Speelpark Oud Valkeveen is a park geared firmly at children, and when I visited seven years ago the prospect of a return trip seemed highly unlikely. However, a few years ago management sold off their original coaster to one of my local parks and replaced it with two more, including a Big Apple and a Sunkid Heege Butterfly, and two credits (plus a coaster-counting partner who'd never been) made for an excellent excuse to go back.
Our first stop today was at Vliegende Valk (#2212), my first encounter with the mark two version of the Butterfly featuring an upgraded track design and a themed vehicle in place of the somewhat utilitarian yellow box seen on the original models. It was a bit of a surprise to discover an operator waiting at the entrance, perhaps reflecting the fact that this is a park where young children are encouraged to roam free. The young man was a bit surprised at two adults wanting to ride, but recovered quickly and after a cursory check of the restraint he pushed the start button for us. The ride experience was entirely as expected, and we subsequently rode a second time figuring that we had plenty of time.
From there we went to Achtbaan (#2213), a family coaster that began life at Kinderstad Heerlen, currently the only coaster park in the Netherlands that I've yet to visit. It was moved to Speelpark Oud Valkeveen three years ago, where it stands on exactly the same spot as the original. The rather striking figurehead from the old train sadly didn't make it to the new ride, but the brightly coloured worm made for a much more cheerful alternative. A second lap in the back car gave me the all the pictures I wanted.
We spent a very pleasant half hour exploring the rest of the park, which extends all the way down to a private beach with a view across the Gooimeer lake. Though adults would be bored, there were an enormous number of things for younger children to do, including slides, self-powered rides, and and a colourful mini-land area with landscaped hills populated with play equipment of all kinds.
18th April 2016
Both of my previous visits to Duinrell were combined with a visit to Drievliet, and I'd have chosen to do the same thing today were it not for the fact that the latter park wasn't open on a Monday in April. I'd contemplated driving past the place on the way to the airport so as to give The War Department a peek at it, but that plan was aborted when an electrical failure on my rental car disabled the indicators. That probably wouldn't have been a serious issue in a BMW, but as I was in a somewhat cheaper vehicle it seemed wise to drive the short distance back to the car drop off at a reduced speed using the hazard lights as necessary.
Four years ago the park added its third coaster, and struck gold with the addition of one of the best family rides I've encountered in recent years. Dragon Fly (#2214) delivers strong lateral forces and absolutely no jarring, in sharp contrast (pun intended) to just about everything else Gerstlauer has built over the years. Over the course of the afternoon we completed six laps in various points of the train, and I'd have happily done more. It wasn't much of a surprise to learn that a second installation of the same layout went to Belantis last year; further versions may well pop up in the not too distant future.
Time hasn't been overly kind to the signature coaster in the park. Falcon now has several headbanging moments in the front row that didn't occur in its first season, though it's worth noting that the back row is somewhat better, if not exactly smooth, giving a tantalising hint of what the experience was like in its first season. We decided not to go back for a third lap, but Megan did say that she would, which is about the highest praise one can give to a Eurofighter these days.
There were only a handful of riders on Kikkerachtbahn today, and given that it felt a tiny bit mean to go to the back row as the operator would then have to walk back to check our restraint. We need not have been concerned, however; there was a button that had to be pressed at the end of the platform to clear the ride for dispatch. The ride experience was as per any other large tivoli, though it was augmented considerably by a low tree branch above the base of the first drop that looked far closer than it actually was.
Only one of the two Rodelbaan tracks was in use today, though one can hardly fault the park for that given that the wait was minimal. The route was pleasantly wooded with several blind turns, amplifying the sense of speed. On my second lap I decided to live a little dangerously with the braking, and came within a few inches of going over the side which I'm sure would have provided entertainment for the masses.
The final attraction for us today was the Carousel, a beautiful machine dating from 1864 that rotates continuously at slow speed. Guests are invited to climb on and off as they please, and we did just that trying out several different animals and a hot air balloon hanging over the side. The original steam engine and barrel organ were sadly no longer in use, but a very subtle speaker system had been buried within the superstructure sufficiently well that it would be impossible to tell the difference without looking closely.