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Tails of tediousness 14/08/2021

So… which lacklustre UK park is this week’s TR from?

Behind door number 1 we have the stunningly gorgeous, Alton Towers! You can tell she doesn’t quite put the effort in that she used too and can’t handle crowds to save her life, but she’ll give you some of the best rides in the country (tumbleweed rolls as “the rest of the country” is displayed). Let this park turn you into a ‘smiler’ and give her a spin today!

Behind door number 2 take a trip to the wild side with, West Midlands Safari Park! Sure, you might not get the riding that Alton will give, but it will be a new experience and who can say no to all those adorable furry faces. Will you get lost in the charm and atmosphere of adding +3 to your cred count? Or will you feel the ‘venom’ of missing out?

Last but not least, the final eligible contender is behind door number 3… she’s sure to make the hairs on the back of your neck ‘stand-up’ and if you thought that +3 was tempting, just imagine a +4! With fresh paint over scars of the past, surely a visit here would be anything but an ‘apocalypse’… it’s Drayton Manor!

(the camera pans to me… grimacing slightly)

I guess.. West Midlands Safari Park?

Congratulations! You’ve chosen West Midlands Safari Park! You’ve done next to no research, but it’s a safari park! Only theme parks get busy during school holidays right? …right?

*Silence. A single audience member coughs*

10:30am. Saturday 14th August. Somewhere near Birmingham.

As with all days when heading to a new park of any description and not knowing what to expect, it started with a degree of optimism. I was excited to see some exotic animals for the first time in a while, get on some rides and blasting the new Lorna Shore EP on the way over to the park really put me in a good mood (Shameless plug I know, but for those that know their metal it’s the best Deathcore release in years).

When we arrived the queue of cars to get in was absolutely heaving. Staff members were walking up and down the crawling traffic trying to sell park guides, one of them telling us it was a 30 minute wait just to get into the car park. Not exactly encouraging, but we carried on. Fortunately the main culprit for the long queues was the cars heading towards the safari, not the zoo & amusement park section (referred to as ‘the ride area’ from now on) and we managed to sneak off to the car park quicker than expected.

Within 10 mins we were walking into their nicely decorated entrance building and whilst not quite up to Kolmarden’s standards, we definitely thought that something like this would be a nice fit for a park like Chessington if they wanted to provide a bit more an immersive entrance experience. A large portion of the crowds had decided to tackle the safari first thing, giving us a quieter window to look at the animals, get the creds and have a wander. I actually really enjoyed the theming in the front of the park. They had a pretty decent dinosaur animatronic walkthrough, running you through each period of dino evolution and everything actually looked to scale! Most dino areas at parks I’ve done look, sad, tired, neglected or just out of place; this wasn’t like that though, it was immersive enough that for a moment I was 8 year old Alex again; being dinosaur obsessed, watching BBC’s Walking with Dinosaurs in my PJ’s on repeat. This was good stuff.

Along with this walkthrough, they had a little Red Panda enclosure and that was awesome. It’s quite rare you see Red Panda’s do much other than sleep but this one was bouncing all over the place with a lovely big smile, without a doubt one of the highlights of the day. Polishing off this area looking at some fish, insects, lizards and doing a ‘friendly animal encounter’ show (one of the friendly animals was a massive ****-off cockroach. Not exactly something I’d want to give a cuddle); we made our way over to the rides.

There really is some contrast between the ride area and zoo/safari (and we later found out they operated as separate entities). I’d say that the theming in the zoo/safari has a pretty decent quality too it, whereas the ride area is a strange hybrid of the aforementioned theming and travelling funfair tackiness. A lot of it does feel very out of place. As you can enter the ride area with your zoo admission, we headed straight for their drop tower, Venom, only to be turned away at the end of the queue as we did not have a ride wristband (this was not immediately clear). So off we went in search of a wristband…

(At this point you’re probably thinking to yourself “it doesn’t sound that tedious, fairly pleasant even, what is the meaning for the TR title?” alas; this is where the fun begins (along with some heavily implied sarcasm).)

