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Why Wicker Man is the best UK coaster since 1994

Wicker Man.  I think it’s fair to say that I had very mixed feelings during the construction and build-up process for this ride.  Whilst I was happy to see a new wooden coaster finally grace the UK line-up, I had reservations about how good it would be; there weren’t any huge drops in the layout, so would it pick up enough speed to be thrilling?   On approaching the ride, the excitement builds from the moment you see the hugely impressive Wicker Man structure and entrance signage come into view with the music droning in the background.  I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing – it’s such a compelling sight, nothing looks out of place and everything just ‘works’.       Moving into the queue-line, the design is fantastic with so many vantage points for the ride – small items of theming are expertly placed creating brilliant photo opportunities.  Throughout queuing there are many good places to watch the coaster from, and it’s so pleasing to see that everyone seems to be enjoying it.  I really like how the smoke effect is pulled around the corner by the train after exiting the second tunnel, in particular.  Being surrounded by the roar of a wooden coaster combined with the soundtrack, theming and screams of joy is really something quite special.       Onto the preshow, I enjoyed this and found it delivers a lot in a short space of time.  The transition is clever and the show lasts just long enough to stay interesting whilst not becoming a burden after a few rides.  I found the theatrics and changes in atmosphere particularly impressive, however it was a shame on one of the rides I had that the automatic doors at the back of the room kept opening.  Exiting into the station, the lighting and dispatch/unload audio keeps the theme consistent and is very impressive.   With the thematic elements done to a very high standard, how well would the coaster itself hold up?  After five rides on two separate occasions, I absolutely love it.   Dispatching out of the station, the pre-lift section is very Nemesis Inferno-esque (with the mist-filled tunnel) and sets the scene for the ride very well.  Ascending the lift hill, the views of the ride are excellent and the audio helps to build anticipation throughout.     The first corner and drop help to build up the speed, and the tunnel adds a level of disorientation, as you exit already facing the ground.  The section that follows is truly sublime; after going over the second hill in the tunnel, you emerge blinded from the light to be thrown (yes, THROWN) first to the right, then to the left and into a ground-hugging turn.  This is my absolute favourite section of the ride; the forces are much better than I expected and the transition from right-to-left is just so much fun.       Diving through the Wicker Man structure and up into the turnaround, this offers a nice view of the queue-line and theming structure before hitting the two small bumps (which are much better than they look!) and then plunging to the right through the structure into yet another fantastic and unexpected sideways-banked drop.     I found that the flat corner goes a long way to making the ride feel longer, as it gives you time to process the elements you’ve been through before heading into the next section.  The straight drop which follows provides a nice feeling of weightlessness, however on the back row at the end of a rainy day there was some incredible airtime there!  Following this is a sharp right-hand-turn through the structure, before turning left under the lift-hill and into the brake run leaving the clank of the lift chain ringing in your ears.     After some time to think it through, I can say in full confidence that Wicker Man is genuinely one of the best roller coasters I have ever ridden.  Firstly, it’s the first time Alton have delivered a fully complete theme under Merlin, with no obvious corners cut and nothing looks out of place.  I could nit-pick, but it's the best we've had in the UK for years - so I won't.  The coaster itself is great fun and is a superb example of a wooden coaster.   Combined, it’s a masterpiece.   My only concerns going forward are the reliability issues the ride is currently having, and maintenance of effects.  The fire, smoke and audio add a lot to the overall experience, and with the fire already broken, I only hope that Alton can manage to maintain them to a high standard.   Thanks for reading, a few more photos below.               Wicker Man = AMAZING. 

