Oakwood Theme Park
|Location||Narberth, Wales, Europe|
|Owner||Aspro Ocio S.A|
Oakwood Leisure ParkOakwood Coaster Country
|Operating season||Late March / Early April to Early November|
|Total||30 attractions in total|
Oakwood opened in the late 1980s as a very small family park with BMXs, a wooden fort, a 3D-style cinema experience show, go-karts and a water chute ride. The park has in recent years acquired a reputation for innovation and now incorporates five large thrill rides: Megafobia (1996), Vertigo (1997), Bounce (1999), Drenched (2002, as Hydro) and Speed (2006).
In 2006 Oakwood opened its latest ride to the public: Speed, a Gerstlauer Euro-Fighter roller coaster with a 97-degree drop. This was the first Euro-Fighter in the UK and was at that time the steepest roller coaster in the United Kingdom, only being overtaken by the opening of Thorpe Park's Euro-Fighter Saw: The Ride in 2009 and Mumbo Jumbo at Flamingo Land Resort in the summer of 2009.
- 1 History
- 2 Original and former attractions
- 3 Oakwood Park Railway
- 4 Development into Theme Park (1996 - 2008)
- 5 New Era for Oakwood (2009 - )
- 6 Chronological development
- 7 Theming
- 8 Seasonal and holiday operation
- 9 Current Attractions
- 10 Park pictures
- 11 Hydro Incident
- 12 Takeover by Aspro Ocio A.S. (March 2008)
- 13 Ride Statistics
- 14 Controversy
- 15 See also
- 16 References
- 17 External links
Oakwood Leisure Ltd. was owned and developed by the McNamara family (until March 2008), Pembrokeshire farmland owners who diversified into the leisure industry in 1987 after the introduction of milk quotas. The park took twelve months to research and great care was taken when the work began to integrate all its facilities into the existing valley and to complement the natural vegetation. Not a single mature tree was disturbed and many have been used to enhance, screen and provide natural avenues to various rides. The first stage, completed in 1987, cost approximately £1 Million to build and invest in new rides, infrastructure and staff training has continued each season. As a result, Oakwood is now classed as one of Wales' top tourist attractions and one of the Top Ten Theme Parks in the UK
Original and former attractions
Since the park's beginnings a number of its original attractions have been closed and removed, frequently to make way for larger and more impressive rides. The need to renew and sustain public interest as well as the aged and primitive nature of some of the original attractions would seem to have been the main rationale behind this.
The original focus of Oakwood was that of a family orientated leisure park. The removal of previous attractions has thus been criticised by some. In particular Oakwood has been accused of depleting its own unique character by removing some of its more individual and authentic attractions to make way for the park's development into a "white-knuckle theme park".
Whilst the park's development has been welcomed it is sometimes argued that original attractions should have either remained in place or been upgraded so as not to forsake Oakwood's heritage as a family leisure park. A particularly regrettable move for some was the scrapping of Jake's Town, with its unique narrative theming based around the gold mine character of Nutty Jake. Critics point to the alleged inferiority of the poorly themed "New Orleans" as evidence to substantiate this viewpoint.
An alternative viewpoint is to say that the park's removal of previous attractions is standard practice in the theme park industry particularly with respect to developing parks who will naturally seek to gradually upgrade their portfolio of Attractions.
Oakwood Park Railway
A 15 in (381 mm) gauge narrow gauge railway operates on site at Oakwood. The railway, which is well established, is not listed amongst the park's rides and attractions, but forms part of the operational infrastructure, providing a transport link between the theme park and the car park. Travelling on the railway is included in the cost of the park admission ticket. The railway is operated by four diesel locomotives. Two are American-style (though British-built) steam outline engines; the others are a standard diesel outline locomotive and a diesel railcar. Open 20-seater "Severn Lamb" type toast rack carriages are used in hot weather, with enclosed 20-seater former Liverpool Garden Festival coaches used year round.
