Thousands of mothers across the nation will no doubt have been treated to breakfast in bed, flowers, chocolates and/or lunch out on Mother’s Day. I got something rather different – an early start for a family trip to Thorpe Park.
I like coasters – but (unlike my husband and son) not just any old coasters. You won’t catch me on Stealth, for instance – not my kind of thing at all (though as you can see my husband and son love to stick their arms in the air prior to being accelerated to 80 mph in under 2 seconds and hurtling up a 205 ft high top hat feature).
Nor will you see me ride Colossus (not unless they upgrade the restraint system anyway). I tried it once and that was quite enough – if I want to head bang I’ll go to a heavy metal gig.
My top 5 favourite coasters are these, in no particular order:
1) Nemesis at Alton Towers – This classic suspended coaster is over 25 years old but still thrills. What makes it special is the way it is built into the hillside and interacts with the scenery. I am fussy about Nemesis though – I will only ride it if I can go on the front row (the back is too bumpy and not as exciting).
2) Big Thunder Mountain at Disneyland Paris – Probably the best runaway mine train coaster in the world (if you like that kind of thing, and who doesn’t).
3) Icon at Blackpool Pleasure Beach – This is a new coaster that was opened in 2018. It includes two elements that I thought I would hate, a horizontal launch followed by a top hat – just like Stealth! It turns out though, that Icon’s versions of these elements are sufficiently toned down to be exciting rather than terrifying and the rest of the ride is smooth and swooping. The most unusual thing about Icon is the restraint system, which manages to be very secure without any over the shoulder bars. This makes the ride both more thrilling and – for me at least – more comfortable as over the shoulder restraints rarely fit well and cause me to be bumped around (as I was on Colossus).
4) Avalanche, also at Blackpool Pleasure Beach – This is the UK’s only bobsled coaster. It has no track as such and runs freely inside a half pipe, which means that it gets faster as it goes down and is eventually slowed down by an uphill section.
5) The Swarm at Thorpe Park – This steel winged coaster is perhaps not what most people would choose, but I love it because of the super comfortable restraint system (a sort of rubber apron that moulds itself to any shape or size of rider) and the sensation of flying. The front row is best but I’ll also ride at the back.
So on Mother’s Day, my priority was to ride The Swarm – and the other rides I was interested in were Nemesis Inferno (which is a pale shadow of the original Nemesis) and Flying Fish (a very tame coaster my son first rode as a toddler and which we always have to ride for the lolz).
Nemesis Inferno is another ride that I only enjoy if I can go on the front row and as it was Mother’s Day, we all queued for 25 minutes for that (other positions would have been a walk-on). One of the advantages of visiting a theme park on a chilly day very early in the season is that it’s not too busy (it was mostly hardcore coaster enthusiasts) so we were able to pack a lot of rides into a relatively short time and my husband and son got to tick everything off their list as well. We decided not to bother with any wet rides as it was just a bit too cold. There was only one slight fly in the ointment. After really enjoying a front row ride on The Swarm (with just a 10 minute queue) I wanted to ride it again (on the back row this time) as my final ride of the day. Unfortunately it was a very windy day and this caused intermittent ride closures during the day when the gusts were too much – and The Swarm closed just as we joined the queue to ride it again. We decided not to hang around as there would be other days later in the season.
My Mother’s Day ended with something a bit more conventional, dinner out at a local restaurant. A perfect day really.