With a clutch of intense thrill rides aimed firmly at teens and young adults, Thorpe Park has certainly moved with the times. Such is the pace of change, if you’ve visited before – even if only a few years ago – you’ll undoubtedly find it a much more terrifying, or electrifying (depending on your sensibilities!) place today.
Nestled between the M25 and M3, Thorpe Park has been adding rides and other attractions for more than thirty years and is one of Britain’s premier and, not to mention, flattest, theme parks. The latest line-up says a lot about the target demographic – teenagers with a taste for adrenalin. Calm, fluffy rides including the Flying Fish and Storm in a Teacup have been all but elbowed out by the likes of Nemesis Inferno (an inverted “hell ride” into the pit of a volcano); Saw – The Ride (themed on the series of horror movies of the same name); Saw Alive (a live-action horror maze); Colossus (a corkscrew with ten vertical loops); Slammer (an extreme G-force experience); Detonator (with a 45mph drop); Stealth (jet-fighter acceleration); Storm Surge, a spinning water raft experience and The Swarm – the UK’s first winged rollercoaster which now has two rows facing backwards, for an extreme thrill. Spring 2014 saw the opening of a major new attraction, in partnership with Angry Birds, a World Premiere 4D Experience.
The first row of the Lakeside car park, close to the admissions desk, is designated for Blue Badge holders. Bring along documentary proof of your disability, and you can buy a discounted ticket for yourself, whilst your carer (aged 14 or over) gets a free ticket. Some of the ticket booths are signposted as having induction loops. Wheelchair users will find the right-hand turnstiles have wider access. Wheelchairs can be borrowed, with a £50 returnable deposit, though there are a limited number and these are handed out on a first-come first-served basis. The park map shows toilet locations, each of which have disabled facilities. You should first call at guest services (with documentation) to pick up advice and an access pass and wristband that allows entrance to rides at alternative, more accessible points (usually the exit). You can pick up a RADAR key here as well – necessary to access the disabled toilets – for a £10 returnable deposit.
Unsurprisingly, not all the rides are accessible to visitors with disabilities, and like all theme parks that are members of the British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions, Thorpe Park does reserve the right to refuse admission to certain rides on the grounds of health and safety. Signs at each gate should help you to decide if a ride is suitable for you. Pretty much across the board, participants must be able to at least remain seated upright and brace themselves with their hands and feet. You are expected to ride with at least one companion, but if you cannot walk unaided, your choice of rides will be limited. However, each ride has different requirements: before arriving, download the access guide policy from the website, which has full details for each ride. Yellow phones will summon a guide if needs be. Whilst the staff can instruct, they cannot help with lifting and transfer. Visitors with artificial limbs may need advice from staff at the majority of thrill rides. Visitors with sensory disabilities may find the darkness, noise distortion and strobe lighting on Saw Alive very disorientating. If visiting during Fright Night, some mazes may not be suitable either, due to the strobe and lighting effects in use. Medicines can be stored in the medical centre, in the lower level of The Dome (near guest services).
Food & drink: The standard fast-food outlets are supplemented by bars serving healthier eating options such as noodles and fresh paninis. Desperado’s Mexican Cantina, in the Calypso Keys area, offers a decent chilli burrito.