Lightwater Valley

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Lightwater Valley
Location North Stainley, North Yorkshire, England
Coordinates 54°10′34″N 1°34′14″W / 54.175975°N 1.570444°W / 54.175975; -1.570444Coordinates: 54°10′34″N 1°34′14″W / 54.175975°N 1.570444°W / 54.175975; -1.570444
Opened Summer 1969
Operating season March to October
Area 175 acres (708,000 m²)
Total 34
Roller coasters 5
Water rides 2

Lightwater Valley is a theme park in North Stainley, North Yorkshire, England.[1] The park is perhaps best known for being the home of Europe’s longest rollercoaster - The Ultimate.[2]

Lightwater Valley was founded by Mr Robert Staveley and initially evolved from a small farm attraction. The park features around 40 other rides and also features an adjacent shopping village and restaurant.

The complex is operated by Lightwater Valley Attractions Limited, which is managed and owned by Heritage Great Britain PLC. The park attracts approximately 500,000 visitors per year.[3]

Park information[edit]


The boating lake at Lightwater Valley theme park

In 1969 Lightwater Valley started life as a small self-pick fruit farm attraction which was quite popular with the local community. The farm was owned by the Staveley family, who had been in ownership of the land way back until 1516 when Cardinal Wolsey handed the grounds over to John Staveley. The farm was dealt a crippling blow in 1976 as a severe drought was brought to the region, having a huge effect on the strawberry crop which was the main source of the farm's revenue. Later that year a lake was excavated to help reduce the effects of a future drought. The lake became hugely popular with visitors in the warmer months of the year and the Staveleys quickly began to see new business opportunities in the form of entertainment for visitors. These early attractions included an adventure playground (later Fort William), canoes, rowing boats, a circus, and later on, a range of other rare and unique attractions such as a petting farm, BMX bikes, pedal carts (later Moon Cars), Skate Karts, petrol driven single and double seated Go Karts, a pitch and putt golf course, a hell slide, a water chute ('Devil's Cascade', later re-themed to 'Toad Hole') and many more. The park advertised itself as country park and self pick fruit farm during this time.[4] A range of different fairground rides were introduced into the entrance areas of the park, such as chair swings, carousels, dodgems and waltzers. During this time the Lightwater Shopping Village was established.

For many, the birth of Lightwater Valley Theme Park proper was soon after the year 1987, during which Rat Ride was built. Robert Staveley wanted to expand on the family market and provide something for the thrill market whilst still being suitable for the younger audience. At the time, Robert Staveley's wife was a keen protector of the country park status and did not like the idea of having a roller coaster spoiling and compromising this. After much discussion, she permitted the construction of a roller coaster as long as it was out of sight. Robert decided he would bury the roller coaster in the ground and so was born the subterranean roller coaster themed on the dwellings of a sewer rat. It gave the illusion of an underground experience, and was later converted to Raptor Attack for the 2010 season. The ride was constructed by blasting large amounts of rock (which was sold) and capping the hole and exposed sides with a large barn style building. The ride attracted much attention, nearly doubling gate figures and setting the stone for future developments in the ride offering including, the following year (1988), the park's first looping coaster, the Soopa Loopa, featuring two vertical loops and a backward facing ride car.

Robert Staveley used the success of the Rat Ride to persuade his wife that a 'proper' roller coaster be built. He had liked the idea of having a roller coaster coming down the valley at the top of the park but was faced with the challenge of getting people to the top of the valley to board the train. His wife suggested that the train be sent out to the top and then returned with the aid of two drops. In 1990 construction began on the world's longest rollercoaster, costing £5.2 million and over 1.5 miles (2.4 km) in length, The Ultimate was opened to the public in 1991 (see below for more information).

Additional rides and attractions were added throughout the decade, including roller coasters such as 'The Viper', 'The Batflyer' (both opening in 1996), and arguably one of the most popular all time favourites, 'The Ladybird' (1993). Water rides such as 'The Beaver Rapids' log flume (2000), and the 'Falls of Terror' (1995) were opened. A number of rides were opened on short term leases rather than buying the rides, for example, the Beaver Rapids and the 'Heatwave', later ('Orbiter').