Development into Theme Park (1996 - 2008)
Following an increase in visitor numbers after the arrival of Snake River Falls water coaster in 1994, management decided to pursue the development of the park into a more 'thrilling' theme park. In 1996, Megafobia opened. It cost £1.7m to build, but allowed the park to reach 500,000 visitors in one season for the first time. In 1996 Oakwood also began an annual After Dark event, with late night opening, fireworks, entertainment and discounted evening entry. Due to its location and comparatively limited financial resources the park is unlikely to develop into a major competitor on the same level as such parks as Alton Towers and Thorpe Park. However, by retaining its authentic character whilst adding unique (comparatively inexpensive) signature rides (such as Megafobia, Hydro and Speed) the park is favoured amongst connoisseurs of the industry and the public alike. Rides Vertigo (1997), The Bounce (1999), Drenched (formerly Hydro, 2002) and Speed (2006) have ensured Oakwood is now hailed as one of the UKs finest Theme Parks.
New Era for Oakwood (2009 - )
Following the change of hands to Aspro Ocio S.A in March 2008, Oakwood Theme Park has seen a range of changes, in particular to staffing. With both seasonal and permanent restructures to staff levels in order to coincide with market conditions. This has had a positive effect on the financial status of the park, after reports in 2007 and 2008 that it was £8,000,000 in debt.
In February 2010, a new logo was premiered on the front page of Oakwood's new leaflet and Facebook page. The new image is the first logo for the park to change the initial 'train stop' shape around the name (a shape that was used on the original Megafobia logo). We now see a blue corkscrew section of a coaster with the words Oakwood then Theme Park in a box underneath.
In 2013, the park is building expansion and adding 7 rides including log flume relocated from Camelot Theme Park which is being closed recently.
1988: Nutty Jake's Gold Mine (Family Dark Ride).
1989: Treetops Family Roller Coaster.
1991: Jake's Music Hall animatronic stage show (Jake's Town).
1994: Snake River Falls Family Water Ride. At the time this was a rather substantial addition to the small leisure park. Arguably, the addition of Snake River Falls in 1994 marked the real beginning of the park's current expansion into a major attraction. Of some amusement is the fact that at the time of the ride's opening it was billed as "Europe's largest water coaster", a title which was subsequently also used to publicise Hydro. The difference in both the type and scale of the two rides could hardly be greater.
1995: Play Town Farm for children including tractor ride. Further development on this area was planned but never came to fuition.
1996: Megafobia, at the time this was Europe's largest Wooden Roller Coaster and transformed the park's status as well as its fortunes. It remains the park's foremost attraction.
1997: Vertigo Sky Coaster. Kiddie Coaster (now Clown Coaster) in Play Town. General park face-lift.
1999: Assault Course is first of Oakwood's original attractions to face the axe as part of the park's expansion. This makes way for the Bounce Tower Coaster, the park's third white-knuckle attraction. Guest Relations is added, it is a tourist information centre as well as a second first aid base, also, it is a link between guests and park, complaints, lost property and lost children are its main duties.
2000: Jake's Town is axed. Voodoo Mansion now occupies the site of Jake's Music Hall. Play Town is revamped with the launch of Kidz World and the addition of a number of new children's attractions such as the Wacky Factory.
2001: Nutty Jake's Gold Mine, already closed since 2000, is now transformed into Brer Rabbit's Burrow.
2002: Hydro becomes the biggest ride to arrive since Megafobia 6 years earlier. Both Senior and Junior go-karts are axed.
2003: Voodoo Mansion is revamped into "Spooky 3D" for Whitsun.
2004: Plane Crazy, the most substantial new family attraction for several years, is opened on the site of the old Junior go-karts.
2005: Speed does not arrive as intended due to the Hydro tragedy of the previous Easter. Hydro itself is re-opened following closure through almost all of the 2004 season. It re-opens with a new boat interior with improved restraints and some degree of re-branding (primarily a new colour: red). The Magic Factory is the new children's attraction for this year. Oakwood's after-dark show loses its famous laser-water screen; it is replaced by "dancing" fountains, a series of illuminated water-jets choreographed to music.
2006: Speed Euro-Fighter (Now Speed: No Limits) is opened on the site of the old Senior Go-Karts. At the time of opening it was the UK's only rollercoaster to have a beyond vertical drop.