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Blackpool Pleasure Beach: April 2015 PTR

Yet another brilliant week was spent in Blackpool, and as we have BPB season passes we spent most days in the park, which was great fun despite a few negatives which I will get to later in the trip report. BPB is still my favourite park, purely because it has my favourite rides, and the history and charm adds to it - my top three coasters are The Big One, Wild Mouse and Grand National as well as my overall favourite ride being Valhalla, so to have these and a fantastic collection of wooden coasters, steel coasters and dark rides is just amazing! There isn't one ride I get bored of (I don't go on Grand Prix, Dora or Impossible much ), they are all brilliant and in my opinion it still definitely has the best ride lineup in the UK. Big Dipper deserves it's own mention in my opinion. I have always enjoyed it, but this week it was running the best I've ever known it to! Never before have I actually been nearly standing up due to the fantastic airtime on the first two drops, add to that the battering the back row was getting on the turnaround and it was absolutely brilliant! Grand National and Wild Mouse are still superior to it however IMO, both were running well most of the time, and the airtime on the final drop on Mouse is probably my favourite of any ride! The Big One, nothing much to say that I haven't said in previous trip reports, still our favourite coaster and it was much enjoyed as usual. The first drop in the back is the highlight IMO. Valhalla was a mixed bag this time, but good overall. One day there was no fire whatsoever, and for the last three days the final explosion was off, as well as no projected face on the first few days, but we still really enjoyed it. Wish they'd turn the audio up in some places though! Once again we did the "no poncho challenge" on one of the days, which was just as hilarious as usual! I always say that you haven't had a good day out at BPB unless you have bruises to show for it, and after a week of riding the coasters we definitely do, I'd be disappointed if I didn't to be honest! The negative bit: There were however negatives to the trip this time. I'm not going to hold back, so if you don't want to read the negative comments then skip this section. Park operations were absolutely dire most days. On the Sunday, it closed at 5pm despite being advertised as a 6pm close on the website, this was still the case after it had closed. This is not acceptable, if people have paid for a 6pm close then it is wrong to change that. Further to this, on the following Sunday (19th) the park gates didn't open until 10:45am, with nothing open until 11am. Even then, both Wild Mouse and Grand National opened late. Add to this a 5pm close, I would not have been impressed if I had paid to get in or driven there for that specific day! On the first Saturday of our trip, we weren't allowed on Infusion or Nickelodeon Streak until 11am because the RCCGB were on them. This is not on, ERT events should take place outside of park opening hours. Guests who have paid for tickets (or season passes) and made the effort to visit should not be told they can't ride, yet the coasters are clearly going round in front of their eyes. Unacceptable. On some days this week they really let us down in terms of their attitude to ride capacity. A few examples are: - Avalanche running one train with a full queue round the extensions on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. - The Big One running one train with a full station (apart from in the mornings and just before it closed), and often all the way down the ramp as well. To add to this, dispatch times were two and a half minutes (between the train stopping and dispatching again), which meant that even on one train it could have shifted the queue more than it was if the staff could be bothered. - Big Dipper on one. This wouldn't have been a problem, but when added to all the other coasters not being on capacity it was yet another slow moving queue. - Steeplechase only on two lanes unless the queue got down to the bottom of the stairs, at which point they would put three lanes on for a short amount of time and then go back down to two. - Incredibly slow dispatch times on Grand National, even when running four trains, there was a good five minutes sometimes between the trains arriving and the next ones being dispatched, even though they had been checked and were ready to go. - Only six boats on Valhalla until the final hour most days, leading to queues building up much earlier in the day. The only day ride capacity was what it should be was on Saturday 18th. The park was busy, and the atmosphere was fantastic with a great selection of songs from