Moving on from family ownership[edit]

Robert Staveley handed the park over to his children, Amanda and James in the mid 1990s, but there was a change of ownership from a private family firm to Queensborough Holdings, who bought the park for £5.2 million in 1997. The park was sold because the park had run into financial difficulties following the heavy expenditure on The Ultimate.

Queensborough Holdings were also in ownership of Pleasurewood Hills Theme Park at the time, which resulted in both parks sharing the same mascot Woody the Bear. The parks were somewhat 'sisters' and operated under Leisure Great Britain of which Queensborough Holdings financed. However, the new owners put the park back up for sale within 11 months of buying it as they decided to re-focus their business in the current market. However, no bid was accepted during the following few years. The park was given a new lease of life in February 2001 when Queensborough Holdings handed management of the site over to Heritage GB, a company which was formed by Queensborough Holdings Chairman Kevin Leech and his son Allan.

The new ownership brought about rapid investment in the ride offering and brand imaging with new logos, mascots, websites and rides such as 'The Treetop Twister' and 'Black Widow's Web' in the first year, followed later on by rides such as 'The Octopus', 'The Eagle's Claw', 'The Grizzly Bear', 'The Caterpillar Coaster', 'Trauma Tower' and 'Skyrider'.

Following the unfortunate incidents of 2001 (see below) guest figures plummeted from their 1990 averages. Continual improvements to the family offering, brand imaging and marketing have resulted in vast improvements to customer satisfaction and attendance figures. Investment in the re-theming of the Sewer Rat to 'Raptor Attack', the introduction of the first themed 'area', 'Skeleton Cove' with five new rides (bought from the now defunct Loudoun Castle park in Scotland) along with new family friendly attractions such as the Angry Birds Activity Park, Eagles Creek Farm, the Vintage Car Rally and Jurassic mini golf course are clear examples of such improvement. Successful events such as the ever popular annual 'Frightwater Valley' Halloween event, 'Pirates & Princesses' weekend and UK bungee jump days have attracted record gate figures.

During the late 2000s talk began of the potential development of 'Lightwater Resorts'. Initial planning permission for holiday caravans and log cabins was rejected by Harrogate Borough Council due to concerns about the impact on traffic and local businesses. The park later re-designed and re-submitted their planning permission for 106 log cabins which was then granted. The development of the 'Lightwater Holiday Village' is ongoing with actual log cabin construction looking to begin very soon.


Lightwater Valley has over 40 rides and attractions, ranging from thrill rides such as The Ultimate, Falls of Terror for the more modest thrill-seekers and small rides such as Dragon Boats for the park's young visitors. Lightwater Valley categorise their attractions into three groups - Ultimate Adventures (suitable from 9-adults), Mega Adventures (suitable from 5–9 years) and Mini Adventures (suitable for 2–5 years). This helps establish what rides are suitable for visitors and the expected height restriction for each. The theme park has a total of five rollercoasters, two water rides and various flat rides.

2016 Season[edit]

The park opened on Wednesday 23 March 2016.

New this year will be 'Apollo', a 25m tall Star Flyer ride manufactured by Funlight (on loan from Alex Crow Amusements), designed to thrill both young and old on a sky flying journey above the treetops. There will also be a new soft play centre and café to further improve the family offering at the park as they look to develop the resort status.

In February 2016, the park also announced plans to team up with Lake District-based Treetop Trek Ltd to open the company's second Treetop Nets attraction next to the park in the wooded area. It will feature giant trampolines, walkways, slides and tunnels made from netting suspended 40 ft above the ground. Construction starts this February in time for a Summer 2016 opening.