I’m going to try to not completely emulate the rest of our day in written form as I feel I’ll lose most of you, but it’s hard to not express our dissatisfaction with the experience. We did what any good park guests do and decided to ask a member of staff where to get said wristband, “go out of the park and turn right, there is a building there” she responded, disinterestedly. All the way out the park? Really? Ok, if you say so. So we made our way back to the entrance of the zoo, at which point the crowds from the safari had started to flood into the zoo zombie-like in nature. Hmmm, not quite so pleasant here anymore. Now outside the zoo and cluelessly looking for this non-existent building, we gave up after a couple of minutes and asked another member of staff where to go, only to be redirected back into the park. Well that was a waste of time, but not to worr… she sent us to the wrong bloody place didn’t she. Finally we bumped into a member of staff that was actually both friendly and helpful, pointing us to where we actually needed to go. This was a good waste of at least 25 mins and the hordes were descending on the park fast. Cred-anxiety kicking in, we got our wristbands and knocked out the 3 coasters there before doing anything else… a poem, if I may.

To these coasters,
You were nothing of note,
The way they only dispatched one train at a time on the Reverchon Spinner, really got my goat,
The employee handbook, should have already been rewrote,
To these coasters,
No more words shall I devote.


+3 done. (please excuse the bad English)

We made the most of what else was there, the travelling log flume and drop tower were the best rides in the area, providing some slight airtime but also leaving us hungry for bigger rides at other parks. They did have a small disco and a couple of other flats, but with queues growing and a whole drive through safari still to do we decided on one last ride. Dr. Umboto’s Catacombs, was the name of their ghost train and it was laughably bad. Bording the small, uncomfortable car (an empty bottle of 7up, lovingly left in the footwell), you’re treated to the shortest and most inconsistent ghost train experience out there. Cohesion is not a word that the ride area seems to be familiar with and this is no better exemplified than on this attraction… at least it gave us a little giggle.

*topic idea for the future. What is the worst ghost train you’ve ever experienced?*

Frustrated with the last couple hours, we went into the rear portion of the zoo (behind the ride area) to see the goats, meerkats and visit the enthusiastically signposted, Lemar Woods.

Goats. Bit antisocial.
Meerkats. Eh, they’re nice and have some good run-around space, couple points for that.
Lemurs… a whole woods you say? Walk around with the Lemurs as they roam free you say? Through the entire thing, there were 2 of the most static, beige Lemurs you’ve ever seen on one branch.

Bloody hell, this is all beginning to feel a bit rubbish. Everything beyond that front section of the park just feels boring and uninspired. WMSP is a deceptive and selfish lover. It pulls you in, batting it’s eyelashes with it’s pretty theming, animals and all the best bits at the front, convincing you to stay; only to provide a half-assed, disinterested experience once you actually get into the meat of what it has to offer. Well it only goes downhill from here folks and you’re starting to get some proper airtime on this angle of descent! (it all starts getting a bit more sweary now)

By the time we left the ride area and rear portion of the zoo it was rammed, the masses had swarmed in and they were hungry. An executive decision to go back to the entrance for our lunch was made, in the hope of lighter crowds. When we arrived we felt some gratitude as the queue wasn’t that long… but the f*cking throughput of this fast food place, my god. Honestly, the dino animatronics would have probably done a quicker job! It took about 30 minutes just to get through about 12 people in front of us. To add insult to (time related) injury when we finally got our food it really took the piss at what was passable; the key offender being the chilli cheese bites, one of which just simply had no filling. If I wanted breadcrumb shells I would of asked for f*cking breadcrumb shells, but news flash, nobody wants breadcrumb shells! Who would pay for that! Grrr…

Stomachs somewhat full and moods nailed to the floorboards of the basement of hell, we just wanted to do the drive through safari and get out of this place. No Red Panda’s or dino animatronics were going to change that. The last 2.5 hours or so had been grim and we were done… the worst was yet to come though.

Now, let me tell you how you can replicate our drive through safari experience without even setting foot inside the park!

Step 1: Do you live near the M25 or any other popular motorway? Head there during rush hour or just after an accident has occurred.

Step 2: Get a friend to go in the farthest away lane in said motorway, put an Attenborough documentary on their phone and push it up to the window so that if you squint hard enough, you can just about see the animals.