2007: Oakwood re-locates its Premier Theatre from New Orleans to Wacky Factory's location, next to Plane Crazy. Wacky moves into Lost Kingdom, which loses its Bouncy Castles. Oakwood also holds an event for its 20th birthday allowing guests into the park for £2.95 for one day only.
2008: Oakwood's Late night entertainment was cut to only one outdoor show (the blues brothers band) with the removal of the "dancing" fountains. The parks fireworks also re-located behind Speed due to the parks neighbouring site Bluestone. The parks future late night entertainment is now set to be doubtful due to the parks new ownership/management.
2009: New Spanish owners 'Aspro Ocio S.A' abolish Oakwood's summer entertainment event After Dark, the park extends its opening times by one hour during August and all entertainment is cut. No new attractions are added making 2009 the 3rd year with no new developments. A new POS system is introduced to speed up entry into the park.
2010: New logo released, becoming the first to detract from the original logo loosely used between 1987 and 2009. Bounce has been repainted red and white, and there is a major interior redesign.
2011: Hydro's name is changed to "Drenched" and the park undergoes another major internal facelift. Water cannons are added to a newly created viewing platform near to the Drenched ride. A new traditional Sweet Shop opens. Late Night Opening until 10pm returns on Wednesdays and Fridays in August 2011. Fireman Sam makes a character appearance, and a major high dive show opens in July running daily until the end of August. Brer Rabbit is rethemed for October half term in to 'Scare Rabbit's Hollow'.
2012: The park celebrates it 25th birthday and modifies the park logo to advertise this fact. New Orleans theme is removed and Wild West reinstated to the area around Spooky 3D. New signage is installed across much of the park and the park advertising campaign returns to TV (this used to be a major feature but had not been since 2008). Lost Kingdom is rebranded as 'Fun Factory' and the park receives a major facelift with the vast majority of buildings, fences and rides being painted. New toilets are installed in Wild West area and remaining facilities upgraded.
2013: Neverland opens, consisting of several new rides. Most namely are Skull Rock (log flume) and Crocodile Coaster.
2014: In October 2013 the park announced via their Facebook page that Brer Rabbit would close at the end of 2013 season. 
Although the park claims to be a "theme park" the only themed area until 2013 was the small section of the park which now houses "Brer Rabbit's Burrow" and "Spooky 3D". (It is arguable that the park's former section for young children, Kidz World, formerly known as Play Town, is also themed.) This section of the park was formerly known as "Jake's Town" and featured a "wild-west" type theme. After the closure of "Nutty Jake's Goldmine", the areas main attraction, and the closure of an animatronic stage-show also set to the "wild-west" theme, the area became known as "New Orleans". New Orleans featured a "ghost train" called Voodoo Mansion (2000) set in the original showbuilding for the animatronic stage show, and a children's "dark ride" known as "Brer Rabbit's Burrow" (2001). Both the voodoo religion and the children's character Brer Rabbit are associated with the deep south of America, the locality of the actual real life New Orleans. However, it is likely that the themed connection (particularly that of Brer Rabbit) would have been lost on most members of the public due to its obscure nature.
Shortly after the construction of voodoo mansion the ride was unexpectedly rebranded as "Spooky 3D" (2003). While some argue that the ride was closed due to lack of interest from the public this is unlikely as the ride essentially remains in place under the re-branding of Spooky 3D. Others argue that the ride was closed for ulterior reasons; namely the ride's politically incorrect portrayal of the voodoo religion. It is to be noted that even aside from political correctness the voodoo religion remains a controversial subject-matter. The New Orleans area was re-branded back to Wild West in 2012.
The new development to open Summer 2013 is to have a Neverland theme, from Peter Pan. which opened on May 23 along with crocodile coaster,jolly rodger, main never land house London taxi tour. As part of this re-development of the kids area, some rides were relocated to form a second themed children's area called "Circus Land"
Seasonal and holiday operation
The face and atmosphere of Oakwood changes throughout the year marking holidays and summer operation.
- Summer: In 1996, the same year as Megafobia was opened, Oakwood also launched its "after-dark" late summer openings. The tradition continued until the 2008 season, before re-launching to rave reviews in 2011.
