Storm Force 10 (Drayton Manor)
It seems that no ride, however small, can be built these
days without a cult following of fanatics scrutinising every sod of earth
removed, and every bit of cement poured in it’s place. Parks really milk this
for all it’s worth by throwing flashy words like ‘world first’ at us, and
giving their construction sites code names like SW4 and Project 2000 yet
withholding any information that could pass as actually being constructive.
Very little was
known about the ride that was to replace the aging Log Flume at Drayton Manor
Park in Staffordshire. What was known was that it was going to be a world first,
and during its conception most people had decided that it was to be a looping
The ride soon
opened, and although it was subject to coherent approbation, the world first
aspect was rather, well, absent. The aforementioned claim wasn’t referring so
much about the ride as it was to the ‘sponsorship’ deal between Drayton
Manor and the Royal National Lifeboat Institute, which meant free advertising
for the RNLI and investment from Drayton Manor.
The ride was
opened by cheesy pop-stars, Steps, and was soon deluged by visitors ‘riding it
out’ through the elements that Bear Rides’ first major installation could
throw at them.
Although like any
prototype Storm Force was subject to the usual teething problems, it wasn’t
long before the final touches had been made and the ride had been perfected.
As you pass
through the quaint Cornish village you could be forgiven for neglecting the
reasons for you visiting. Such a calm village lulls you bogusly into thinking
all is well with neatly painted buildings with lobster cages piled up
haphazardly in front and nets draped from the gable ends.
Ensuring all is
well, the red and white striped lighthouse overlooks the village, and behind
that, the fishermen’s bastion – the lifeboat station. It is from here that
your adventure will begin, but not after a rather lengthy walk.
The walk begins
with a quick saunter through a fisherman’s workshop. A state of organised
chaos is present, like in any workshop, with dirty cans of paint stacked not so
neatly on the paint-stained shelves, oars and other seafaring tidbits lay strewn
as mugs of coffee go lukewarm in the absence of the fisherman. The radio
broadcasts stormy waters ahead on the shipping forecast, something we can only
worry about, as it really is too late to head back to safer grounds.
From here you pass
a sympathetically created animatronic of a lifeboat-man who served in the
service long before we ever graced this earth telling his tales of adventures on
the high seas. Onto the deck of a ship, through the portholes you can learn
whilst you queue. Each teaches you about the RNLI, it’s role and it’s
The tidemarks on
the wall are waist high and covered in algae, droppings and barnacles. The
riveted metal walls corrode around the seams and the white paintwork is stained
with the rust that eats away at the surface.
some stairs, you enter the lighthouse that looks out on the village before
spiralling up this most homely beacon. Pictures hang on the wall, books on
shelves before you go outside, over a bridge crossing the final lift into the
station giving you an opportunity to gauge just how wet the ride will be. It is
indeed a harrowing view that will haunt you for the remainder of the queue that
goes behind the station for a great view of two of the rides’ three drops.
If you can’t
bear to look, avert your eyes to the walls of the lifeboat station walls that
will entertain you with more facts about the RNLI both past and present.
You enter the
large station. The theming here remains consistent and of a fantastic quality.
The trail of lukewarm coffee mugs continues here, as a cat lays asleep on the
warm and recently used waterproofs donned by a hardy lifeboat-man. RNLI issued
posters serve to teach the lifeboats-men the dangers of the sea, including the
hammerhead shark and its particularly infamous cousin, the spannerhead shark –
Boats pass down
the centre of the station. Each is themed fantastically as an inshore inflatable
lifeboat, bright orange adorned in the RNLI’s name. The boats are a large
affair for a so-called log flume. Each boat seats eight in four rows of two. If
you have a choice, sit in the second from front, failing that, the front itself.
If they offer you the back seat, refuse, point blank – unless you happen to be
amphibious. More on that later, however.
Two boats are
dispatched at a time. Behind the prevailing boat, an orange screen drops to hide
the surprise that lurks from the following boat. The screen rolls up out of the
way to now show the boat has gone.
You roll forwards
before the screen drops behind you. A seaman with a rather unsympathetic
expression warns you to buckle up before he pulls on a lever. The back of the
boat lifts to show riders what awaits, a steep drop into a valley of waterfalls
before the boat is launched into this sharp plunge in a hair-raising variation
of what the professional RNLI service-men go through almost daily.
If you’re in the
front, keep your legs in and you will stay dry before the boat turns to the left
and heads between two walls of water. The boat now meanders tightly around the
base of the ride on the edge of the lake before a tight turn heads onto a lift
which takes you up into the Jet oil rig. Once inside, you stop before the track
onto which you have just rolled turns 30 degrees. It dawns that there is only
one-way to go before you are pushed, backwards, down the sharp plummet.
Your head is
pushed forward as you are thrown down this element before the boat hits the
water, stopping in a matter of feet, pushing you into your seat as a huge wall
of water submerges about three-quarters of the boat and completely drenches the
back row riders and probably the rows in front of that.
It is a very grim
feature of the ride, and although fun for people in the front that will escape
the worst of the water, the back riders will probably be left shivering and
sodden. The drop itself is fabulous, but the back of the boat is hardly designed
to allow riders a chance.
As the boat slows
at the bottom, it is turned forwards again before your journey continues under
the barnacle-covered station. Another turn takes you back into the open and onto
the lift that will take you into the final drop. It is a huge lift and to your
right will give fantastic views of the merriments just encountered, and will
give you plenty of opportunity to have you hissing with hatred at drop number
Once at the top,
the boat begins a 180-degree curve around to the drop. Unfortunately due to the
way the ride is designed, the boats are kept moving by tyres pushing from
underneath. It is incredibly annoying and uncomfortable, but this is made up by
the view across the lake to Apocalypse and the rest of Aerial Park.
On a final bash
from the tyres, the boat sharply dips into the first part of the dramatic final
drop before bouncing over a dip in the middle before speeding up on the
shallower bottom half, hitting the water, skimming the surface before you slow
and a dense spray of water flies out the front of the boat giving front seat
riders a face full of deep green water.
fantastic finish, a return curve takes you onto the final lift that takes you
under the queue into the station. You leave to the right and down a flight of
stairs before passing the photo booth.
I have no
hesitation in saying that this is by far the finest flume in the country. Not
only is the ride itself motivating and pied, the boats are comfortable and the
theme just feels so right.
The queue is
fantastic, and really entertains and educates even an hours worth of queuing.
The boats are good with a lot of room for squirming out of the way of the many
torrents of water you can expect to encounter, however, due to the type of
people the park attracts, you may find yourself sharing the boat with a
neanderthal who doesn’t realise the budding consequences from spending the
majority of the ride standing.
A special mention
has to go to Farmer Studios. This British firm were responsible for theming the
attraction, and have really made it into an adventure as opposed to a boat ride
4/5 Marcus Sheen