My golden wedding – I soar through the clear blue summer sky in a jet! What exotic destination calls? The air terminal building Sodor gives a clue. The jet circles in Thomas Land at Drayton Manor Theme Park, my two young fellow passengers, manic with excitement, in charge of the altitude control. We soar and dip – I never did like air turbulence, and feel a bit queasy when we land.
My six young grandchildren, aged between three and ten years, love this theme park. They are accompanied by parents, who claim they are tolerating the excursion, but soon enter into the fun spirit – and young at heart grandparents. There are lots of rides featuring Thomas Land characters, some sedate, others causing shrieks of terror! Splashy rides – Captains Sea Adventure where you see how many people you can drench with water guns, while bobbing about on small boats. Flynn’s Fire Rescue – up and down on a platform, with hose pipes squirting water at a blazing tower, guaranteed to soak you with ricochet water spray. Everywhere there is movement of people and rides, bright colours, conflicting loud sound effects promoting particular rides, the sickly smell of candy floss, laughter and excited chatter. The only quiet zones are the queues of impatient youngsters waiting for their chosen ride. Troublesome Trucks Runaway rollercoaster is a deceptively innocent ride, which tilts alarmingly to the delight of children who shriek and alarm of grandparents who grip the sides with clenched hands. The fat controller and his fireman, larger than life with their immaculate primary coloured outfits and fixed smiles, stroll around as if escaped from a picture book, pausing to be photographed by their many fans.
When a rest is needed, we take a Thomas, Rosie or Percy Engine tour which chuffs along to the Zoo. This area is older than Thomas land, being part of the original park, before the commercial rides took it over. The enclosures house a small variety of animals, not very exciting after the fun rides. The play area is more appealing, with its train shaped, wooden structures to climb on. Nearby there are picnic tables for grown- ups to sit and try to keep a head count of quickly scampering youngsters. The adjacent Works Museum tells the history of the Thomas stories, worth a visit for the grown-ups.
From the play area we walk back to the main park via the Dino Trail where the large, colourful dinosaurs are not as scary as the rides! Large cages of owls line the route back. Look carefully for rather pathetically bored and hunched birds, skulking in the corners of their little worlds. The monkeys look livelier and the meerkats positively play to their audience, alternately burrowing and erectly alert, as if auditioning for the next TV advertisement.
The “grown up” rides in the main part of the theme park look truly terrifying, and with height restrictions it’s
“Thank you Granny, that was a fab day out”, politely remarked my jet companions. “Will you have another anniversary soon, and could we go on a proper jet plane – that would be awesome!”