Yep, that’s about it really. I think that sums up our experience nicely, oh wait actually…

Step 3: Buckle up, roll up your windows and put your phone on aeroplane mode! Because you’re in for at least 2 hours of exhilarating, squinting and slow moving traffic… with 0 phone signal.

It was f*cking sh*t. I’m sure that during term time it’s a bit more tolerable; but this made that visit to Oakwood feel like f*cking Phantasialand compared to this. The novelty of seeing animals lying down, looking bored or anxious wore off pretty quickly and I wanted it to be over within the first 20 minutes. To be spending over 2 hours doing this was a joke.

The redeeming factors were like the bread in a sh*t sandwich, you still don’t want to eat the bloody thing. This was without a doubt the worst park day I’ve had in years and if it wasn’t for the wonderful company I was lucky enough to have with me, I would have probably got halfway round that safari and fed myself to the Lions. I was that finished with the place.

Right I think my ranting is over, I can return to my slumber. West Midlands Safari Park will never be graced again by my presence (unless they build an RMC).

Addendum

Thank you all for reading and putting up with my awkwardly assembled TR’s, hopefully you’ve managed to get more joy out of reading them than I’ve had during some of the visits.

I’d been on a bit of a theme park hiatus this year, but since 23rd July I have had a much needed binge. In the last month I’ve managed to visit Adventure Island, Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Oakwood Theme Park, West Midlands Safari Park and Drayton Manor. BPB was still the best park, but rather surprisingly Adventure Island was the most consistent and my favourite park visit of 2021 so far. Who’d have thought!? Despite being happy to get a little +17 and tick off some more UK parks, I think it’s fair to say that I’m done with UK parks for now. I’ve seen some of what else we have to offer and it’s just sent my missing of parks on foreign soil through the roof. So whilst there won’t be any more TR’s from me for a while, the next ones will at least be from parks I’m visiting out of desire, not lack of choice. Give me that 2nd jab and let me get off this island, my little enthusiast heart has exploring to do.
 
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Matt N

Strata Poster
Great report @Slamming Coastercore; you certainly have a way with words, and I’ll admit that even though you didn’t have a particularly good day, your report was still incredibly enjoyable to read!

Sorry to hear you didn’t particularly enjoy WMSP, however; we went last October, and actually had quite a nice day there! Sure, the place isn’t the biggest theme park and doesn’t have the most elaborate rides, and it isn’t the biggest or most elaborate of zoos either, but we had a nice time! Admittedly, however, we didn’t go in the summer holidays, instead opting for an October half term visit (around Halloween time, as the park was very nicely decorated for it!), so we may have gotten off quite lightly in terms of crowds compared to yourself.

I’m not a huge animal/zoo geek or anything myself, but me & my parents certainly had a nice time, and were able to fill most of a day there; maybe I just have low standards, as even though I’m looking forward to being able to go abroad again, I’m seemingly a lot more happy with visiting the UK parks than most enthusiasts are?

Out of interest, are you doing reports from Alton Towers and Drayton Manor (the two other parks you mentioned at the start), or are you done with UK reports for now?
 

witchfinder

Hyper Poster
I'm just going to repeat what I said in a similarly unhappy trip report from Alton Towers a week or so ago:

Never, ever go in the school holidays.

This applies to any major theme or wildlife park. They are just hell on earth. I would rather not go than go during these periods!

The good news is it's nearly September so the kids will be back at school and we enthusiasts might get the odd quieter day out there... 🤔
 

nadroJ

CF Legend
Such a shame you guys didn't have a great time because it's been a fabulous little park in my experience.

It's funny, with the pandemic I've found myself at more theme parks during peak periods when usually I wouldn't touch them with a barge pole. It's like we have collective amnesia borne out of desperation or something?

But yh, theme parks during school holidays, just no.
 

Nitefly

Hyper Poster
Oof… that does sound like a dire day out!

I went to Longleat a few years ago and enjoyed it, but that’s far more of an ‘estate’ than a ‘theme park’.

A bad staff interaction can really make or break an impression of a park. I still have mixed views about Phantasialand (of all places) after repeatedly rude staff encounters. I’m like a resentful elephant, never to forget. I’ll be on my deathbed going “******** Phantasialand *****…. and **** that **** from primary school, too”.
 