The park has a number of events on this year including: Meet the Angry Birds - Sun 29 7 Mon 30 May Superheroes Live! - Sat 4 & Sun 5 May The Ultimate Bungee - Sat 25 June Teddy Bears' Picnic - Sat 6 & Sun 7 August Andy Day's Dinosaur Weekend - Sat 20 & Sun 21 August Visit for more about all their events.

2015 Season[edit]

The park opened on Saturday 28 March for the 2015 season with an exciting season full of events including an Adrenalin Weekend consisting of a Bungee Jump, Zip Wire & Rally Car Racing (Sunday 24 May) and a Zip Wire and Racing Car Racing (Monday 25 May), Lightwater Valley Country Festival (Friday 26 - Sunday 28 June), Scouts & Guides Jamboree (Saturday 4 July) Pirates and Princesses Weekend (Saturday 19 & Sunday 20 September), October Half Term Fantastic Fireworks (24 & 25 October) and the return of Frightwater (30 October – 1 November). In May 2015 a new Vintage Car Rally ride was added. On May Bank Holiday a brand-new 18 hole £350,000 Jurassic Adventure Golf course opened. Huge life-size animatronic dinosaurs roar as you make your way around the course which is suitable for all the family. This operates as a separate paid for attraction from the Theme Park.

The park returned to profit in the year ending 31 January 2015 after a number of years of reported losses. A pre-tax profit of £110,000 thanks to a successful 2014 season follows losses of £55,000, £500,000 and £168,000 in the years ending January 2012, 2013 and 2014 respectively.[5]

2014 Season[edit]

The park opened on Saturday 5 April for the 2014 season and has a variety of events planned including Superheroes Saturday (Saturday 28 June), Pirates and Princesses Weekends (7 & 8 June and 21 & 22 June), October half term Fantastic Fireworks (25 & 26 October) and the return of Frightwater (31 October – 2 November).

2013 Season[edit]

In May 2013 Lightwater Valley opened the UK’s largest Angry Birds Activity Park, bringing the world’s number 1 mobile game to life in a fun and active experience for the whole family. Incorporating all the Angry Birds characters, the Activity Park offers over 30,000 square feet of interactive indoor and outdoor adventure play. Eagle's Creek Farm was also introduced in 2013, a tractor ride around a farm with live animals aimed at visitors under 8 years of age.

2012 Season[edit]

On 23 December 2011 it was announced that 2012 would see one new ride added to the park in the form of 'Wave Rider', a junior pirate ship which will replace the outgoing 'Magic Wheel'.[citation needed] 2012 will also see Lightwater Valley commit to a major rebrand which encompasses a new logo, slogan, TV advert and park map.[citation needed] For 2012, the park's annual Halloween event, Frightwater Valley, will be extended to five days, with a separate event for the firework display, Nightwater Valley, the following weekend.[citation needed]

Attractions Key[edit]

Colour Target Audience
"Ultimate Adventures"
"Mega Adventures"
"Mini Adventures"

Roller Coasters[edit]

# Name Type Opened Manufacturer Brief Description
Raptor Attack steel sit down
Schwarzkopf Indoor themed rollercoaster, operated as the Rat Ride from 1987 - 2009, refurbished for the 2010 season; height limit 1,2m. Wildcat model.
The Little Dipper steel sit down
D.P.V. Rides A small gentle children´s rollercoaster that traverses a variation of a figure of eight track; height limit 1m.
The Ladybird steel sit down
Zierer A family coaster that reaches a speed of 20 mph (32 km) on a 653 ft long track (199m) and a height of 20 ft (6m); height limit 1m. Tivoli small model.
The Twister steel sit down
Reverchon A spinning wild mouse rollercoaster that reaches a speed of 29 mph (47 km) on a 1378 ft long track (420m) and a height of 43 ft (13m); height limit 1,5m, 1,2m when accompanied by an adult.
The Ultimate hybrid sit down
Big Country Motioneering & Lightwater Valley A hybrid coaster that holds the record as Europe's longest roller coaster at 7442 ft (2268m); it reaches speed of 50 mph (81 km) and a height of 107 ft (33m); height limit 1,3m.

