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First coaster trip in England! Blackpool, Alton, Thorpe, Chessington 18'

Coaster Hipster

Active Member
For whatever reasons, I never visited English amusement parks until this year, even though coasters across the Channel - especially Alton's - had my interest ever since I became an enthusiast back in 2005. But with the additions of both Icon and Wicker Man and the opportunity to join fellow French/Belgian goons on a road trip meant I finally got the chance to experience creds in England!

Day 1 - Blackpool






Icon - I was actually quite worried about the Qs after seeing quite a packed entrance, but in reality the wait times were fine throughout the whole day - 30 minutes at most on the new coaster. Rode it 6/7 times and while Icon doesn't reach the graceful bliss of Helix or the insanity of Taron, it remains a pretty solid ride experience. Some weak spots here and there, but also a couple of strong highlight elements as well! It is a grower for sure. Definitely preferred the back seat for the nice mix of airtime and laterals exiting the Immelmann.

Highlights: The first hill, the twisted hill and the Immelmann (back seat)
Lowlights: The first launch is kinda weak, the meandering turns around Stepplechase





After starting the day on a high, our group decided to tick off the classic woodies one after another.

Big Dipper - Was quite worried to ride this, fearing a really unconfortable experience. In the end it was pretty harmless, and even delivered some fun little pops of air! Re-rode later in the day with a bulky guy, which meant I had a lot of space between me and my lap bar. Flying over those small hills was quite exciting actually :D



Grand National - Only got to try the left side. It was quite bouncy, but not to the point it became too rough. There are some definite moments of sudden airtime only old woodies (and maybe some wonky Pax coasters) deliver. The racing element also made the experience quite enjoyable.




Nickelodeon Streak - Apart from the flash colour scheme, it was kinda forgettable really. Not too rattly, nor too exciting either.



Blue Flyer - Couldn't help mispronounce this kiddie "Blue Fire" instead. Kinda cute coaster actually, and I would have loved to have this sort of ride at my home park when I was a child.

With the woodies done, we went for a lunch break before getting on the Arrows...




Stepplechase (yellow side) - Hmm... ouch?! The seating position was really awkward and almost every turn entrance or exit was jolty. Really unique ride for sure and I wouldn't want it to be torn down, but it's really unfortunate that the ride experience is not so comfortable :(





Big One
- I have to say this Arrow hyper looks really photogenic and mighty. Aboard, it provides nice views of Blackpool and the coast as well. Otherwise, this is arguably one of the shakiest coaster I've ever ridden! Definitely had to hang on to the bar in front of me. For some reason though I couldn't help laughing during the whole experience - despite the rattle, the coaster carries some good speed throughout the whole layout making for an 'entertaining' experience. Actually wished I could get a second ride on it but the train valleyed in the final turns so... nope.





Revolution - The whole thing looks really weird - first climbing some stairs as if you were about to do some water slides, then entering this 'station' without a ceiling and with no doors between the platform and the train. But for all the weirdness, Revolution is quite a fun ride actually. Fairly intense loop and some little pops of airtime on the drops.




Avalanche - Was surprised by the second half. I ended up being crushed by the bar with the ending helixes being unexpectedly intense and twisty! The lack of MCBR arguably helps the momentum of this Bobleigh, and it feels smoother than Trace du Hourra back home.

Didn't get to ride Infusion as it closed right when I was about to enter the Q. Not that I care much about that.


I am quite happy with my first day at Blackpool. Some areas feel quite tacky, but the whole place is lively and I appreciate its unique selection of dated vintage rides (RIP Wild Mouse though). Icon adds a much-needed quality ride experience to compliment well the heritage coasters. I wouldn't return soon unless they add anything big, but BPB was a pleasant start to our trip!

Next part: Alton Towers
 

furie

SBOPD
Staff member
Administrator
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Did you do any of the silly non-coaster stuff? Ghost Train? River Caves? Alice in Wonderland?

They're all part of the ridiculousness which is Blackpool and make it "special". Though the best was Noah's Ark :(
 

Will

Active Member
They're all part of the ridiculousness which is Blackpool and make it "special". Though the best was Noah's Ark :(
Trauma Towers was my favourite - and even Impossible can be enjoyable with the right group of people, which is why I think Blackpool is best done with CF.

