to be had here on this kiddie cred, but again the theming was superb, breathing new life into a tired old coaster, and the waiting time was mercifully short.

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One look at the queue for the Dino Safari ride confirmed that it had a pretty long waiting time, so we moved on to Cobra, which I was really looking forward to trying out. The queue for this was again pretty short at around 15 minutes, and in fact from this point we didn’t wait much longer than that for any of the rides we went on, as many of the families seemed to disappear for lunch.

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Cobra was excellent – I love the mix of Wild Mouse style sharp turns, swooping helixes and all the bunny hops at the end, including the ‘shed chopper’ moment! Definitely the best coaster at the park, although the two new ones were both worthy challengers.

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A quick go on the Magma drop tower followed, where I got to take this pic of the Lost Kingdom just before being bounced around...

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After this we went back for another ride on each of the new coasters and then had lunch, which wasn’t bad for a theme park. Then we watched the Alive! Dinosaur encounter, which was funny as the T-Rex scared a few kids, and then we left the park for an hour to go and pitch up our tent at a nearby campsite, before heading back into the park for more.

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We watched the 4D cinema movie, predictably dinosaur themed, but it was rubbish. The effects weren’t timed very well with the action and the 3D glasses were really poor. So we then moved on to Critter Creek and the final new cred of the day, Cat-o-Pillar.

Again, they’re done a great job re-theming an older ride, although this area was generally weird. The coaster itself was pretty boring of course.

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We were going to go on the water rides but the threat of rain showers and only having an hour left meant we headed for another ride on Cobra before finishing up back in the Lost Kingdom, where we finally tried the Dino Safari. Again, the theming is great though obviously this is very much a ride for smaller children.

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As the queues had pretty much gone by now, we grabbed one last ride on FotP and Velociraptor just before the rides closed, then had a wander around the gardens while all the families left.

All in all we had a great day at Paultons. It is rather pricey to get in at £26 for an advance ticket, but food and drinks are priced reasonably for a theme park. I don’t like the way they force you to exit the park through the shop – for parents this must be a nightmare – but I suppose that’s pretty normal these days.

The new area is fabulous and I'm sure it will really take the park to a new level. The animatronic dinosaurs and all the rock work were superb, they now have rides that compete with the bigger family parks, and in Cobra and Velociraptor they have two of the UK’s best family coasters IMO. I'm intrigued to see what they do next and how rival parks react...
 

Sandman

Hyper Poster
A grand report there, witchfinder!

Interesting to see how busy the place is after the initial reports from Press Day. I'm absolutely loving what Paultons is achieving at the moment, and it's a true testament to how well a park can do if it properly caters to its target market. I really didn't have high hopes for UK parks a few years back with the economic collapse amongst other things. Can't wait to experience the place.
 

witchfinder

Hyper Poster
Day 3 – Funland and Clarence Pier (Sunday 29th)

Yes, that's intentionally Day 3! After a day exploring the New Forest, which mostly involved trying to navigate country lanes and avoiding lots of free-roaming ponies, Sunday saw some more coaster action.

First though, we headed to Beaulieu, home of the National Motor Museum. Over the bank holiday weekend this place was hosting Truckmania, which included an awesome Monster Truck display.

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Also an elaborate layout featuring mini trucks...

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...and a monorail, built in the 70s – check out this marvel of retro-futuristic technology! :--D

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In the afternoon we headed down to the South Coast to Hayling Island, and after a game of Pitch and Putt (which I lost to the wife) we descended upon the delightful Funland Amusement Park.

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We arrived just after 5pm so we could get the unlimited ride wristband for £7 each, which if you stayed for the remaining 4 hours the park was open would be very good value. As it was, we used it just enough to make each ride cost about a quid.

Unfortunately the drop tower was closed, and based on it having no seats attached, it will be for a while. So first up we went on the log flume, which gave us a welcome splashing on a hot day. Most notable about this ride was the miserable young lady operating it, and the tidal wave that rolled into the station from a log coming down the drop, which soaked many riders before their log had even departed!

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After that it was time to tackle the creds. First up, the newly-installed Runaway Mine Train, AKA a compact Wild Mouse.

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Typical Wild Mouse – rough and painful with a modicum of airtime on the drops. I would have preferred it if they’d kept the Klondike Gold Mine as that would’ve been more fun. I did grab a second ride though.

Next was Woody’s Children’s Coaster. There’s not many coasters that take you on a relaxing ride through a shed, but this one does! It also has a mildly exciting helix.

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Before tackling the final coaster, we tried out the new Jurassic Tour ride, which involved cramming ourselves into a small truck and being wheeled around a tiny circuit several times, which featured some plastic dinosaurs. This was part of a new dino-themed corner of the park – I wonder if it was created to complete with Paultons’ Lost Kingdom? :wink:

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Also in this area was a tiny dino-themed log flume, which we didn’t bother with, and the refurbished Super Dragon coaster, now known as Funlandasaurus...

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It’s been repainted in a fetching purple and green, and now features more plastic dinosaurs, including this fellow at the bottom of the drop – RAWR!

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That was it for Funland. Neither of us are a fan of the spin and spew rides and time was pressing on, so we drove back West to our second amusement park stop of the day – Clarence Pier.

