Lisa James and family visited Drayton Manor Theme Parkto celebrate 10 years of Thomas Land
It wasn’t at the moment I sat down in the Stormforce 10 boat that I began to regret agreeing to try Drayton Manor Theme Park’s three-drop water ride. It was much too late by then.
I began getting second thoughts halfway through queuing up for what I’d led myself to believe would be a leisurely log-flume experience, when we turned the corner and came into full view of what was about to hit us.
The looks on the faces of thrill-seekers crashing into the water below made me think this wasn’t one of my better ideas. But there was no backing out. My seven-year-old daughter and her 11-year-old cousin (pictured below, mid-ride) already think I’m far too old and boring as it is and I was desperate to prove I could renew my long-lapsed membership of the ‘seize the moment club’.
Two minutes later, with our ‘boat’ teetering over the edge of a sheer drop, I resigned myself to my fate as we plunged at death-defying speed for a few heart-stopping seconds until we hit the deep water below. On Stormforce 10, it doesn’t matter whether you sit at the front, the back, or in the middle: everyone gets completely and utterly saturated.
Another drop — this time backwards at speed — then a slow, juddery climb took us high above the park and the surrounding area of Tamworth, Staffordshire, for the final stomach-churning lunge. Regaining our breath as the ride came to a standstill, we all checked we were still in one piece, then staggered out of our seats, dripping wet and struggling to walk in our water-sodden clothes.
We were here in Staffordshire to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Drayton Manor’s award-winning Thomas Land, a separate area dedicated to Thomas the Tank Engine.
On the Island of Sodor, there are plenty of rides for youngsters and the young-at-heart, including Captain’s Sea Adventure, where riders can squirt people while spinning around in a boat; Winston’s Whistlestop Tours (pictured below); Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster and a flying balloon ride called James and The Red Balloon, which was added to the park last year.
Although both girls had been Thomas fans when they were younger, I did wonder whether they’d be too old for it all now. On the contrary, they loved the rides, and enjoyed hopping aboard the train and exploring the outdoor play area. It was a beautiful day, but, had it rained, we could have entertained ourselves in the recently renovated indoor play area or the park’s 4D cinema.
For older thrill-seekers, Stormforce 10 isn’t the only attraction in the main park. Shockwave (pictured), for example, has been voted the best stand-up rollercoaster in the world by those crazy enough to try it out. There are three others: a head-turning gyro swing called Maelstrom, the pendulum-swinging Pandemonium and the 54-metre drop tower, called Apocalypse.
With over 100 rides and attractions, it all makes for a busy, action-packed day out. For longer stays, the impressive four-star Drayton Manor Hotel, set in 280 acres of lakes and parkland, is the former residence of Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel.
Among its 150 rooms are 15 uniquely decorated Thomas the Tank Engine-themed bedrooms. Young guests can enjoy character breakfasts and other events that take place during peak season, such as a disco, arts, crafts and face painting.
Drayton Manor Hotel has a Stay and Play package, consisting of overnight accommodation for a family of four, breakfast and entry to the theme park, starting at £144 per night.
One day’s park entry for four people costs £80, booked by midnight before the day of the visit.