Look forward to reading the rest of the report - you got lucky if neither Dipper, Nash or the Big one felt like full on GBH, as I gather they've all been riding like a sack of spanners this year. I'm also one of those heathens who'd like to see Steeplechase go - I don't particularly enjoy it and I don't see the point of it.
 

Robbie

Member
Did you do any of the silly non-coaster stuff? Ghost Train? River Caves? Alice in Wonderland?
Yeah, I make a point of going on these every time now. Partly because they're ace, but mainly out of fear the only way of experiencing them the next time I go will be by visiting the gift shop.
 

Coaster Hipster

Active Member
Did you do any of the silly non-coaster stuff? Ghost Train? River Caves? Alice in Wonderland?

They're all part of the ridiculousness which is Blackpool and make it "special". Though the best was Noah's Ark :(
I'm afraid not :( We were in line for Ghost Train but ended up going elsewhere feeling the Q was moving too slowly. Now I feel bad about missing those rides! It gives me extra incentive to return, maybe with a CF event then!


Day 2 & 3 - Alton Towers

After a very short night (because we stayed late at Blackpool and then couldn't find the entrance to Alton's hotel resort for some reason...), I was very excited to walk in Alton Towers for the first time. Heard of the park ever since I became an enthusiast back in 2005, when I couldn't hear but praise about the creativity and quality of the rides. Even with the recent backlashes I was still very curious to experience Alton for real.





First impressions: the Mainstreet is alright, however I am quite impressed with the gardens and Castle! The place certainly has a distinct charm, and feels more authentic than most amusement parks. It's just very pleasant and relaxing to walk around.





We went to the back of the park and chose to begin the day with Rita. Great launch, but I really feel there is some missed potential here. Intamin launch coaster racing in the woods sounds really, really good on paper. In the end, the actual layout feels rather ininspiring and the forces rather soft. Decent ride, but I can't help but wondering what could have been.

I apparently forgot to take pictures of Thirteen, but I found it enjoyable really. Smooth and fun outdoor section, fairly solid scenery. Obviously knew for ages about the drop trick, but still enjoyed it for what it is.




Hex was next. Really liked the pre-show and queue in general. The actual ride is classic, but enjoyable Mad House action. It is a nice touch to walk in and around the castle after the exit.


A long, very long walk leads our group to the most anticipated zone of the trip: Forbidden Valley!





Galactica - I remember loving Superman Ultimate Flight at SFGAdv despite its reputation as a rather tame Flyer, so was looking forward to the one that started it all. I enjoyed gracefully gliding through the short and low to the ground layout, but I thought it lacked a truly breath-taking moment. I guess that's why Pretzel Loops were invented then!






Nemesis - Going straight to the point with this one: Nemesis lived up to the hype for me! I just love how well this smaller invert breaks the generic B&M formula of "loop, zero G, another big inversion then corkscrews". I feel every portion of the layout flows so well and the terrain interaction makes the whole thing even more impressive. Most of the layout is intense, though not to the extreme levels of complete gray/black-out, except for that insane downwards helix right after the first corkscrew. Helixes are generally for me a monotonous affair, sometimes intense, but most often lacking a 'sudden' element to make it truly exciting imo. (Not sure if I worded that well) Not Nemesis'. With the sudden acceleration and change in height, that helix has such a wonderful dynamic and feels like being caught in a whirlwind! Definitely a 'favourite coaster moment' in my books.





Dark Ride Shooters are most often good fun, and Duel is no exception. Having only done it once and trying too hard to get a high score (and of course, failing to do so), I was too distracted to really appreciate the theming. I think it was quite good though.





We then proceeded to Wicker Man, but its Q was approaching 2 hours so we walked even further to The Smiler. I have to admit I was always perplexed by this record-breaker, inversions don't over-excite me and the original Gerstlauer Infinity has 14 of them. It does look quite appealing off-ride though. The whole scenery made out of mostly concrete and metal fences is really weird to me, but it kinda... works? I mean it feels a little out of place compared to other Alton Towers, but isn't short of entertainement value. Got a 2nd row middle seat, and the first half wasn't actually that bad. Mostly smooth upside-down action and a decent pop of airtime squeezed somewhere in-between. The second act was some headbanging galore however, putting me on defensive riding mode the whole way through :( It's kinda worrying for a relatively young coaster really.

