On Thursday, I went to Thorpe Park. Realistically, the conditions weren’t fantastic; first week of the summer holidays, a heatwave and a new ride which was called “The Swarm”. Arrived at 10am and already it seemed to be fairly ram-packed.
I’m afraid that this is just an article detailing a recent day out and it doesn’t contain any wit, abuse or other content of any interest whatsoever. Therefore, please do not expect too much.
For those of you not familiar with our our little country, Thorpe Park is one of the 3 most well-known theme parks that we have here; the other two are Chessington World of Adventures and Alton Towers.
Ordinarily, I’m quite organised and book things well in advance for convenience and to save money. This wasn’t one of those occasions so I had every intention of purchasing my ticket at the gate. Do you know how much it costs to enter Thorpe Park for the day if you buy your ticket on the gate? I’ll tell you- it’s £43.50, which is a fair bit of money by anyone’s standards, so you’d certainly expect value for money once you were inside.
The first thing I noticed was that there was a distinct lack of adults; either visiting or working at Thorpe Park. I guess it’s the same as the police looking ever younger- it’s a distinct sign that I’m getting older!
Another sign of me getting older is what I can only assume is my ever-increasing lack of dress sense. Either I now have none at all (compared with the “some” I had around 5 years ago and the “little” I had around 2 years ago) or young, teenage girls get dressed in the dark each morning. I’m not talking about the short skirts and the makeup you usually see on young girls who want to appear to be older- I’m talking about hideous, frumpy, ill-fitting clothing. Most of the girls there looked absolutely ridiculous. I can’t describe it any other way.
I headed straight for The Swarm, which is based on, err, flies? That bit isn’t really clear but the Thorpe Park website mentions something about “complete annihilation”. Maybe it refers to how you feel after queuing to ride on it?
I queued for just under an hour and wasn’t even aware that the ride hadn’t been running. Then, there was an announcement to say that due to “technical difficulties”, the ride was being evacuated and that we’d all be issued with a Priority Pass, which would allow us to jump the queue on another ride- there were exclusions to which rides this could be used on and one of those was The Swarm itself. I didn’t notice this at the time.
I headed over to Stealth, which accelerates to 80mph in 2 seconds. Initially, this hadn’t been operational but evidently it had now been fixed. Again, I queued for around an hour before being able to get on this ride.The ride itself is actually very short, but there’s speed, height and dives, making it one of my favourite rides there. By the time I’d exited this ride, it was nearly 1pm. One ride in 2 and a half hours wasn’t great progress.
Next up was Storm Surge. This isn’t anything exciting- you just get into a giant dinghy, you get taken up on a conveyor belt and then released down a curly water slide. Hardly thrilling, but rather pleasant and relaxing.
One of the rides I was looking forward to was Tidal Wave. Unfortunately, signs announced that this wouldn’t be running at all. It looked rather sad, with one of the boat-things half-way up the non-functioning conveyor belt. That would have been the ideal ride for the hot weather!
Rush was probably the scariest ride at Thorpe Park- it truly made your stomach do a flip and you constantly feared that the flimsy restraint would give way at the highest point. You can always tell a good ride by how much you have to clench your buttocks to stop you from shitting your pants. Rush is basically a giant swing that reaches 75feett- you end up facing the pavement and experience a moment of weightlessness before you come hurtling back to earth again. There was netting suspended above the pavement underneath the furthest reaches of the giant swinging arms and you had to wonder; was it to catch loose articles falling from pockets or was it for catching bodies if the restraints failed?
Colossus was just an average roller-coaster but with loads of corkscrews- this ride bashed your head around a fair bit so if your brain rattles like mine does, you should probably avoid it.
For some unknown reason, Thorpe Park suddenly became very quiet and from around 3pm onwards, the queuing times were drastically reduced. It may have been that it was too hot for some or too frustrating that a few of the rides weren’t operational; it may even been a combination of both that made people simply give up and go home.
The next ride was the one that I’d heard loads about and really wanted to go on; Saw – the Ride. This was supposed to be scary and the vertical drop was apparently terrifying. I’ve been on Oblivion at Alton Towers before which also has a vertical drop- I wasn’t going to be able to NOT compare the two rides!
I was truly disappointed. Saw – the Ride was just boring. I suppose that a lot of different elements make a ride what it is. The obvious ones will be the layout of the track and the layout of the carriage/how it’s attached to the track. As far as I can tell, the layout of the carriage on both rides is pretty much identical, so I can only assume that another element of the ride took the fun out of it. That was a real shame.
I can’t remember if I’d heard of X:\No Way Out before or not, but it was there so I went on it. This was an interesting ride; you board a rollercoaster and it goes off backwards, into the darkness. There’s no loops or corkscrews, just ups and downs. All in all, it was pretty tame and it turns out that there WAS a way out. I would’ve been much less disappointed if I’d been stuck on the ride forever, but then I wouldn’t be able to write about this now, would I?
Nemesis Inferno was up next. This is a ride that I has been there for as long as I can remember although if memory serves me correctly, it used to be called simply Nemesis. There was definitely no inferno implied. Thinking about it, the name must have been changed just to refresh the ride without actually doing anything to it. It’s just another average rollercoaster with a few twists and turns; it’s age is apparent from the way that your head is bashed around more than any other ride- even Colossus! Definitely average.
