Frightwater Valley 2011 – Full Review
It seems like no time at all has passed since¬†we were last in Lightwater Valley for their special ‘Frightwater’ event. Last year saw the return of the dedicated Halloween event for the park, and we were there, experiencing it for the first time. So for 2011 we decided to return, only this time we stayed for the whole weekend to see what had changed, and to¬†scrutinize¬†any improvements or additions!
Lightwater Valley is a small independent park located just outside Ripon, North Yorkshire, a few miles off the A1M. Although the park is a little less well known across the UK, it has to be said that even without a special event such as Frightwater Valley, the park offers a great day out for families, at an affordable price. Lightwater Valley is home to Europe’s longest roller coaster ‘The Ultimate’; with a track length of almost 7500ft – you’ll experience nothing else like it in the UK. The park is also home to a selection of fantastic flat rides including The Eagle’s Claw where you’ll be spun around, swung and suspended all at once, and lets’ not forget Whirlwind – a Mondial Top Scan that will leave your head spinning. New for¬†2011 is Skeleton Cove with a selection of rides to suite all ages including the terrifying Black Pearl that will take you through a 360′ adventure!
Frightwater – The Line Up
As you’d expect in business; there is always a requirement to do things better. This year the park had opted for some changes to the event’s lineup. Sadly, there was no Frightwater Express for 2011, however the replacement was a fantastic interactive pirate show: “The Haunting of Skeleton Cove” (detailed later).
Last year the park went to a great deal of effort to transform the atmosphere¬†from its normal state into a fun filled Halloween¬†extravaganza.¬†This year was even better! Throughout the day there were a number of characters greeting guests at the entrance of the park which included a scary looking ghoul and Paul Roberts (the resident magician). He was dressed in Halloween¬†attire and was content with¬†terrifying passers by and anyone who dared to take a peek in his cauldron.
The whole setup of greeting guests worked well and it’s a great method of ensuring guest interaction. What we did find a little odd though was that the park had brought out a Yeti and a robot character; whilst they were great characters, they didn’t really fit the theme of the event and surroundings.
The park had made another sterling effort with a variety of themeing¬†throughout including cobwebs, giant pumpkins, graveyards and this year the introduction of a full sized hearse with a coffin spilling out the back. However, the real thing that made a massive difference this year was the high number of live actors patrolling the park which included zombies and pirates from The Haunting of Skeleton Cove! Actors were on-park last year and were used for the Frightwater Express attraction, but this year there was much more interaction.
Doors to Dracula’s Labyrinth have once again been unsealed for this years Frightwater Valley!
Dracula’s Labyrinth originally opened for 2010′s Frightwater Valley. Whilst we were impressed with efforts made by the park last year, we did feel that it was lacking something, and felt far too open. This year however, Lightwater Valley have took the maze to another level, building on last year’s success and adding a host of new theming, actors as well as enclosing the entire maze.
Guests are batched in groups of around 6-8, and are then sent on their way to navigate through the maze, encountering many of the ‘inhabitants’ and minions of Dracula himself along the way. Lightwater have made a brilliant effort to keep the maze as atmospheric as possible this year.
Lighting throughout the maze remains consistent, with the usual hues of red and green helping to create an eerie¬†atmosphere, and strobes and a chaser light thrown in to help with scares. The level of theming this year has certainly been improved vastly, with spiders, coffins, gravestones and skeletons lining the maze’s narrow corridors, it’s clear that alot of effort has been put into putting the maze together. The maze also had is own soundtrack, which played throughout, featuring screams, creaks and ambient music. This was a great addition, and though at times hard to hear, really did add to the atmosphere when it was fully audible.
Whilst the maze was great in most aspects, we didn’t find it all that scary. Undoubtedly, it was intended to be an ‘extreme’ scare maze, as an advisory minimum age of 12 years old had been placed on it, as is commonplace with many Scare Attractions. However, the actors just didn’t seem to be effectively scaring guests. Many of the actors in the maze seemed to go for atmospheric scaring, over outright scares. This is great in some circumstances and in moderation, however, we didn’t think it worked too well, especially near the end of the maze, which should be the more extreme part.
That said, however, there were a few actors who we noticed managed to consistently scare those who dared to enter the Labyrinth. Though we were only able to experience the maze as guests on the Saturday, during our time acting in the Maze on the Sunday of the event, we did hear many more screams than the previous night – a sure sign that the actors had settled into their roles and were being more pro-active in scaring.
We feel this maze has tonnes more potential – and are sure that what is already a great attraction will only improve year on year to be even scarier.
Raptor Attack Live
This year sees the addition of Raptor Attack Live, after last year’s planned version was pulled at the last minute. Raptor Attack takes guests on an underground journey through the remnants of the Lightwater Mine, however, things aren’t as innocent as they seem, as guests soon discover the reason why the mine has been abandoned.
This of course, makes Raptor Attack a logical, and great environment to add a Halloween ‘twist’. Based on a virus outbreak in the Mine, each tunnel is now home to a host of ¬†frightening Scientists, all superbly made-up with latex prosthetics and fake blood, which looked outstanding. Raptor Attack Live is aimed more towards families,¬† and therefore isn’t designed to make you jump out of your skin. However, the numerous actors did a brilliant job of making what is already a creepy attraction that much better.¬†We’d have liked to have seen some more lighting included in areas, and possibly a panic-ridden¬†actor briefing groups of guests as to what has happened – if going through the attraction without earlier research, we wouldn’t have known who and why the virus struck scientists were down there.
