Theme Parks and Adventure Centres welcome a great day out for groups of just about any size. James Day examines some of the options.

Trauma Tower at Light Water Valley

Trauma Tower at Lightwater Valley

PLEASUREWOOD HILLS

Set within 50 acres of enclosed coastal parkland near Great Yarmouth is Pleasurewood Hills Theme Park, which has recently been refurbished.

Completed as part of a 3.5million investment plan, the park has introduced Marble Madness, its fourth rollercoaster and 10th new attraction in just four years.The steel wild mouse has plenty of twists and turns. With a top speed of 28mph, it isn’t too intense for more timid visitors. Groups have access to a safe meeting area and free familiarisation visits. The park can also help plan and promote a group visit with posters and flyers. Discounted entry is also available. Prepaid groups of 15-79 people can enter for £13.50 each, while groups of 80+ are charged £13.00 each. Groups of 10 or more turning up on the day are charged £15.50 for members aged 12 and over, and £14.00 for 11 and under. All visitors under a metre in height can enter free of charge.

WEST MIDLANDS SAFARI PARK

There are more than just animals at West Midlands Safari Park, with 28 rides and additional attractions to suit all ages. Visitors can plummet 30m back to earth on the Venom Tower Drop, get soaked on the Wild River Rafting or Zambezi Water Splash, or take it easy aboard the Congo Carousel ride. A dedicated Tiny Tots Theme Park is available for the youngest of visitors. Discounted admission is available for groups of 10 or more arriving by minibus or coach, priced at £8.50 per adult and £7.50 per child under 16. Entry is free for the GTO, and children under three. Group catering and goody bags are also available to book. West Midlands Safari Park is suitable for coaches, and a drive and dine package is available for groups of 30 or more.

TWINLAKES

Twinlakes Theme Park, near Melton Mowbray, is a relatively new venue, opened in September 2003, and is primarily aimed at younger visitors. The park describes itself as an all weather location and is open year round, excluding a short break for Christmas. A number of group booking options are available. In tune with the park’s current summer rates, from March 15 to November 2, prices for parties of 20-49 paying people is £10.55 per adult and £10.25 per child, with a lower rate of £6.50 for toddlers. For groups of 50–99, prices are slightly reduced to £10.15 per adult, £10.00 per child and £6.25 per toddler. Particularly large groups of 100+ can enjoy rates of £9.75, £9.30 and £6.10 respectively. Free adult to child quota’s are available to groups with the appropriate supporting documentation. Any visitor with a registered disability will receive one free carer on a 1:1 ratio.

LIGHTWATER VALLEY

Spinning wild mouse rollercoaster at Lightwater Valley

Spinning wild mouse rollercoaster at Lightwater Valley

Lightwater Valley is famous for its gigantic hybrid steel/wooden framed rollercoaster, The Ultimate. With a track length of 1.4miles, it holds the title of the longest rollercoaster in Europe and second longest in the world. The record belonged to Steel Dragon 2000 in Nagashima Spa Land, Japan.

It really is a strange beast. The ride length is extremely long for a rollercoaster, at over six minutes, although a fair bit of this is spent climbing its two lift hills. Once the train gets up and over the hills, it powers along a very low-to-ground track through the woods, resembling a real-life runaway train.

The park offers a wide range of attractions beyond its giant centrepiece, suitable for visitors of all ages. Prices start from £19.00 per person for pre-paid groups of between 12 and 20, which drops to £18.00 for groups of 21 to 99 and £17.00 for 100+. Day park hire is available exclusively for a minimum of 600 people. Group discounts are calculated automatically for online orders. For companies, Lightwater Valley also offers corporate facilities for hire.

Wicksteed Park Launches New Website

Northamptonshire’s Wicksteed Park has launched a new website to coincide with major improvement work, welcoming a host of new features and rides. The site includes a new online booking system, a media centre and is viewable from mobiles and tablets, as well as computers. It features improved integration with social media, and lots of easy to access information about the park and its attractions. The new website coincides with the launch of one of the UK’s tallest and longest zip wires called Rush – which has recently been unveiled at the park. Rush is part of an activity tower comprising of three zip wires, to allow families and friends to take the plunge together.

Helmet cameras record the descent for a souvenir video. Wicksteed Park Managing Director, Alasdair McNee, said: “We wanted the new website to create a much better user experience as well as allowing visitors to book everything from rides to wristbands and car parking to tickets for our daytime shows. “We have introduced a new brand that more realistically reflects the park’s heritage, as well as communicating the sheer variety of things to do at the park.