Ultimate Adventures[edit]

# Name Opened Manufacturer Brief Description
Eagle's Claw
KMG An Afterburner (ride) giant swing ride; height limit 1,3m.[6]
Black Pearl
Weber A large inverting ship ('Traum Boot') in the Skeleton Cove area; height limit 1,4m, 1.3m when accompanied by an adult.
Black Widow's Web
Huss A gravity defying Enterprise (ride); height limit 1,5m, 1.3m when accompanied by an adult.[7]
Technical Park A rock 'n' roll-themed Chair-O-Plane ride; height limit 1,2m
Trauma Tower
Moser's Rides Small family orientated 5 + 5 drop tower; height limit 1,1m
Powder Kegs
Huss A Rodeo/Breakdance 4 ride themed around explosive barrels of gunpowder; height limit 1.3m, 1.2m when accompanied by an adult.
Funlight A 25m tall Starflyer (on loan from Alex Crow); height limit 1.5m unaccompanied, 1.1m when accompanied by an adult.

Mega Adventures[edit]

# Name Opened Brief Description
Traditional fairground galloping horses and chariots; height limit 1.2m to ride horses unaccompanied, those between 1m and 1.2m must be accompanied by an adult to ride horses. Passengers under 1m and accompanied by an adult may ride in the chariots.
Falls of Terror
3 different water dinghy slides. Each dinghy seats 2 persons; height limit 1m.
Wild River Rapids
Spinning river raft ride that is 265 ft long and ends in a 32 ft drop. Rafts seat 4 persons; height limit 1m. Reverchon.
Flying Camels
Spinning camels fitted with joysticks to enable rider to control height; height limit 1m.
Skate Karts Race others on sit-down skateboard/carts; height limit 1m
Buffalo Express
Junior train ride themed around the wild west.
Lightwater Wheel
An 82 ft tall observation wheel providing views of the park and surrounding countryside; height limit 1m. Technical Park.
The Flying Cutlass
A swinging pirate ship; height limit 1,1m. Part of Skeleton Cove.
Pirate Swinger
Junior chair swings; height limit 0.9m-1.4m. Part of Skeleton Cove.
Skull Rock
A Happy Sailor ride, fixed non-rotational boats follow undulating track; height limit none. Part of Skeleton Cove.

Mini Adventures[edit]

# Name Opened Brief Description
The Vintage Car Rally
A vintage car rally ride with cars guided around a set track, themed around the famous London to Brighton run.
Swan Lake Pedal Boats
Pedal Boats; age limit none / 16 year to supervise.
Lightwater Express
A 15 in (381 mm) gauge narrow gauge railway, which operates around the perimeter of the park. Two steam-outline diesel locomotives are employed.[8]
Eagles Creek Farm
Tractor ride and petting farm which will include pygmy goats, Shetland ponies, Kunekune pigs, a donkey, chickens and sheep.
Spinning Teacups Spinning tea cups.
Mini Ferris Wheel Mini Ferris Wheel.
Angry Birds Activity Park
An interactive play zone themed around Angry Birds. UK's largest Angry Birds park at 30,000 square feet including indoor and outdoor areas.
Wave Rider
Mini Swinging Ship.
Noah's Ark
Roundabout ride; height limit 1m.
Dragon Boats
Boat roundabout ride.
Young Fun Selection of small juvenile rides: Space Pirates, Clownaround, Human Cannonball.
Lightwater Falconry
Falconry centre which runs two live shows each day the park is open
Jurassic Adventure Golf
A dinosaur themed pay-to-play miniature golf course situated just outside of the park entrance.
Funkey Monkey's Soft Play
A jungle themed soft play area for the under 8's, complete with café for parents. Opens Spring 2016.

The Ultimate[edit]

The Ultimate, the main attraction at Lightwater Valley.