It was at this point that I thought I’d venture back over to The Swarm as I’d seen it running earlier on. Despite not being able to use my Priority Pass on this ride, I joined the Priority Pass queue, which was unexpectedly long.
I was suddenly aware that The Swarm was not running, but the woman in front of me said that it’s because someone had been sick on the ride and it had to be cleaned up. Apart from judging a ride by how tight you clench your buttocks, I feel that a good ride can be determined by someone vomiting. Yes, they may have just eaten their dinner before going on the ride (in which case, it serves them right) but I like to believe that it was the awesomeness of the ride which did it. With hindsight, I wonder if the person was sick during or after the ride? If it was during, did the person behind get to munch on recycled hotdog or burger?
Anyway, an announcement confirmed that The Swarm was now operational again- things were looking up. I reached the ride attendant, held out my Priority Pass and before he could speak, I politely told him that I had previously queued up for an hour for this ride, that I was hot, that I’d recently had an operation on my leg and that the only direction I’d be moving in would be forward and on to the ride as it would take forced removal by security to move me in any other direction. The ride attendant politely accepted my Priority Pass and allowed me onto the ride.
The Swarm is a smooth ride and has just the right amount of loops and dips. I don’t think it’s anything spectacular, but the overall design and layout makes it interesting. I especially liked the emergency vehicles that were scattered around here and there, although I still don’t entirely understand the concept behind the ride. It was suggested that it may have been loosely based on The Day the Earth Stood Still (this is a great film) which would explain things, sort of.
As the rollercoaster came to the end of the track, we slowed down and pulled up behind the rollercoaster in front of us- it seemed as though they were still waiting to pull into the unloading bay. We sat there for a few minutes before an announcement was made, apologising that there had been a technical issue and that engineers were trying to fix it. Everyone started to whinge and moan but I was just happy that I’d finally been able to ride The Swarm. I was also feeling slightly smug that it may be the last time that it ran that day!
After around 15 minutes, both rollercoasters pulled in and we were unloaded. It was now about 6pm and I’d been on the main rides- the only one I hadn’t been on yet was The Detonator. This is a very simple ride; you sit on it, facing outwards from a giant tower. The seats are then lifted up and just dropped from 100 feet before slowing down and stopping at the last minute. This is such a brilliant little ride and it’s surprising how high it seems when you’re at the very top of the tower- you can see across the whole of the park. It’s even scarier for me- I have a HUGE fear of heights! This ride was so much fun and there was no queue, so I went on it for a second time. Whilst I was waiting for it to be hoisted up the second time, a small queue had formed. After we had dropped, I deliberately maintained and entirely impartial face, just to make the kids in the queue think that the ride wasn’t quite as scary as it really was.
So, my day at Thorpe Park wasn’t ENTIRELY wasted, but a few things did ruin it for me.
I appreciate that Thorpe Park cannot be held responsible for the ridiculous clothes that some of the other visitors were wearing, but I feel that they should refuse entry to anyone dressed as a clown. I don’t think that’s unreasonable in the slightest.
The Swarm appears to be a focal point for Thorpe Park. If you’re going to use a ride for publicity, you should make sure that it’s fully tested and fully operational before opening it up to the public. I believe that there are some virgins who travel the country (and even the world) to have a go on new rides and visit Star Trek conventions. If I’d have travelled to Thorpe Park just to ride on The Swarm, I would have been mightily pissed off that it kept breaking down and that I had to keep queuing for it in the hope that it worked for long enough for me to have a go on. I’d be even more pissed off if it was out of operation for the whole day or any extended period at all.
I was disappointed that Tidal Wave wasn’t operational and that wasn’t even published on the website. I get the impression that this ride hadn’t been operational for quite some time.
Rides that I somehow missed and have only just noticed now that I’ve looked at the Thorpe Park website are Logger’s Leap and Rumba Rapids. I’m not entirely sure how I missed these as I thought I’d been all around the park. Obviously not!
Apparently, there’s a Thorpe Park app for the iPhone, which shows you live ride queuing times and helps you navigate your way around the park. I didn’t use this, but if it works the way it’s advertised, it’d be pretty cool!
None of the queuing areas for the rides were really under any shelter. On a day like Sunday, this can in fact be very dangerous- uncomfortable at the very least. When you’re queuing for around an hour (at least) for a ride and you have the sun beating down on you, it can become rather unpleasant. The unmistakable smell of BO wafted past me on more than one occasion- not the highlight of a visit to a theme park!
I’ll only visit Thorpe Park again if the tickets are REALLY cheap and if it’s during term time because it’s always a little stressful, trying to fight the crowds, find the ride you want to go on and queue for what seems like forever. There were a few signs around, inviting visitors to text their opinions to Thorpe Park- I took full advantage of this. I also send Thorpe Park a couple of messages on Twitter- I’ve not received a reply to either the text message or the Twitter messages. Hopefully, if I do ever go back to Thorpe Park, all of the rides will be operational and there won’t be any ridiculously-dressed teenage girls.