Serena

Miss CoasterForce 2016
Staff member
Social Media Team
It was worth us going to WMSP just for you to write this hilarious trip report @Slamming Coastercore 😂

How you turned such a bad day into such a great read is truly a feat in itself!

For what it's worth:

1. I liked the cockroach! He was the last thing I expected to see in a cuddly critters show. His surprising creepy crawly presence forced me to check my own prejudice against animal's that are more "worthy" because they are fluffy and "traditionally" cute. Pretty sure the cockroach was carrying a little plaquard that stated "END SPECIESISM!"

2. That queue for lunch was the hangriest I've ever been in my life. And the food was exceptionally bad even for park food.

3. The issue with the safari was the fact we couldn't just abandon it 10 minutes in once we realised what a travesty it was. We had to sit there in stand still traffic for hours, with few animals in sight, just counting down until the next gates opened. I love animal parks, but this was awful.

It's definitely not the Best Midlands Safari Park... it's the WORST MIDLANDS SAFARI PARK.
 
Thanks for the lovely feedback! I do really appreciate it :)

Sorry to hear you didn’t particularly enjoy WMSP, however; we went last October, and actually had quite a nice day there! Sure, the place isn’t the biggest theme park and doesn’t have the most elaborate rides, and it isn’t the biggest or most elaborate of zoos either, but we had a nice time! Admittedly, however, we didn’t go in the summer holidays, instead opting for an October half term visit (around Halloween time, as the park was very nicely decorated for it!), so we may have gotten off quite lightly in terms of crowds compared to yourself.

I’m not a huge animal/zoo geek or anything myself, but me & my parents certainly had a nice time, and were able to fill most of a day there; maybe I just have low standards, as even though I’m looking forward to being able to go abroad again, I’m seemingly a lot more happy with visiting the UK parks than most enthusiasts are?

Out of interest, are you doing reports from Alton Towers and Drayton Manor (the two other parks you mentioned at the start), or are you done with UK reports for now?

I'm glad you had a nice time at least Matt!

There is nothing wrong with enjoying the UK parks! It's a good thing that you can still get so much joy out of what is a (for the most part) a pretty low bar of quality here in the UK.

We're not the most starved country for quality of parks and I think UK enthusiasts can act a little spoilt sometimes; what you have to remember though is that once you go and experience more parks worldwide you'll see what can be achieved and it might make you feel a bit differently about what we have to offer. Also; I know the trips my hard earned money and precious time away from work can afford and when experiences like this cost around the same; it doesn't exactly make me warm to what we have on offer here.

Ahh I haven't actually visited Alton since last year and I doubt I'll be going back as like I said, the combination of limited time/money and the second jab will be enough to make me spend as much of the rest of the year in mainland Europe as possible. @Nitefly & @Serena are among many that have great reports from AT if you have a craving though!

As for Drayton, tbh it very much didn't leave enough of an impression on me to be worthy of a report, I almost feel lost for things to say about the place. My creative juices definitely got drained on this last report anyway 😅 All I can say is that whilst I won't be in a rush back it was certainly a lot better than WMSP.

Never, ever go in the school holidays.

Yeah, I usually swear by this, but tbh options are very limited and we got away with lighter crowds at Oakwood and Adventure Island... even BPB was reasonable for school holidays. I think our luck just ran dry at this point.

It's funny, with the pandemic I've found myself at more theme parks during peak periods when usually I wouldn't touch them with a barge pole. It's like we have collective amnesia borne out of desperation or something?

Hahaha you've got it spot on 😂 What was your most barge-pole avoiding park you visited?

A bad staff interaction can really make or break an impression of a park. I still have mixed views about Phantasialand (of all places) after repeatedly rude staff encounters. I’m like a resentful elephant, never to forget. I’ll be on my deathbed going “******** Phantasialand *****…. and **** that **** from primary school, too”.

* Scours the forums for your Phantasialand TR *

Either my forum searching isn't what it used to be or you haven't written one. Most of your TR's are a joy, but I can only feel like there is a lot more to this story than most! If it exists, please link me. If it doesn't, please put a smile on the collective faces of the CFers here and write one up!

It was worth us going to WMSP just for you to write this hilarious trip report @Slamming Coastercore 😂

How you turned such a bad day into such a great read is truly a feat in itself!