- Halloween: Oakwood launched annual Halloween celebrations (or eerie evenings) subsequent to the opening of Voodoo mansion but has since decided to discontinue this. However, for the first time in a number of years, from 2008 Oakwood opened again during the day for October half term. In 2011 Oakwood rethemed Brer Rabbit as Scare Rabbit's Hollow, suitable for 10+, and opened a horror maze (surcharge) at the nearby Oakwood Bowl site.
- Christmas: Since 1995 Oakwood made a practice of opening the small children's area of the park known as Play Town (now Kid’s World) themed in the style of a Winter Wonderland. The park held an annual Christmas pantomime in conjunction with this in which minor celebrities would often undertake parts. Despite the relative popularity and success of Christmas opening the park decided to discontinue with this venture.
- Halloween "Spooktacular" 2013: Oakwood held a 5-day Halloween event which included "Spooky Live" (Spooky 3D in the dark with a number of live actors) and a scare maze "Theatre of Nightmares" which was a walk through attraction with a number of live actors (16 years plus). For the children Oakwood put on a kids show in the new Neverland area with Captain Hook, his first mate, tinkerbell and the lost children "The Ghost of Skull Rock" finishing with a firework display. 
|1||Speed: No Limits||steel sit down||2006||Gerstlauer||Reaches a speed of 59 mph (95 km) on a 2000 ft long track (610m) and a height of 115 ft (35m) with 2 inversions (a 97° drop including a vertical loop, heartline roll); height limit 1,25m. Euro Fighter model.|
|2||Megafobia||wooden sit down||1996||Custom Coasters Int (CCI)||Reaches a speed of 48 mph (77 km) on a 2956 ft long track (901m) and a height of 83 ft (26m) with a 55°drop; height limit 1,2m..and on wet days it reaches 55 mph. Megafobia has been voted one of the best wooden roller coasters in the world.|
|3||Tree Tops||steel sit down||1989||Zierer||A family roller coaster which it takes riders through a dense area of mature fir trees at 22 mph (36 km); height limit none / 1,2m alone. Tivoli Large model.|
|4||Clown Coaster||steel sit down||1997||Pinfari||A Circus Clown junior coaster goes around the circle; height limit none / 1,1m alone|
|5||Crocodile Coaster||steel sit down||2013||Crocodile themed junior coaster goes around the circle which was originally at Camelot Theme Park.|
|6||Bounce||1999||HUSS||A 160 ft tall launch tower; height limit 1,4m.|
|7||Vertigo||1997||SkyCoaster||A skycoaster: a free fall type ride (this ride is not included in the entrance fee and riders must pay a total of £36 per flight (£36 x 1, £18 x 2 or £12 x 3 depending on the number of riders); height limit 1m.|
Other Rides & Attractions
|8||Drenched||2002||Is one of the biggest water coasters in the world; currently the tallest water ride in Europe with a 100 ft tall drop (31m), reaching a speed of 88 kph; height limit 1,2m. Formerly know as Hydro. Made by Intamin.|
|9||Skull Rock||2013||An indoor/outdoor log flume water ride which was originally at Camelot Theme Park|
|10||The Bobsleigh||1987||A toboggan alpine slide situated in the centre of the park. One of the original and more authentic attractions.|
|11||Spooky 3D||2000||A 3D ghost train that was refurbished in 2003.|
|12||Breer Rabbit's Burrow||1988||A dark ride that takes you through the Breer Rabbit´s Burrow, refurbished in 2001. Closed at the end of 2013 season.|
|13||The Pirate Ship||A swinging Pirate Ship by HUSS of Germany; height limit 1,2m|
|14||Tink's Flying School||2004||A Flying Scooters ride with vehicles themed as aeroplanes; height limit 1,2m, it was originally Plane crazy before it's has been rethemed in 2013.|
|15||Waterfall||A 2 lane water slide. Riders sit in sledges, 1 rider per sledge and travel down one of the steep slides into a long pool of water at the bottom; height limit 1,2m.|
|16||Snake River Falls||1994||A water chute ride. It has 4 lanes and 2 "open slides" in which up to 2 riders can disembark along its bumpy track in green boats, and 2 indoor slides - cobra and python; height limit none / 1,2m alone.|
|17||Carousel||1992||Merry go round ride.|
|18||Tractor Ride||1994||On track tractors; height limit 90 cm - 1,3m max.|