DIGGERLAND

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Diggerland’s Spin Dizzy Ride

Diggerland Adventure Park gives children and adults alike the chance to ride and drive real, full size construction machinery, under the guidance of trained staff, with no driving licence required. There are four sites across the UK in Kent, Devon, Durham and Yorkshire, making the attraction easily accessible wherever your group is travelling from. A variety of rides and drives are on offer, including the thrilling Spin Dizzy, go karts and the chance to operate six ton diggers.

Admission to Diggerland Adventure Park includes all day access to all the rides and drives this attraction has to offer. Pay-on-the-day prices for groups of 10 or more stand at £16.99 per person who is 90cm or taller in height, and £9.95 for over 65s. Disabled visitors may bring one carer or helper free of charge. Pre-booked group rates for schools during term time are set at £13.99 per child for groups of 25-49 or £11.99 each for parties of 50 or more.

One teacher or helper is admitted free per 10 children. Outside of term time, the same rates apply, though the minimum group size stands at 10 children. Free parking is available for coaches at all Diggerland Adventure Park sites. Coach drivers accompanying a party may enter for free.

THE ADVENTURE CENTRE

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Gorge Walks are one of the many activities at The Adventure Centre in Tavistock

The Adventure Centre, on the Kelly College Estate in Tavistock, Devon, prides itself on being one of the leading development training centres in the UK. The Adventure Centre was established in 1991 and has since provided quality development training courses for a wide range of individuals and groups. Courses and training programmes available include climbing, canoeing, navigation and teambuilding, and can be tailor-made to suit the specific aims and objectives of participating groups.

The Adventure Centre employs highly qualified and experienced professionals who care about the development of individuals. They are chosen not only for their hard skills, but also for their soft skills – their ability to communicate well, their good sense of humour and avid passion for the outdoors. The Adventure Centre has over 20 years experience running residential courses for schools and youth groups. The centre has a flexible approach, working together with teachers/leaders to produce a programme, which can be tailored to fit the national curriculum or specific team building objectives.

Heide Park

For groups happy to plan a visit abroad, or already find themselves on a European tour, Heide Park in Soltau, Germany is one of the country’s largest theme parks.

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Heide Park’s spectacular winged rollercoaster is considered one of its best rides

It is owned by Merlin Entertainments, the same UK based company that owns Alton Towers Resort, Thorpe Park and Chessington World of Adventures. This means the park is sure to be friendly to all visitors. The park has quite an impressive offering, with a large number of rollercoasters alongside many more family friendly rides and attractions.

The drawback is that theme park regulars may feel a strong sense of Déjà vu. The park’s newest ride, Flug der Dämonen (or Flight of the Demon) is a stunning winged rollercoaster with bat-like trains, where riders sit either side of the track. While it is without doubt an excellent ride, it is very similar to Thorpe Park’s The Swarm. Desert Race is an almost carbon copy of Rita at Alton Towers, while Limit is a Vekoma SLC: a very common inverted steel rollercoaster in which there are over 30 identical examples recorded around the world, including at Blackpool Pleasure Beach and Flamingo Land. Kraken may dive through the mouth of a giant kraken, but aside from a big water splash and impressive scenery, it’s almost exactly the same as Oblivion at Alton Towers.

This by no means makes Heide Park bad, far from it. It is a fantastic destination for groups who find themselves in Germany. With some proven, great rides, it’s not somewhere to make a dedicated trip to. There isn’t much which you cannot find in the UK already.

CLEARSKY ADVENTURE CENTRE

The Clearsky Adventure Centre, on the Castle Ward Estate in Northern Ireland, boasts the location used to film the popular US TV series, Game of Thrones, in 2009 and 2010. The Centre’s medieval exterior, dominating clock tower, beautiful surrounding landscapes and far-reaching views across the water swayed the show’s location scouts as the perfect place to create ‘Winterfell’ – home of the Stark family. Capitalising on this, the Clearsky Adventure Centre offers Game of Thrones filming location experiences. Aside from this, Clearsky has over 20 exciting activities to choose from. Groups can book an instructed session for their preferred activity or opt to do it themselves. Options include mountain biking, kayaking, ‘coasteering’, archery and clay pigeon shooting. The Centre is an excellent choice for corporate and team building activites, stag and hen events, youth groups and even fundraising challenges. Accommodation can also be included.