For what it's worth:

1. I liked the cockroach! He was the last thing I expected to see in a cuddly critters show. His surprising creepy crawly presence forced me to check my own prejudice against animal's that are more "worthy" because they are fluffy and "traditionally" cute. Pretty sure the cockroach was carrying a little plaquard that stated "END SPECIESISM!"

2. That queue for lunch was the hangriest I've ever been in my life. And the food was exceptionally bad even for park food.

3. The issue with the safari was the fact we couldn't just abandon it 10 minutes in once we realised what a travesty it was. We had to sit there in stand still traffic for hours, with few animals in sight, just counting down until the next gates opened. I love animal parks, but this was awful.

It's definitely not the Best Midlands Safari Park... it's the WORST MIDLANDS SAFARI PARK.

Aww you're too kind! Keep talking about my writing like that and my head will get so big OTSR's won't fit anymore 😂

Despite the hangriness, some credit is very much due ❤️ @Serena has been the one making all these parks bearable, so if you enjoy these TR's it's her you have to thank!
 

Matt N

Strata Poster
Ahh I haven't actually visited Alton since last year and I doubt I'll be going back as like I said, the combination of limited time/money and the second jab will be enough to make me spend as much of the rest of the year in mainland Europe as possible. @Nitefly & @Serena are among many that have great reports from AT if you have a craving though!

As for Drayton, tbh it very much didn't leave enough of an impression on me to be worthy of a report, I almost feel lost for things to say about the place. My creative juices definitely got drained on this last report anyway 😅 All I can say is that whilst I won't be in a rush back it was certainly a lot better than WMSP.
Ah, no problem! In terms of Alton; I’m going for myself on 12th & 13th September for the Oktoberfest event, so it won’t be too long before I can get back there myself and pen my own trip report!

I’m excited; it’s my first ever visit to Oktoberfest, and my first 2-day trip to Alton in a while!
 
@Slamming Coastercore - as requested, you’ll find my Phantasialand ramblings in this thread, which was my first TR and written ‘on the hoof’, as I went. Probably not my ‘best’ attempt at such a thing… but I do make some absurd noises on those POVs 😅
Cheers @Nitefly! I clearly managed to catch the Poland parts of your TR but somehow missed the Phantasialand parts 😅 I'll indulge myself in your absurd noises when I get a moment!

You know what? Now I think we should make poems a thing in trip reports.
Glad you enjoyed that part of it! Usually I'd devote a bit more time to the coaster experience itself, but I thought the poem would be a much more concise, entertaining way to describe them.
 

Will

Strata Poster
I think the trip reports from increasingly bleak places may be my favourite thing about travel restrictions, especially when they were clearly a bit ****. It's the same sort of cruel pleasure I take from reading reviews of films/music that only get one star.

Sad to hear things haven't improved though - I took the brother for a Safari drivethrough last July when it was the only place open and he'd barely left the house since March - totally agree, I've spent more enjoyable hours in rush hour traffic. Neither of us is in any hurry to return.

By contrast, I had a really nice day at Longleat this July - but I think that was still on a school day, so relatively quiet.
 

Matt N

Strata Poster
On an interesting, albeit completely useless, note, this report reminded me that WMSP is actually my closest visited theme park... in spite of that, I've only ever had 1 visit, in October 2020, with 1 ride taken on Monkey Mayhem, Rhino Coaster and Venom.
 

furie

SBOPD
Staff member
Administrator
Moderator
Dr. Umboto’s Catacombs, was the name of their ghost train and it was laughably bad. Bording the small, uncomfortable car (an empty bottle of 7up, lovingly left in the footwell), you’re treated to the shortest and most inconsistent ghost train experience out there. Cohesion is not a word that the ride area seems to be familiar with and this is no better exemplified than on this attraction… at least it gave us a little giggle.

When Maxi-Minor_Furie was little (like 3 or something) - that was the only ride in the park he wanted to go on. I've done over a dozen laps of that bloody thing in a row. It is, without question, the worst.

I've been to WMSP a fair few times, probably 10-15. I've had abysmal days (generally during holidays, and the experience was similar to yours) and I've had "okay" days. I don't think I've ever had a great day there. You're right, it promises more than it can ever deliver.
 
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