Holiday Rock FM, people just sitting enjoying the sun and most rides operating as they should be, aside from The Big One which was stacking on two trains far more often than it should have been. Furthermore, Grand National and Valhalla both opened at 11am, half an hour earlier than usual which was great! However Infusion opened half an hour late so not all good. The first Saturday was also quite good for capacity, but PMBO was on one due to wind (which was not the case the rest of the week, the wind didn't get above 11mph on some of the days it was running one). Whilst I have had much worse days at other UK parks, this is not the standard I expect from BPB, they have been much better in the past few years so I was quite disappointed by this. RIDECOUNTS! Saturday 11th April 2015: Valhalla x5 Grand National x4 Big Dipper x3 Wild Mouse x2 Avalanche x2 The Big One x1 Revolution x1 Nickelodeon Streak x1 Steeplechase x1 Infusion x1 Wallace and Gromit's Thrill O' Matic x1 Ghost Train x1 River Caves x1 Alice in Wonderland x1 Blue Flyer x1 TOTAL: 26 Sunday 12th April 2015: We only spent the last hour and a half in the park today, as we had done the Tower Dungeons and Circus as well. We would have had two and a half hours as planned if they hadn't closed an hour early! The Big One x2 Wild Mouse x2 Big Dipper x2 Infusion x2 Grand National x1 Valhalla x1 Ghost Train x1 TOTAL: 11 Monday 13th April 2015: Valhalla x7 The Big One x6 Wild Mouse x2 Revolution x2 Nickelodeon Streak x2 Wallace and Gromit's Thrill O' Matic x2 Ghost Train x2 Ice Blast x2 (This was about the only "thrill" ride I could cope with at the end of the day). Grand National x1 Big Dipper x1 Avalanche x1 Steeplechase x1 Infusion x1 Avatar Airbender x1 River Caves x1 Alice x1 Pleasure Beach Express x1 TOTAL: 34 Tuesday was spent in the Yorkshire dales which was really enjoyable once again. Wednesday 15th April 2015: The Big One x4 Valhalla x3 Wild Mouse x3 Grand National x2 Big Dipper x2 Nickelodeon Streak x2 Revolution x2 Wallace and Gromit x2 Avalanche x1 Steeplechase x1 Infusion x1 Ghost Train x1 Lost River x1 Alice x1 Dora x1 :lol: TOTAL: 26 Thursday 16th April 2015: We went in from 1pm onwards after spending the morning in Sandcastle Waterpark. Wild Mouse x2 Big Dipper x2 Valhalla x1 The Big one x1 Grand National x1 Revolution x1 Wallace and Gromit x1 Ghost Train x1 River Caves x1 TOTAL: 11 Friday 17th April 2015: Valhalla x7 The Big One x4 Grand National x2 Big Dipper x2 Steeplechase x2 Infusion x2 Wild Mouse x1 Nickelodeon Streak x1 Revolution x1 Avalanche x1 Wallace and Gromit x1 Ghost Train x1 Avatar Airbender x1 TOTAL: 25 Saturday 18th April: Grand National x6 (The park was packed but for some reason this had quite a short queue at times, and it was running well!) The Big One x5 (Today was a case of OMG it's on two trains!! ) Wild Mouse x4 Big Dipper x4 Valhalla x1 Nickelodeon Streak x1 Revolution x1 Avalanche x1 Infusion x1 Steeplechase x1 Wallace and Gromit x1 River Caves x1 Flying Machines x1 Ice Blast x1 TOTAL: 28 Sunday 19th April 2015: We just had a few rides and a Gourmet Burger before a long drive home. We wanted one last go on National but it hadn't opened by the time we left sadly. Big One x2 Wild Mouse x1 Big Dipper x1 TOTAL: 4 OVERALL RIDECOUNT: Valhalla x25 The Big One x25 Grand National x17 Big Dipper x17 Wild Mouse x16 Revolution x8 Infusion x8 Wallace and Gromit x8 Nickelodeon Streak x7 Ghost Train x7 Avalanche x6 Steeplechase x6 River Caves x4 Ice Blast x3 Alice Ride x3 Avatar Airbender x2 Flying Machines x1 Blue Flyer x1 Pleasure Beach Express x1 Lost River x1 Dora x1 OVERALL TOTAL: 167 PHOTOS! All photos taken by me. Valhalla; Tom Sawyer Bridge shots; The old and new(ish); It looks so simple, but packs a huge punch; Cheese Gromit! Would you like to see this receive a facelift, or does the ageing look add to the charm? Time for vertical reality! The tunnel does look very narrow when you see it from the PBE! Ice Blast does seem a bit more forceful in the launch this season, but sadly it still lacks airtime at the top most of the time; Infusion, I do enjoy this coaster despite most people hating it; The life and soul of the Pleasure Beach, the wooden coasters! This drop had much more airtime then I've ever had on it in the past! Wild Mouse, in my opinion the best wooden coaster in the UK when it's on form; Grand National, another amazing coaster and my second favourite woodie; Streak is good although I did prefer it as Roller; Finally, some random park shots; Skyforce; Still my fave; Steeplechase, a unique ride to BPB and lots of fun! Two photos overlooking the Big One/Skyforce area; This was taken on Saturday 18th, it felt like summer and the atmosphere was fantastic! Thanks for reading/looking, comments welcome.