|19||London Taxi Ride||2013||A driving taxis around London.|
|20||Lost Boys Adventure||2013||Indoor walkthrough inside a treehouse.|
|22||Playland Express||2013||A train goes round the circle which was originally at Camelot Theme Park.|
|23||Boating Lake||Pedal Boats; height limit none / 1,4m without supervision.|
|24||Mini Golf||Extra charge mini golf.|
|25||Moon Landing||Near vertical slide; height limit 1m.|
|26||Airplanes||1992||Airplanes; height limit 1,3m max|
|27||Ferris Wheel||Mini Ferris Wheel.|
|28||Jolly Roger||2013||A mini pirate ship which was originally at Camelot Theme Park.|
|29||Journey to Neverland||2013||An indoor walkthrough showing models of Darling's home and a story of Peter Pan.|
|30||Lost Kingdom||Play area; height limit 1,3m max.|
|31||Magic Factory||Indoor play area.|
Past Rides & Attractions
|1||Nutty Jake's Gold Mine||1987||1999||Riders were taken through a gold-mine themed tunnel in the then themed area of the park Jake's Town. This is now Brer Rabbit's Burrow.|
|2||Voodoo Mansion||2000||2002||A haunted house ride. This is now Spooky 3D.|
|3||Cine 180||1987||2000||A 3D cinema|
|5||Junior Go Karts||1987||2001|
|7||Jake's Music Hall||1991||1999||A animatronic puppet show.|
In April 2004, a 16-year-old was killed after falling approximately 100 ft from the top of the Hydro ride. The accident was attributed to human error after CCTV footage showed staff had not checked the riders restraint was in a safe position. The ride was closed until the next season, when it reopened with more secure and redundant over-the-shoulder restraints instead of lap bars. The incident was superficially similar to an accident in 2001 involving the death of a guest on Perilous Plunge at Knotts Berry Farm in California (the only other installation of this type of ride). Inquests into the two deaths report that the circumstances of the two accidents were not related.
In August 2005 it was reported that the victim's parents received an anonymous letter purporting to be from an ex-employee of Oakwood which alleged that the park had decided against installing over-the-shoulder restraints at the time of the ride's opening in 2002 on grounds of cost (others have stated that this decision was largely based on the manufacturer denying that additional restraints were necessary). The letter has been delivered to the police and Oakwood have said they will themselves respond to the letter following the conclusion of the still ongoing investigation by the Health and safety executive.
In 2006 coroner's tribunal into the accident returned a narrative verdict on the death with some indication that the accident was more the result of the restraints being improperly secured by staff as opposed to fundamentally inadequate in and of themselves. The inquest reported that CCTV footage taken at the ride before the boat left clearly showed that the victim's lap bar was in an "open and unsafe position". Other CCTV footage showed both operators had failed to properly check that passengers were secure. Despite Oakwood previously having a good reputation and record for safety, concern was nevertheless expressed about the quality of staff training at the park. The Hydro operators raised the alleged inadequacy of their training as a defence at the inquest. Concern has also been raised regarding the young and inexperienced nature of the staff employed to operate the larger (and potentially more dangerous) attractions at the park.
On 18 May 2007 the Health and Safety executive reported that Oakwood would be prosecuted, and in February 2008 the HSE charged Oakwood for not ensuring that guests were properly and safely restrained. The case against Oakwood was committed for trial at Swansea Crown Court on July 7, 2008 where Oakwood pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety Act 1974. On December 18, the park was fined £250,000 in addition to £80,000 legal costs, a penalty which was described by the victim's close family as inadequate. High Court Judge Justice Lloyd-Jones who passed the sentence had earlier commented that safety breaches at the theme park had created "the potential for really serious injury to very large numbers of people".
