Known nationally as Peppa Pig World, Paultons Park is located on the land of the former Paulton’s Estate near Southampton. In 1979, the Mancey family bought the land, cleared it of scrub and debris and built the gardens we see today, including a small bird park and adventure playground. In 1983 the park opened its doors to visitors for the first time as Paultons Park and Bird Gardens.
Three years later the first rides moved into the park. In 1993 the first roller coaster was added. Since the millennium the park has been growing steadily. But its most important investment was made in 2011 with the opening of the first Peppa Pig Land, the Peppa Pig World. Within a year, Paultons Park doubled its visitor numbers. An unparalleled success that has attracted a host of other toddler theme areas at various theme parks both within and outside the UK. However, it remains to be seen whether such brand loyalty outside the UK works at all.
Upon entering the park, one immediately finds oneself in the beautiful gardens of the park. From here you can either turn right to the Peppa Pig World or left to the Lost Kingdom theme area. Basically a decision against or with the stream of visitors. As a roller coaster fan the choice is even easier, but for narrative reasons I start with the visitor booster.
Passing a 3D cinema, where the film Sammy’s Great Adventure was shown, as well as an adventure golf course included in the admission price, the park railway, an rubber dinghy slide, a beautifully laid out tractor ride and a carousel, we head towards the Peppa Pig World theme area. Here you will find a number of rides from Metallbau Emmeln and Zamperla, including an electric horse-riding track in a toy dino design, a duck carousel in a boat design and a Flying Wheel (a kind of teacup ferris wheel). All this is complemented by figures familiar from the series, matching playgrounds and the house of the Pig family. In 2018, the themed area will also be expanded with a round boat trip and a sightseeing tour.
There is not really anything more to tell there. While the rest of the park was partly deserted, there was a lot of activity in this area. All this speaks for the series produced since 2004. I myself consider such branding to be questionable, as it has a major impact on small children. Unfortunately, it must be said that the time of generally designed toddler areas (e.g. a farm area) seems to be over.
Interestingly, Paultons Park itself offers the exception to the rule. Instead of just relying on Peppa Pig, the park does its own thing in the Critter Creek theme area. Besides the roller coaster Cat-o-pillar, a Zierer Tivoli in the medium sized version, the themed area convinces with its wacky design and the integration of an insect and amphibian house.
There are also several animal enclosures along the river, which were expanded in 2018 with the Little Africa theme area. There is also a large penguin enclosure where show feeding takes place several times a day. Directly adjacent to it there are several smaller rides, including a boat swing, a teacup lift, a Kontiki, and two family free-fall towers of different heights, which were placed directly next to each other.
On the other side of the gardens is the Lost Kingdom themed area, which has created a very special flair by cleverly expanding the portfolio and incorporating rides that were once only loosely themed. Here you can see how you can create an all-round coherent themed area with well-considered actions.
In order to get a better overview of the area we immediately board the roller coaster Flight of the Pterosaur. After a short curve out of the station we climb the 20m high lift hill. At the top we immediately fall down in a wide left turn towards the ground. Far above the adjacent Demolition Derby we climb up again in the same way. A straight hilltop follows. With momentum, we now pass through a short dip, whereupon a labyrinth of narrow helices follows. Alternating right and left helices, we pass a cave and get faster and faster before we shoot into the station at top speed. There we are gently slowed down and then come to a stop.
Flight of the Pterosaur is a top class ride. The layout is fun and can satisfy especially the young park guests. As the first big roller coaster I can hardly imagine a better ride, although Paultons Park can offer two similar calibres. The pacing and the ride characteristics of this modern family roller coaster classic are very convincing.
Right next door is the small shuttle roller coaster Velociraptor. As the first rebound version of the Family Boomerang by Vekoma, the ride impresses with its curves close to the ground and the small hill above the station. The layout itself resembles an eight, with both ends running over the loops.
After you have been driven backwards up the lift hill, you immediately descend rapidly and then pass through the station at full speed. This is followed by a left-hand bend close to the ground, as well as the already mentioned hill above the station, where light airtime sets in. After a right-hand bend under the lift hill, a hill follows over the first bend, which has a small hump in the middle. Here one comes to a standstill, whereupon the backwards journey begins. A little more leisurely than before, you now make your way back to the station.
Compared to the standard model, this system is particularly impressive due to its distinctive speed profile. The curves close to the ground are convincing all along the line and even the hill in the middle of the track knows to please on the forward drive. Thanks to the generally lower visitor demands, it is possible to remain seated on the ride and thus dare one ride after the other. For the coaster fan this is an optimal roller coaster which really is a lot of fun, but probably keeps many children away from the ride because of its backward ride.
The situation is different for the remaining rides in this area. The small flying carpet Temple Highs and the Jeep Safari The Dinosaur Tour Co. know how to please just as well as the children’s roller coaster Dino Chase, a Zierer Tivoli in the smallest version with an extremely cute train design and an all around successful appearance.
Passing a dragon carousel of the manufacturer Zierer, which offered both a forward and a backward ride, and a go-kart track, we now head towards the last roller coaster of the park. But first we queue up at the interesting free fall tower Magma and enjoy the elaborately designed queue, before we ride up and down the SBF Visa tower over and over again. If the park would offer a different hardware, the tower would probably be a good one.
Arrived at the Cobra, the first thing to do is to leave the depressing and extremely sterile waiting area behind you. Once this is done, you have to get into the well-known Gerstlauer sleds, whereupon the journey is about to start. After the lift hill has brought you up to the initial height of 16.5 m, the sledge immediately plunges down in a very steep right turn, whereupon an upward helix is performed in the same direction. After a short block area, four hairpin bends follow in best wild mouse manner. In a racy combination of two helices, the descent becomes extremely fast before ascending again a few metres. Over several camelbacks you make your way to the other side of the course, but unfortunately there is no generous lift-off at all. After a further downward helix the brake run of the layout is reached.
Cobra is a good roller coaster, but it lags a little behind its sister coasters. The ride seems to be a little bit more powerless, at least in general, which is especially apparent in the very lax camelbacks. The layout itself differs only a little from the G’stengte Sau from the amusement park Tripsdrill or the great roller coaster Thor’s Hammer from the Danish amusement park Djurs Sommerland, but the fun doesn’t really come across during the ride. Maybe the ride is just missing an appealing design, I couldn’t really explain it to myself.
Right behind the roller coaster Cobra is the disk’o coaster The Edge, which offered a rock solid ride. Due to the successful theming of the nearby Lost Kingdom theme area, however, the ride, just like the Cobra roller coaster, seems to have been put in place without any love. The area around the park’s Reverchon log flume has a similar effect. There is a need for action in this area, but it is only a matter of time until the park creates another great theme area. At least it is not unlikely.
Paultons Park is an exceptionally pleasant amusement park, which rightly calls itself the UK’s number one family park. The park offers a wide range of family rides, including five family roller coasters, as well as numerous playgrounds. It also offers a truly beautiful garden landscape, as well as numerous animal enclosures and a miniature golf course included in the admission price. If there would be a water park available you could think you were in a Scandinavian sommerland theme park. This is quite appealing, if the common visitor would not only come because of Peppa Pig. The park offers more and might even be able to add even more to it. In this respect, one should look forward to the future.
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