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Blackpool Pleasure Beach - October/November 2014 | Photo Trip Report

Wow, what a fantastic week! We spent 8 consecutive days in Blackpool Pleasure Beach, arriving at just after 10am and staying until park close every day. This equates to a total of 76 hours spent in the park! In fact, the only break we had from the park was one morning to visit the Tower and watch the Circus. Blackpool Pleasure Beach was nearly faultless all week, it was being run the best I have ever seen it with all coasters on maximum capacity every day (aside from Nash on two one day and Steeple having a bit of trouble with the yellow lane at some points). One thing that I always find amazing about the park is the sheer range of ages of the rides. There really is nothing that can match seeing 100 year old rides run next to newer rides, it's just brilliant! The park is maintaining it's clean image and I saw loads of cleaners around the park getting rid of any little bit of rubbish, it was brilliant to see them making an effort and I can't fault them at all with this, especially when you see rubbish strewn everywhere at many other parks. The coasters were running brilliantly, obviously they have their off times but by the evening they were going like the clappers! The Grand National in the rain at gone 8pm is one of the most insane experiences possible on a coaster! :twisted: Valhalla is in a much better state than it was at Easter in terms of effects (and it was good then), although some of the effects broke halfway through the week and were not fixed (or didn't stay fixed for long). However, the ride itself seems to be struggling as it was breaking down quite a lot - although I cannot fault the park's efforts at all as they had it back open again within 15 - 20 minutes every time. A plus point is that I got five breakdowns whilst on the ride so got to see most of it with the lights on which was fab! (Not for the staff though I bet!) No evacuation though However, on one particular day a certain water effect that usually misses the boat decided not to switch off, but more on that further down. It is still my favourite ride and I am yet to come across anything else like it. Leaving the park has never been easy, but it was more difficult for me than it ever has been in the past, possibly because it is the first time I have gone to Blackpool more than once in a year however we have ordered 2015 season passes - in our opinion it is unbeatable as the quality of rides, history & charm and ever improving operations of the park makes it the UK's number one. Highlights: - Park was looking great, very clean and fresh. Also a really great atmosphere! - Dark rides are looking great, it is clear that a lot of time has gone into maintaining them. Ghost Train has seen a lot of paint since April, River Caves looks really good and Wallace and Gromit was still all working (aside from one effect) and I noticed new smell effects in the bread scene. - Getting back on Valhalla - Getting back on all the coasters. - Capacity the best I have ever seen it. - BPB at night time. - Trevor on the PMBO has got to be the best staff member I have ever come across - so into his job and recognised us every time we went into the station, also joking about my brother's Smiler hoodie. - Seeing Valhalla with the lights on - The Big One nearly stopping midway around the course due to the ridiculous winds it was battling with. Seriously, it was great fun and the first time I have been scared on a coaster for a very long time. - Valhalla's waterfall in the skull mouth not switching off and drenching everyone! (This was NOT a highlight at the time!) It was leaving huge puddles in the bottom of every boat yet I had to tell the staff as they hadn't realised. My feet were nearly a foot deep in water! - A night ride on PMBO in torrential rain at gone 10:30pm, plus seeing the faces of the staff who had joined us afterwards! Lowlights: - Leaving! (There were a tiny number of annoyances but they were vastly outweighed by the positives, and unless being picky I can't really find anything to moan about!) RIDECOUNTS: We may have done a few more rides than this as I