In 2011 Hydro was renamed, it is now called "Drenched". The ride is now considered to have an increased level of safety and is considered to be operated in a much safer way.
Takeover by Aspro Ocio A.S. (March 2008)
During the course of late 2007 local press in Pembrokeshire reported that Oakwood had been made the subject of a takeover bid following news that it is up to £7 million in debt and struggling to keep up with market conditions.
This speculation was proven to be correct as the park has been sold to Aspro Ocio S.A. of Spain as of March 2008.
- Speed - Gerstlauer Euro-Fighter (Custom) roller coaster
- Height (Total): 115 ft (36 m)
- Height (Drop): 110 ft (35 m)
- Drop Angle: 97 degrees
- Speed: 60 mph (95 km/h)
- Track length: 1970 ft (600 m)
- Ride time: 90 s
- Acceleration: −1.3 to +4.5 g (−13 to 44 m/s2)
- Elements: 97-degree drop, −1.3g camelback hill, 110-degree overbanked turn, vertical loop, heartline roll, helix
- Restraints: OTSR (Over-the-Shoulder Restraints)
- Trains: 3 x 2-section roll-articulated trains (4 trains prior to 2008), 2 rows of 4 riders each
- Capacity: 800 riders per hour
- Opened: 13 April 2006
- Megafobia - CCI wooden roller coaster
- Height (Total): 85 ft (26 m)
- Height (Drop): 82 ft (25 m)
- Drop Angle: 55 degrees
- Speed: quotes vary from 46 mph to 55 mph; faster in wet weather
- Track length: 2956 ft (901 m)
- Ride time: 100 s
- Acceleration (max): +2.75g (27 m/s2)
- Trains: 2 x 6-car trains, Philadelphia Toboggan Co., 4 riders per car, total 24 riders per train
- Restraints: Lap bar and lap belt. NB: A little known fact is that Lap belts were retro-fitted around 1997/ 1998 and were not installed at the time of Megafobia's initial opening in 1996.
- Opened: 1996
- The Bounce - HUSS shot-and-drop tower
- Height: 154 ft
- Speed: 44 mph
- Acceleration (max): +4g (39 m/s2)
- Restraints: OTSR
- Seats: 24
- Opened: 1999
- Vertigo - skycoaster
- Height: 164 ft (50 m)
- Speed: 80 mph (128 km/h)
- Acceleration: 3g (30 m/s2)
- Opened: 1997
- Due to low throughput, Vertigo is the only ride in Oakwood to charge an additional admission fee, which is on top of the entrance fee to the park. As of April 2012, the charge is £12 per person for 3 flyers, £18 per person for 2 flyers and £36 per person for a solo flight.
- Drenched (formerly Hydro) - Intamin River Plunge
- Height (total): 121 ft
- Height (drop): 118 ft
- Wave Height: 45 ft
- Ride Length: 581 ft
- Speed: 55 mph (88 km/h)
- Acceleration (max): 4g (40 m/s2)
- Restraints: OTSR (retrofitted; formerly lap-bar)
- Boats: 1
- Opened: 2002
- Bobsleigh - toboggan ride
- Treetops Roller coaster - Zierer Tivoli (Large) family roller coaster
- Height (total): 26 ft
- Height (drop): 26 ft
- Track length: 1181 ft
- Speed: 22 mph (35 km/h)
- Ride time: 60 s
- Opened: 1989
- Spooky 3-D - ghost-train
- Brer Rabbit's Burrow (Closed 2013)
- Tink's Flying School (Formerly Plane Crazy)
- Pirate Ship
- Snake River Falls
- Boating Lake
- Clown Coaster - children's roller coaster
In 2013, an article published by UK attractions news website Airgates suggested the park had a serious problem with joking about ride safety. The article prompted a full investigation to be carried out by the park, for which there is no results known yet.
- "Detailed Wood Roller Coaster Poll Results 2006". BestRollerCoasterPoll.com. 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-03.
- Aspro: Líderes En Diversión
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Oakwood Theme Park.|
- Oakwood Theme Park Official Website
- Oakwood Theme Park at Theme Park Junkies
- Oakwood Theme Park at ThemeParks-UK