Overall, Raptor Attack Live was a great addition for the event. Whilst it wouldn’t work as a standalone attraction, the addition of actors throughout the ride area was a welcome change to the usual ride, and was easily better than efforts made by several other, higher profile Theme Parks.
2011 saw the return of the park’s Firework spectacular and we were keen to see how the event compared to last year. In 2010 we were impressed with the display itself but there were issues with the park’s sound setup – there was only one speaker set to the left of the audience and even though were were right near the front we couldn’t really hear the supporting dialogue at all.
This year we were assured that the sound issues had been resolved, and we caught up with the firework contractor (Fantastic Fireworks) at Lunch time on Saturday during their sound test to take a peek. We could see straight away that there had been improvements; this year there were a number of speaker rigs setup, and the show was being directed both towards an audience at The Falls of Terror, in addition to being broadcast across the lake towards the main entrance. Once we had heard the sound test, we were convinced people were going to be in for a real treat during the main show!
The show included a supporting sound-track that was created in-house by the park’s Marketing Assistant Simon Edwards who we like to refer to as the park’s “creative guru”. The show followed a theme with the soundtrack being in-sync with the fireworks.¬†The story tells of a young boy from the Kingdom of Lightwater who bravely battles against the forces of darkness. The only weapon able to defeat the evil of Frightwater is the power of hope. But at this time of ground shaking evil, is this virtue strong enough?
It’s worth noting that a park the size of Lightwater Valley doesn’t have budgets to equal the size of the corporate big players such as Alton Towers, however all credit must be given for a fantastically enjoyable 20 minute show. It’s clear that guests enjoyed the show – thousands of people gathered around the lake and there was a huge round of applause as the show climaxed to a brilliant finale.
We attended the show on the Saturday evening which took place around 18:30, and on Sunday the the display started an hour earlier due to the clocks going back, but we missed this show due to working as actors in Dracula’s¬†Labyrinth. We were made aware later though that there were some minor technical difficulties with the some of the fireworks mis-firing during Sunday’s show.
Magic Show and UV Puppet Show
It’s great to see the park offer something for the younger guests too; although Raptor Attack Live and Dracula’s Labyrinth¬†are great fun, they’re not suitable for smaller children. The park offer two fantastic attractions which are held in the theatre near the main entrance. We somehow managed to miss both of these in 2010 so it was great to have the opportunity to experience them this year.
The first is a “Not so Spooky Magic Show” which involved magical Mark performing a number of tricks for the audience (aimed at under ten’s we would say). Tricks included a guillotine where a brave woman witnessed the blades chop two carrots clean in half, who then proceeded to put her neck in the device, but magic prevailed – her neck was safe, but the carrots didn’t fair too well! There were a number of other small stage tricks including pumping water out of a boy’s elbow and a magical fluffy stick with a mind of it’s own! We attended the 14:30 showing but it was a little disapointing to see such small numbers in the theatre. Maybe this was due to the early showing, but our thoughts were that the positioning of the signage outside the theatre wasn’t ideal, making it quite hard to notice that that there was a show there at all. Ideally there needs to be some signage within the main fairground area which would help raise awareness of the show.
Later in the day we rocked up to watch the UV Puppet Show – this time the venue was packed to the rafters – presumably due to people being aware of the venue’s location after the earlier queue for the magic show. We weren’t overly excited about seeing this show; we had previously seen a “glow show” in Devon’s Crealy Park in the summer and it was pretty terrible, so our expectation level had been set.
However, once the doors closed the UV lights came on and show started! Characters were both small and large and they came dancing across the stage, singing to a fantastic medley¬†of songs that had been prepared on a pre-recorded soundtrack. The songs included some well known pop songs including hits from Lady Gaga, which coupled with some of the humorous¬†characters made for both an entertaining and very funny show. The crowd participation was fantastic with the audience clapping and cheering – it was one of the most enjoyable show’s we’ve ever seen.
The downside was that members of the audience insisted on using flash photography when they had been asked not to. This really does spoil the atmosphere of a UV show and if it returns next year there really needs to be a couple of crowd spotters to remind/prevent guests from taking flash photography during the performance. The other thing we noticed which we thought was a real missed¬†opportunity¬†for the park’s retail sector – there were no pre-show sales. There’s a great opportunity¬†with a venue of 300 or so people to sell glow sticks, LED light sticks and other flashing toys for parents to buy for their kids.
The Haunting of Skeleton Cove
As part of the park’s new 2011 event lineup, The Haunting of Skeleton Cove was introduced, which is a short 20 minute show hosted in Hungry Harbour – the food retail outlet in Skeleton Cove. The show was put together by local dramatics group “We Are Theatre” based in York and was directed by Charlotte Gray and Donna Riley. The actors from this group were also used in Raptor Attack Live and Dracula’s Labyrinth¬†as well as throughout the park’s open areas.
The show is based around a special locket, which is about to be stolen by a crew of evil pirates that can only appear once a year at Frightwater Valley. It’s a fantastic production that the young audience found funny, exciting and in some cases terrifying! The costumes and makeup really added to the fantastic story – but unfortunately due to it’s location in Hungry Harbour – hearing the actor’s dialogue was a real issue. If this returns next year (and we really hope it does) the park must invest in some radio mics for the actors.
So What About Frightwater 2012?
It’s important for any business to push the boundaries¬†year on year – this is the only way that the park can expect to increase revenue, which is vital to the success of any organsation. We’re aware of some exciting plans for Frightwater 2012 but as ever we can’t release these details until nearer the time. However, it’s safe to assume that Frightwater 2012 is something you won’t want to miss!
Written by Matthew South & Matthew Cooper
Photography by Matthew South, Matthew Cooper & Lightwater Valley