usually forget a few when I'm adding them up. Saturday 25th October 2014 Valhalla x3 The Big One x2 Big Dipper x2 Infusion x2 Wild Mouse x1 Grand National x1 Nickelodeon Streak x1 Avalanche x1 Wallace and Gromit's Thrill O' Matic x1 TOTAL: 14 Sunday 26th October 2014 (PMBO was closed from lunchtime onwards due to high winds, sadly we didn't go on it in the morning but to be honest I didn't miss it as I knew I would have a week to ride it). Valhalla x9 Grand National x7 Wild Mouse x6 Big Dipper x3 Nickelodeon Streak x1 Revolution x1 Avalanche x1 Steeplechase x1 Infusion x1 Ice Blast x1 Avatar Airbender x1 Wallace and Gromit's Thrill O' Matic x1 Ghost Train x1 River Caves x1 TOTAL: 35 Monday 27th October 2014 (We were only in the park for the afternoon as we went to the Tower and Circus in the morning. The Big One x2 Horror Maze x2 Valhalla x1 Grand National x1 Revolution x1 Ice Blast x1 Blue Flyer x1 Wallace and Gromit's Thrill O' Matic x1 TOTAL: 10 Tuesday 28th September 2014 The Big One x8 Valhalla x3 Ghost Train x3 Wild Mouse x2 Grand National x2 Big Dipper x2 River Caves x2 Nickelodeon Streak x1 Avalanche x1 Steeplechase x1 Infusion x1 Alice in Wonderland x1 TOTAL: 27 Wednesday 29th September 2014 (Park was packed, great to see it so busy! Also, they were coping really well with crowds). Valhalla x3 Grand National x3 Revolution x3 The Big One x2 Wild Mouse x1 Big Dipper x1 Nickelodeon Streak x1 Avalanche x1 Wallace and Gromit's Thrill O' Matic x1 Ghost Train x1 River Caves x1 Pleasure Beach Express x1 (Had never been on this before!) Horror Maze x1 Impossible x1 TOTAL: 21 Thursday 30th October 2014 (Another busy day) Valhalla x3 The Big One x3 Infusion x2 Wild Mouse x1 Grand National x1 Big Dipper x1 Avalanche x1 Wallace and Gromit's Thrill O' Matic x1 Ghost Train x1 Pleasure Beach Express x1 Horror Maze x1 TOTAL: 16 Friday 31st October 2014 - VAMPIRE BEACH The Big One x5 Valhalla x3 Grand National x3 Horror Maze x3 (Scaring people in this was fun!) Big Dipper x2 Wallace and Gromit x2 Wild Mouse x1 Nickelodeon Streak x1 Revolution x1 Steeplechase x1 Avatar Airbender x1 Ghost Train x1 River Caves x1 TOTAL: 23 Saturday 1st November 2014 Valhalla x6 (Some of these were hilarious! Two were no poncho or waterproof as we were already soaked from the Skull mouth!) The Big One x4 Grand National x3 Wild Mouse x2 Big Dipper x1 Nickelodeon Streak x1 Avalanche x1 Revolution x1 Blue Flyer x1 Wallace and Gromit's Thrill O' Matic x1 River Caves x1 TOTAL: 21 Overall Ride Count: Valhalla x31 The Big One x26 Grand National x21 Wild Mouse x14 Big Dipper x12 Wallace and Gromit's Thrill O' Matic x8 Ghost Train x7 Horror Maze x7 (Usually just before joining the PMBO queue) Nickelodeon Streak x6 Revolution x6 Avalanche x6 Infusion x6 River Caves x6 Steeplechase x3 Ice Blast x2 Avatar Airbender x2 Blue Flyer x2 Pleasure Beach Express x2 Alice in Wonderland x1 Impossible x1 OVERALL TOTAL: 169 Photos (all taken by me). Valhalla; You WILL get soaked! 91 years old and still standing proud; Headchopper! The Big One - still my favourite coaster. Where else can you find a 20 year old coaster and a 91 year old coaster running side by side? All lit up! Wild Mouse, one of the most intense coasters around; Grand National, yet another brilliant coaster; Nickelodeon Streak, in my opinion the best family coaster in the country. Imagine living in those houses! Avalanche; Revolution packs a huge punch considering how innocent it looks; Some general park shots: Strange orbs in this picture... Took it again without orbs but I prefer the angle of the first one. Easy question but does anyone know where you can find this in the park? Exciting times! VAMPIRE BEACH: BPB seems to be one of the only parks that still bothers with parkwide theming; Bring back Trauma! And Noah's Ark! Horror Maze; I must admit this one did make me laugh, possibly because it had moved every time we went through the maze! I'm sure these two were in the Ghost Train years ago; (These pictures were taken in the day, the maze was better in the dark and with actors). You cannot beat Blackpool Pleasure Beach at night! Thanks for reading/looking, comments welcome.

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