This was a very quick visit - park up, get the creds and leave. By this point the missus wasn’t feeling too well so she skipped the rides here.

Firstly, what a weird pier this is – it’s wider than it is long! We parked up nearby and first made sure the two coasters were actually running. It looked like the Speedy Coaster kiddie cred was closed so after inquiring at the token kiosk and getting no straight answer, I just got enough tokens for the bigger Skyways coaster (5 tokens at 50p each if you’re interested)

Then as we walked away from the kiosk, we saw the Speedy Coaster running, so I went back to get three more tokens for that. First up though was Skyways, a classic ‘Zyklon’ coaster which sits right on the edge of the pier.

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It was alright! Sitting in the back gave quite a bit of airtime due to the minimal restraints used, and I like this better than the Pinfari version as it had a longer train so seemed faster. The only thing missing was the little airtime drop just before the brake run.

So then I went to get the last cred of the day, Speedy Coaster, but the miserable operator refused to let me on because it was a kiddie ride. Boo! :x

This left me with 3 tokens I couldn’t use, so back I went to the kiosk for a third time to get two more, allowing me a second ride on Skyways, which allowed me to take a nice photo of the sun setting. So the quick visit we planned actually took around 40 minutes after all that hassle.

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To summarise this day, nothing too exciting in terms of coasters, and two very dodgy seaside amusement parks, but it was a nice day and Skyways was fun. Funland is worth a visit for the three +1’s if you get the evening wristband and don’t mind getting soaked on the log flume.
 

witchfinder

Hyper Poster
Day 5 – West Midland Safari Park and Treasure Island (Tuesday 31st)

The final day of our trip, and we stopped off at WMSP on our way back to Stoke. Again this was intended to take advantage of a quieter day but we hadn’t realised it was school holidays this week and that, combined with another sunny day, meant the park was rather busy. We’d got Tesco Clubcard vouchers to cover the entry fee, and a 50% off voucher for the ride wristbands, so that made it a pretty cheap day.

Our plan was to do all the rides and walk-through attractions first and the drive-through safari later, and that proved to be a great idea as the majority of the rides were walk-on in the morning. :--D

WMSP is an odd place. The rides are all pretty dire, off the shelf fairground rides, but the theming is actually quite nice on a lot of them, such as the log flume and rapids ride.

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Anyway, first up to get it out of the way was the Wall’s Twister, a dismal Reverchon Spinner that didn’t even deserve a photo! Following that we rode the best coaster at the park, the Rhino Coaster. It’s still pretty poor but at least there are some minor thrills and I do love the front train car.

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Next up were the two water rides. The log flume was pretty average with minimal splashage, but the rapids ride is actually quite fun, and gave a reasonable soaking. I then rode the Venom drop tower on my own – I almost convinced the other half to go on it but she was put off by the fact it stayed at the top for around 20 seconds. That was its main fault – I’m all for a bit of anticipation before the drop, but on this ride it actually became a bit boring. Once the drop finally occurred it was quite exhilarating.

Rounding off our quick tour of the rides area was a journey through Doctor Umboto’s Catacombs, one of the worst ghost trains I’ve ever ridden, and the final cred, the African Big Apple.

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After lunch we had a wander around some of the walk-through animal attractions, along with the Land of the Living Dinosaurs, which had some monstrous animatronic residents that put Paultons line-up to shame.

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Had to take a pic at the Dino Selfie spot! :--D

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Finally we went on the drive-through safari, which was the usual combination of frustrating slow-moving traffic and the occasional hand-licking from a wild animal. It all culminated with a Giraffic Jam!

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So that was WMSP done, but the cred hunt was not quite over as we drove the ten minute journey to Stourport-on-Severn and the majestic Treasure Island.

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Quite how this tacky fairground ended up a permanent fixture in a small Midlands town I’m not sure, but it gave the opportunity for one last ride on another Super Dragon. And just when you thought there couldn’t be any more dinosaur theming, it had this stood next to it!

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The ride itself was more exciting than expected due to a sudden rain shower greasing up the tracks, to the point where it felt like the car was about to fly off the track and the operator stopped it after two laps. They also seem to be trying to cash in on their close proximity to the Safari Park...

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So that’s it – five parks, 13 new creds and more dinosaurs than I care to count. All in all, a great trip with a few decent coasters and a lot of terrible ones!
 

Jamesss

Mega Poster
witchfinder said:
So then I went to get the last cred of the day, Speedy Coaster, but the miserable operator refused to let me on because it was a kiddie ride. Boo! :x
Sounds like the same **** who many others have encountered, he must have been there years now. I managed to get the cred by pestering him so much that eventually he just gave in.

Thanks for the great report. I really enjoyed reading it as I'm visiting the New Forest soon and hoping to get the creds at Hayling Island and Paultons on the way. Is the Beaulieu Motor Museum worth doing? I'm not really that into cars but it seems to be one of the top rated attractions in that area.
 

witchfinder

Hyper Poster
Jamesss said:
Is the Beaulieu Motor Museum worth doing? I'm not really that into cars but it seems to be one of the top rated attractions in that area.

To be honest, not really. Beaulieu is a weird place with not a lot to do for any demographic (but just a little bit for each I guess) and at £19 each in advance and even more on the day, we wouldn't have bothered if it wasn't for the Monster Truck show.
 
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