Oakwood Theme Park

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Oakwood Theme Park
Oakwood logo 2010 new.png
Slogan Wales' Biggest Family Day Out
Location Narberth, Wales, United Kingdom
Coordinates 51°46′41″N 4°48′25″W / 51.778°N 4.807°W / 51.778; -4.807Coordinates: 51°46′41″N 4°48′25″W / 51.778°N 4.807°W / 51.778; -4.807
Owner Aspro Parks [1]
Opened 1987
Previous names

Oakwood Leisure Park

Oakwood Coaster Country
Operating season Late March / Early April to Early November
Rides
Total 30
Roller coasters 5
Water rides 4
Website www.oakwoodthemepark.co.uk

Oakwood Theme Park (formerly Oakwood Leisure Park, Oakwood Coaster Country & Oakwood Park) is a theme park in Pembrokeshire, Wales.

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 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.

The 85-foot-tall (26 m) CCI-built wooden roller coaster "Megafobia" has been rated among the best in Europe by enthusiasts. In 2016 it celebrates 20 years at Oakwood.[2]

History[edit]

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.

Oakwood Park Railway[edit]

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)[edit]

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. On April 30, 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.

New Era for Oakwood (2009 – )[edit]

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.

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 late 2012, the park announced that it was starting a 5-year investment plan.

In 2013, Kidz World as re-developed into Neverland. The park added 7 rides including Skull Rock, Crocodile Coaster, Neverland Chase, Jolly Roger, Aerodrome, London Taxi Ride, Tink's Flying School, Journey to Neverland and the Lost Boy' Adventure. The park also relocated a few of the children's rides to the old Plane Crazy site and created Circus Land.

Chronological development[edit]

Megafobia

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. The addition of the falls, saw the removal of 2 of the 8 original assault courses (courses 7 and 8) as the falls was built on the zip line area of one of the courses.

1995: Play Town Farm for children including tractor ride. Further development on this area was planned but never came to fruition.

1996: Megafobia.

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 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 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 laser-water screen; it is replaced by "dancing" fountains, a series of illuminated water-jets choreographed to music.

Speed's initial drop

2006: Speed Euro-Fighter (Now Speed: No Limits) is opened on the site of the old Senior Go-Karts.

2007: Oakwood re-locates its Premier Theatre from New Orleans back 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. Bounce has been repainted red and white, and there is an interior redesign.

2011: Hydro's name is changed to "Drenched" and the park undergoes another 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 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 its 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. Lost Kingdom is rebranded as 'Fun Factory' and the park receives a facelift with buildings, fences and rides being painted.

2013: Kidz World is removed and Neverland opens. This brings new (as well as re-themed) rides consisting of Skull Rock (log flume), Crocodile Coaster, Tink's Flying School, Neverland Chase, Lost Boys Adventure, Jolly Roger, Hooks House of Havoc (indoor play area), Journey to Neverland, Aerodrome and the London Taxi Ride. The park also improves many other areas including the rebranding of Sky Leap into Moon Landing, a relocation of some kids rides to the old 'Plane Crazy' area and creating the new 'Circus Land' consisting of the Clown Coaster, Kids Carousel, Circus Express and Scorches Playground.[3] In October 2013 the park announced via their Facebook page that Brer Rabbit would close at the end of the 2013 season! [4]

2014: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow should have opened in Summer 2014 but pushed back a year it will replace Brer Rabbit.[5] According to Clare Stansfield (Oakwood's new Head of Marketing), “The park invested £4.5 million in its new Neverland area and this year we have more major investment that will see the creation of a new soft play area, a children’s ride, a whole new themed restaurant and something very exciting planned for the summer!” [6]

Theming[edit]

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.

Summer 2013 brought a new development consisting of a Neverland theme, from Peter Pan[7] which opened on May 23, 2013. As part of the re-development, some of the children's rides were relocated to form a second themed area called 'Circus Land', occupying the former 'Plane Crazy' area (aimed at children under 8).

In 2014, local chocolatiers Wickedly Welsh Chocolate set up a Willy Wonka themed chocolate bar in the park.[8]

Seasonal and Holiday operation[edit]

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 launched its "after dark" late summer openings. The tradition continued until the 2008 season, before re-launching in 2011.
  • Halloween: In 2000, Oakwood launched annual "eerie evenings" subsequent to the opening of Voodoo Mansion, but discontinued them a few years later. Oakwood then relaunched their Halloween event in 2008 during the day for the 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. For 2013, Oakwood launched their "Halloween Spooktacular" event which was held over 5 days. The "Spooktacular" event included "Spooky Live" (Spooky 3D in the dark with a number of live actors), "Theatre of Nightmares" (a walk through scare maze attraction with live actors and animals for 16+) and "The Ghost of Skull Rock" show which was put on in the new Neverland area for all ages where Captain Hook, Tinkerbell and The Lost Boys featured. The evening ended with a firework display in Neverland.[9]
  • Christmas: In 1995, Oakwood made a practice of opening Play Town (the original children's area) 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 the Christmas opening, the park decided to discontinue with this venture.