The Ultimate was designed by Big County Motioneering and the park’s original owner Robert Staveley. Construction began in early 1990, taking 18 months to complete. The ride's trestles and large station building were constructed by Staveley's in-house construction team responsible for building Lightwater Valley's other buildings. The metal track work was ordered from BCM who used fabricators 'Tubular Engineering' to manufacture it. Much of the installation was, however, undertaken largely in-house and supervised by engineers from British Rail, after BCM were sacked due to track problems and slow progress. The scale of the project led to both companies contracted to supply the trains and track going bankrupt half way through its construction, leaving Staveley's team and British Rail to finish the project on their own. Staveley got assistance from American and German roller coaster manufacturers who advised him to ensure that there was enough flexibility in the track to allow for expansion and contraction under fluctuating temperatures. Overall, the project was over a year behind schedule and went significantly over budget. Staveley wanted to ensure that he was the first to ride his creation well in advance of its opening in order to give himself time to improve and re-work areas of track. He did so by riding in one of the trains which had not yet been fitted with any restraints using only rope to secure himself.

The ride was finally opened on 17 July 1991 by Frank Bruno. When opened, it was the world's longest rollercoaster at 1.5 miles (2.4 km), taking over 5 minutes to ride and costing £5.2 million. Initially, Staveley had not set out to break any records and it was only once construction had gotten underway that a colleague exclaimed that there couldn't be a roller coaster longer than the one they were building. Later that day, a colleague was sent to Ripon to buy the Guinness Book of Records which indeed confirmed that the length of track that Staveley had ordered was well over the record.

The Ultimate has four trains in all named after park staff involved in the construction of the ride. They are called, Mick's Meteor, Jim's Jet, Tony's Tornado (named after Tony Bolsover, the park's former Maintenance Manager) and Ron's Rocket. However, only the latter two are still in service today.

The trains also used to have over-the-shoulder-restraints until 1992 when they were removed and replaced with lap bar restraints to improve the ride experience.

In 2016 Lightwater Valley will be celebrating 25 years of The Ultimate.

The Valligators[edit]

"The Valligators" are three green alligator-costumed entertainers who currently act as the park’s mascots and entertain the younger visitors. They are better known as Harry, Sally and Baby Al. They were introduced to the park in 2001 to mark the beginning of a new era following Heritage GB takeover of Lightwater Valley.

When they were first introduced they were a well recognised face of the park. Harry was the oldest and the bravest of the three valligators, who liked to ride the Jaw Droppers, whilst Sally and Baby Al represented the Whipper Snapper and Nipper attractions respectively.

They are now less of a prominent feature of the park, particularly after the latest 2012 rebrand. The costumed entertainers can still be found wondering around the park entrance greeting guests on arrival however.


20-year-old Gemma Savage died on 21 June 2001 following an accident the previous day when two carriages collided on the "Treetop Twister", a spinning Wild Mouse roller coaster, which had opened in May that year.[9] Police decided not to prosecute a maintenance worker, who claimed that he had only received an hour's training on that ride and had not seen its manual.[10] Faulty wiring had also caused a malfunction on the ride.[11] In October 2004 Deputy Coroner John Sleightholme at Skipton Magistrates' Court ruled death by misadventure.

Lightwater Valley's owners and electrician Eric Butters admitted breaching health and safety laws at Leeds Crown Court on 14 November 2006. Lightwater Valley Attractions Ltd was charged with failing to ensure the health and safety of riders, Butters was charged with failing to ensure safety through his work. Both pleaded guilty.[12] A French manufacturer, Reverchon Industries SA, was convicted of two charges of failing to ensure the ride's safe design and construction.[13]

Energy efficiency[edit]

In 2015, the park reported energy efficiency savings of around £130,000 a year thanks to the investment in renewable technologies.[14] These include new carbon-neutral biomass boilers producing 400 kW per unit, enabling the park to move away from the conventional oil-based heating system. In addition, a new ground-mounted photovoltaic array was installed in the adjacent fields which has supplied up to 45% of the park's energy demand. The park remains committed to reducing its carbon footprint as part of Heritage GB's wider commitments to invest in green energy and environmental policy.