At this point the group split off, and I chose to head straight back to Forbidden Valley hoping for some re-rides on Nemesis.



Oh yeah.


In the end, managed 10 consecutive laps on Nemesis! Was a perfect way to conclude the day.




The following morning, we went straight to the Wicker Dude for some early hotel guest ERT, but the thing was down, and we ended up waiting over an hour on a surprisingly busy Monday at the park.




To be honest, I was actually unaffected by the hype and hype backlash around the ride's construction and only followed the whole thing from a distance - as you may know I was more preoccupied with the endless Hyperion updates showing the same pullouts every time ;) So I sat aboard the train expecting something in the range of InvadR, nothing overwhelming, but a fun family woodie type of coaster. And it felt just like that. I found Wicker Man to have rather good pacing (even that flat turnaround did not bother me very much), little airtime but an emphasis of laterals in a ride that feels a little short in duration. Nice use of the terrain, too.

I also didn't watch the preshow stuff beforehand. Pretty impressive video mapping imo!

The ride happened to break down right during the lap of some in our group - another half-hour gone due to an ordinary smaller GCI somehow not working properly! Thankfully though, we were compensated with Fast Passes, which were duly utilized later that day for some walk-on rerides on Wicker Man. Customer service was really decent overall during my visit I might say. Despite the issues here and there, still felt there wasn't much faffing around and that the staff was actually trying their best.

We then tried - and eventually failed - to get the remaining creds.






The hour-long Q at Spinball Whizzer was partly responsible for the failed cred hunt. Noticed some distinctive structure shuffling each time a car goes through some specific sections of the layout which made me worry about how comfortable the ride would be. Turns out it was a pretty intense spinner! Threw me around quite a lot, and the whole experience was wonky, but fun. I feel guilty for thinking this is more exciting than Winjas, despite the latter's wonderful theming and tricks.





I like how Alton created a nice zone to enhance Oblivion's drop. It really is an elaborated build-up for the big moment. Not sure if that's an unpopular opinion, but despite all that, the ride itself wasn't as thrilling as, per example, Griffon. The drop definitely feels better at the front, however even there, I thought it wasn't as much of a deal as the whole build-up suggests. Still an enjoyable machine though.

At this point, we only had about 2 hours left, so we decided "m*rde with the +1 creds, let's re-ride the good stuff instead!" Which we duly did. Along with the aforementioned Fast Pass laps on Wicker Man, we returned to Forbidden Valley for a final time.




My best attempt at capturing both B&Ms in action.




I was really impressed with Alton Towers in the end :) The valley and forest background are just superb, it is so unusual to wander a bit and to end up in a quiet, relaxing grove inside an amusement park. I appreciate a lot the park's emphasis creating an intricate ride storyline and atmosphere. The coaster line-up has some good depth and variety. However only Nemesis provides a truly breath-taking, superlative experience in my opinion. With AT's ride height restrictions, it was always going to be a tough act to follow and subsequent Secret Weapons did a reasonably good job, while never reaching the creative peak of Nemmie. Maybe I'm getting spoilt, but I can't help but imagine the park could have been even better with a more ambitious Rita, or a truly ground-breaking woodie. Despite those nit-picky considerations, Alton Tower easily becomes one of my favourite parks. It's a charming place that I would really, really recommend to my GP friends!
 
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Hixee

Flojector
Staff member
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Sounds like you had a good couple of days at the park. Your comments on the ride sound mostly in line with mine - I like them for what they are, but only Nemesis (and Oblivion, I'm a bit of a sucker for that drop) really stand out.

Crazy that Wickerman was down for the ERT too, awful service!
 

Howie

Active Member
Bonus points for using the terrm 'Wicker Dude'. I knew it would catch on eventually. ;)
Nice to read some Nemesis love - still one of the greatest rides ever.
 
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