The Gulliver’s parks are normally strictly off-limits to adults without children, which makes them a tough hit for a sizeable percentage of the world’s coaster enthusiasts. Access can occasionally be arranged for those unwilling or unable to procreate, but in general the best option for those really wanting to visit is to join an organised trip through a coaster club.
Back in 2019 the European Coaster Club organised an event taking in two of the then three branches – Milton Keynes and Warrington – and perhaps unsurprisingly the weekend was popular, drawing in members from several countries including the United States. A follow-up was always going to happen, and while things were delayed somewhat by the pandemic there was similar excitement when an announcement went out for a trip to Matlock Bath and the newly created Valley Resort in Rotherham.
Due to other commitments it wasn’t possible for me to attend for the entire weekend, but there was no way that I was going to pass on the opportunity to visit a park that I’d likely never have gone to otherwise. That was how I found myself on flight number sixteen for the year, this time into East Midlands Airport. The journey wasn’t particularly pleasant, mostly because the PA system was set way too high for comfort in deference to the laws of Ryanair, but it had the twin virtues of being quick and on-time – and at the end of the day the latter is all that really matters.
Our morning began with an exclusive session on Grand Prix Racers (#3025), a standard model SBF Race Coaster and my fourth encounter with the type. The ride is a mid-sized family coaster, comprising a diagonal tyre-driven lift hill, a 540-degree descending helix, a climbing right turn with extremely questionable profiling, and a descending right turn back into the station. Today the computer was operating a two-lap programme which was more or less as we expected – somewhat janky, but fun nevertheless. I rode five times both because it would have been rude not to and because it doubled as a chance to catch up with fellow club members enjoying the hobby that we love so much.
When the park opened to the public a group of us made our way over to Carfari, an antique car attraction. I’m not quite sure what I’d hoped for here, but what we found was a 110-metre oval-shaped track with no theming of any kind. Furthermore, the steering was non-existent; many rides of this type have at least a modicum of sideways control above and beyond that provided by the control rail, but there was none whatsoever here. In fairness the average four-year-old probably wouldn’t notice the difference, but I’ll admit to being a bit disappointed given the otherwise high standard set by the park; it wouldn’t have taken a huge amount of work to produce something much more worthwhile. Perhaps theming will come in future seasons.
Our next port of call was the Western World area of the park, which was small but nicely presented with the semi-expected row of decorative buildings and a matching selection of rides. First up for us was Tombstone Mine, an elaborate if short dark ride with a total onboard duration of around half a minute. The scenery is probably easiest to describe as “generic haunted house”, albeit with a level of detail considerably beyond what one would usually expect from a smaller park.
With that done we boarded Rocky Ridge Railway, a Zamperla Mini Mouse relocated from nearby Gulliver’s Warrington. This was a proper giggle. Signage at the entrance described it as a “high speed coaster with fierce movements” which is perhaps a tiny bit on the generous side for a ride that scarcely achieves walking pace. Regardless, the ride was my second relocated Mini Mouse, a fact that I probably shouldn't be overly proud of. As of this writing I’m missing three operating examples, located in Benidorm, Calgary, and Krasnoyarsk. I suspect the latter in particular may have to wait for a while.
With the Apache Falls rapids closed until lunch time the only other attraction of real interest was Desperado Drop, a family-sized tower manufacturer by Moser Rides with five seats on each side. The cycle in use today featured multiple descents that were surprisingly lively and enjoyable.
The southern boundary of the park is home to Lost World, a dinosaur-themed zone whose branding bears more than a passing resemblance to the cover of the 1995 Michael Crichton novel of the same name. The area has been filled out with static models and a small number of rides. The most visually impressive is Gyrosaur, a SBF Visa Midi Dance Party 360 that I decided against experiencing; as regular readers will know, inverting frisbees are unequivocally not my thing.
Instead I boarded River Tours, a slow-moving boat journey past a series of previously unknown dinosaur species in bright colours, including three who had apparently evolved the ability to play the guitar and drums. The trough spanned just over 100 metres, which felt a bit on the short side, though on the positive side it did at least have a ninety degree turn to break up the layout. I spotted three boats on the course.
The final stop before departure was the Monster Mansion walkthrough, located inside the park's main entrance building. This was excellent, with exceptionally high quality theming. I’d have preferred if the scenes didn’t have glass in front of them, but on a happier note it was possible to reach a camera over the top to capture unobstructed photographs for my collection.