Past attractions[edit]

# Name Opened Closed Brief Description Replaced by
1 Toad Hole
An semi-enclosed water chute, formerly called 'Devil's Cascade'. Manufactured in-house by Lightwater Valley. Lightwater Wheel
2 The Sewer Rat
A Schwarzkopf Wildcat Type roller coaster, also known as 'The Rat Ride'.[15] Raptor Attack
3 Soopa Loopa
A double looping roller coaster manufactured by Soquet[16] Falls Of Terror
4 The Wave
A large Zamperla swinging ship located in the woods which closed because of a new pirate ship (The Flying Cutlass) opening in Skeleton Cove. The Flying Cutlass
5 Grand Prix Go Karts
Traditional go-kart track. Skeleton Cove
6 The Mexican Hat
An ARM Trabant ride. Originally located at the park entrance area, then moved next to where Flying Camels is now. The Octopus
7 Viper/Zyklen
A City Jet / Jet 400 type ride manufactured by Schwarzkopf.[17] Eagle's Claw
8 The Batflyer
A steel suspended roller coaster.[18] The Caterpillar Coaster
9 The Orbiter
A Schwarzkopf Apollo ride owned by the Bembom Brothers and leased to Lightwater Valley. Chair swing variant. First opened with the name 'Heatwave'. The Octopus
10 Beaver Rapids
A Reverchon two drop Log Flume ride. Grizzly Bear
11 The Caterpillar Coaster
A D.P.V. Rides Big Apple/Wacky Worm coaster located on the former Batflyer site and re-themed/relocated to the former Vintage Cars site next to Hungry Harbour in 2014. The Little Dipper
12 Grizzly Bear
A Pinfari Zyklon-type Roller Coaster. Wild River Rapids
13 The Octopus
A Soriani & Moser Polyp ride owned by John Armitage and leased to Lightwater Valley for two seasons. Skyrider (2006) and Flying Camels (2007)
14 Hornets Nest
A Chance Chaos. Whirlwind
15 Whirlwind
A Mondial Top Scan (leased for one season from Alex Crow) Eagles Creek Farm
16 Whirlwind
A Mondial Top Scan. Apollo



  1. ^ "Lightwater Valley theme park information". Retrieved 9 August 2010. 
  2. ^ "The Longest Roller Coasters in the World". Retrieved 9 August 2010. 
  3. ^ "Lightwater Valley's Angry Birds activity park sparks tourism hope". BBC News. 21 May 2013. 
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b "Eagles Claw - Coaster Force". Retrieved 20 August 2010. 
  7. ^ "Black Widows Web". Coasterforce. Retrieved 9 October 2010. 
  8. ^ Official webpage shown here.
  9. ^ "Student dies after fairground crash". BBC News. 21 June 2001. Retrieved 30 November 2006. 
  10. ^ "Worker cleared over ride death". BBC News. 31 August 2001. Retrieved 30 November 2006. 
  11. ^ "'Worker error' before ride death". BBC News. 5 October 2004. Retrieved 30 November 2006. 
  12. ^ "Theme park guilty over ride death". BBC News. 14 November 2006. Retrieved 30 November 2006. 
  13. ^ "Firm guilty over park ride death". BBC News. 30 November 2006. Retrieved 30 November 2006. 
  14. ^ "Lightwater Valley makes eco-friendly energy savings". Heritage GB. 8 September 2015. Retrieved 9 February 2016. 
  15. ^ "Raptor Attack (Lightwater Valley)". RCDB. Retrieved 19 November 2010. 
  16. ^ "Soopa Loopa (Lightwater Valley)". RCDB. Retrieved 19 November 2010.  Relocated to The American Adventure Theme Park as "Twin Looper" From 1995 To 2006.
  17. ^ "Viper (Lightwater Valley)". RCDB. Retrieved 19 November 2010. 
  18. ^ "Batflyer (Lightwater Valley)". RCDB. Retrieved 19 November 2010. 

External links[edit]