A postcard from Drayton Manor

As my trepidation filled previous post outlined, we were off to Drayton Manor on Saturday, and this meant a fairly painful early start to the day.  I was personally up at 6.30, and after a quick shower I was then stuck with the job of waking up Emily, Rebecca and Nat (Rebecca’s friend) in an attempt to get to the park before lunchtime.

They were pretty good to be honest, and we left the house at 8am, only half an hour later than I felt would be ideal.  The SatNav predicted just under two hours, which should be fine for a 10am opening.  Indeed yes, we arrive at 9.40 (what do you mean I must have broken the speed limit?) and with a complete lack of queue, caused by the sub zero temperatures and what turned out to be constant drizzle for the entire day, we are into the park just before 10.

Medieval Fringes

How happy I was to learn then that the rides did not open until 10.30!! So we wander about a bit and try to kill some time and get our bearings. With the cold starting to turn apendages blue, we seek out an indoor space to cower in for half an hour.  A hot drink each sets us back the best part of a tenner, and we wait for stuff to be open.

We then wander outside and see rides starting up, and decide to do a nice gentle one to get everyone warmed up.  It was a sort of Octupus style thing, but with Mexican Hats!!  Yes, I know.  A decent enough ride, apart from the fact that the bucket seats were filled with an inch or two of rain.  When asked if they were going to wipe the seats down, the “cast member” shrugged and walked back to the hut he started the ride from.

So with moist bottoms, we endure the ride as the wetness made its way north.  Nice start.

Apocolypse ride
The Terror of a Tower

Rebecca has turned into an absolute fear free zone in theme parks, and is not happy to realise that Nat, and to some extent Emily are less than daring with every ride.  This also impacts on me as I am now dragged onto the Apocalypse ride with Rebecca.

Don’t get me wrong, I like most rides and fear very few, but I am less than keen on the ones that take you up a couple of hundred feet and just drop you to the floor.  Indeed, as we find ourselves walking straight on to the ride, and making our way up the tower (how bloody high does this go???) I did turn to Rebecca and tell her that I hated her!!

She looked less than convinced that this was a great idea, but of course it was all too late now.  Sat at the top of the tower, having left my glasses with the attendant, I can make out rough shapes below, and it seems Louise was one of them, waving with a very wicked smile on her face.

Those few seconds before realease were pure hell.  What few muscles I possess, I had them tensed.  Then, the fall happened.  My God.

Feeling just a little sick, we stagger back to the other cowardly lot, and mentally make a note that we don’t need to do that ride again.

The rest of the day is spent trying to avoid hyperthermia, and the heaviest of the rain.  They have some decent rides, like G Force, although the loading capacity is shocking, and the ride very short.  The girls enjoyed the pirate ship thing too.

It is very obvious that someone from Drayton has been to Florida.  There are some things that have been lifted almost directly.

They have the shark hanging upside down thing, just like Universal, and a couple of rides are sort of “own brand” equivalents of US rides.  The Happy Feet 4D cinema thing is sort of like Philharmagic/Shrek 4D, but just less good!  As an example, during the show it won’t surprise you to learn that the seats move, and some water is sprayed on you.  We sat on the front row, and I wondered why every time the audience screamed at getting wet I was wasn’t.

As I left the show I realised why.  The jet of water was aimed perfectly at my crotch.  A large target area I grant you, but I spent the rest of the day looking like I had poor bladder control.

The ultimate rip off though is the Pirate’s Adventure ride.  The attempted similarities to Pirates of the Carribean are beyond uncanny, from the entrance/queue, to the boats, even down to the scenes as you go around.  The scene with the dog holding the keys is identical, although the dog at Drayton is a goat….yeh, we couldn’t work that out either.

It really is a complete rip off, scene by scene, just on a crapper level, with much poorer execution.

Bearded Dragon
Is that lamp portable, I'm freezing?

The zoo is OK.  The highlight of the day was the reptile house.  The reason being it was lovely and warm, and we spent a long time in there!

I am aware that my level of negativity isn’t good, and it might sound snobby to say that if you hadn’t been to WDW, you might not have the same opinion.  Snobby it may be but I think it is true.  I can’t help that really.

As expected the staff were young kids, with little or no interest in the guests, just going through the motions.  This is the essence of the difference between the UK and US experience.  No-one was rude really, just bored, cold and looking forward to going home, which spookily is how we felt too.

To be fair, Rebecca enjoyed the rides, so in terms of her birthday outing it was fine, and gladly she and Emily took it all in the right spirit.  Yes, we know it isn’t Florida, but we’ll make the best of it.  Maybe some day they can teach me that level of maturity!

I tweeted a couple of times during and after the day, and I was mildy impressed to find that Drayton Manor has replied to one tweet where I said…

“Back from Drayton Manor, kerrriiiist it was cold!! Dominos ordered, heating on. If I say I’m going to a UK theme park again, shoot me”.

They said…

“That seems a little drastic, maybe just wait for the summertime when it’s warmer?!”

Rebecca and Nat
Girls just wanna have fun....

I’m sure a warmer, drier day would make all the difference, but then again, that would mean higher crowds, and the prospect of a long queue for the rides there would just upset me more!  Alas, the weather is not the issue really.  It is the fact that all UK theme parks (that I have visited) are tacky, a bit dirty, have surly staff and charge more than their US counterparts, which are none of those things.

This I think also contributes to that glazed, knowing expression you see on people’s face when you tell them you are going to Florida (for the umpteenth time).  The lack of comprehension is palpable, and it is clear they try to reconcile their knowledge of UK themeparks with flying for nine hours to spend two weeks in one.

It is like saying you are going watching the local Sunday League footy match, when you’ve been a season ticket holder in the Premiership.  The concept is the same, but the standard and the execution is woefully inferior.  This of course doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the Sunday League match, but given a choice most would choose the Premiership…especially if it was costing you the same to watch both!!

I fear I am a lost cause, probably not representative of most visitors to a UK theme park, and looking at their Twitter feed, they do indeed have lots of positive feedback from customers after their visits.  So maybe the quality of the park is not the problem, maybe it is my expectations?

Oh yes, we always had some sort of political event this week too, but I don’t have the time, knowledge or will to comment on this trivia when a major event like a chance to slag off a UK theme park has presented itself!!

All I will say is that I have found the events quite riveting, which is probably quite sad….anyway…

Till the next time…..

5 thoughts on “A postcard from Drayton Manor

  1. Never safe referring to the wife as a ‘rough shape’ no matter how big your target area is.

  2. Been reading your blog for a while now after seeing the link on your trip report on the Dibb (read all of them one after another – LOVED them all!!) Anyways, i’ve never commented before but HAD to after reading this last post! It’s like reading my own thoughts!! And i will sooooooo be using that little football analagy!! Perhaps i’ll save it till my nursery outing in a couple of weeks, guess where we are going?????

    1. Thanks for reading. I am constantly amazed at the number of folks who actually bother to visit my blog every day…..makes me feel guilty for the lack of frequent posts!!

  3. Funny as always Craig and whilst I hoped you would have fun its reassuring to see I am not the only one with the same opinion of UK parks. I thought I was just a lone miserabilist but now I know I am right and the family are all wrong.

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