Current Attractions[edit]

Roller Coasters[edit]

# Name Type Opened Manufacturer Description
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 85 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.[citation needed]
3 Tree Tops Steel sit down 1989 Zierer A family roller coaster that 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 Circus Clown themed junior coaster that travels around in a circle; height limit none / 1,1m alone
5 Crocodile Coaster Steel sit down 2013 Crocodile themed junior powered coaster that travels around a small track. (Originally at Camelot Theme Park)
6 Flight Of The Giant Peach Steel sit down 2016 Pinfari Family Rollercoaster based on James and the giant peach in the Dahland area of the park (Originally at M&D's)

Thrill Rides[edit]

# Name Opened Manufacturer Description
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.
Drenched (Formerly Hydro)

Other rides and attractions[edit]

# Name Opened Description
8 Drenched 2002 Formerly known as Hydro, being renamed after a fatality. Made by Intamin.
9 Skull Rock 2013 An indoor/outdoor log flume water ride that takes you on a journey through the mysterious Skull Rock legend. (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 2003 A 3D ghost train ride. (Originally Voodoo Mansion 2000–2003)
13 The Pirate Ship 1991 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 fairies; height limit 1,2m, (Originally Plane crazy, re-themed and relocated for 2013)
15 Waterfall A 2 lane water slide. Riders sit in sledges, 1 rider per sledge and travel down one of the steep slides and ski along the 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 Neverland Chase 2013 Originally the Tractor ride 1994–2012, re-themed for 2013
19 London Taxi Ride 2013 Originally the Truck Convoy ride, re-themed for 2013
20 Lost Boys' Adventure 2013 An adventure playground situated within the Neverland Chase ride.
21 Journey to Neverland 2013 An indoor walkthrough showing models of Darling's home and a story of Peter Pan.
22 Jolly Roger 2013 A junior pirate ship. (Originally at Camelot Theme Park)
23 Aerodrome 2013 Aeroplane ride with each one themed as different countries; height limit 1,3m max (Originally the Aeroplane Ride 1992–2012, re-themed for 2013)
24 Playland Express 2013 A train that travels around the centre of Circus Land. (Originally at Camelot Theme Park)
25 Boating Lake 1987 Pedal Boats around the lake near Megafobia; height limit none / 1,4m without supervision.
26 Mini Golf A Mini Golf
27 Moon Landing 2013 A free fall slide; height limit 1m. (Originally Sky Leap, re-themed for 2013)
28 Teacups 2014 A teacups located in Circus Land (Originally at Camelot Theme Park)

Past rides and attractions[edit]

# Name Opened Closed Description
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. Closed at the end of the 1999 season.
2 Voodoo Mansion 2000 2002 A haunted house ride. This is now Spooky 3D.
3 Cine 180 1987 2000 A 3D cinema
4 Go Karts 1987 2001
5 Junior Go Karts 1987 2001
6 Assault Course 1991 1998
7 Jake's Music Hall 1991 1999 A animatronic puppet show.
8 Brer Rabbit's Burrow 2001 2013 A dark train ride that takes you through Brer Rabbit´s Burrow. Was previously Nutty Jake's Gold Mine. Closed at the end of the 2013 season.

Hydro Incident[edit]

Hydro

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 rider's restraint was in a safe position.[10][11] The ride was closed until the next season, when it reopened with more secure and redundant over-the-shoulder restraints instead of lap bars.

In 2006, the 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.[12][13]

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".[14]

In 2011 Hydro was renamed "Drenched".

Takeover by Aspro Ocio A.S. (March 2008)[edit]

During the course of late 2007 local press in Pembrokeshire reported that Oakwood had been made the subject of a takeover bid[15]

The park was sold to Aspro Ocio S.A. of Spain as of March 2008.

Controversy[edit]

In 2013, an article published by UK attractions news website Airgates suggested the park had a serious problem with joking about ride safety.[16] The article prompted an announcement of an investigation to be carried out by the park.[17] There is no result published on the park's website (2015).[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]