Pleasurewood Hills Family Theme Park has been around since 1983, with new and exciting rides being added and changed over the years. It has always been one of the most popular family attractions in East Anglia, with plenty for the whole family to enjoy – thrill rides, family rides and kiddie rides.
One of the most impressive thrill rides is the truly terrifying Wipeout. With super-high tracks and three loops to addle your brains as you spin upside down and back again, it’s one for only the most hardy roller-coaster riders. Then, just when you think it’s all over, off it goes again, this time in reverse! And if heart-stopping thrills are your thing, then you’ll also want to give Fireball a try out. Spinning riders around and whizzing in circles through the air, it’s sure to satisfy.
But our favourite of the thrill rides is the literally breathtaking Jolly Roger. Here, riders are lifted to a seemingly endless height, where they hang, full of questions as apprehension builds… How high is this? How fast will it go? When will it start? Then without warning – whoosh! Down you go, faster than you think possible, coming to a sudden gentle halt where you breath a sigh of relief, thankful that you are still alive!
Cannonball Express is initially less impressive. With its unkempt backdrop and cars that read ‘Enigma’, it’s not obvious what riders are to expect as they approach, or where the “Cannonball” theme fits in. However, once on-board, the reason it is included as a thrill ride becomes clear, with its super-fast twists and turns. It’s an intense experience!
However, if what you want from a good day out is fun for all the family, then Pleasurewood Hills also provides, with the park’s newest attraction Rootin’ Tootin’ Target Trail offering great family entertainment. In the midst of an authentic-looking Wild West scene lies a mysterious gold mine adventure. Accompanied by atmospheric hillbilly music, you venture deep inside a gold mine, eventually reaching a mine cart that leads you into dark tunnels where fun characters lurk, and sneaky skeletons try to pinch gold. Unholstering the provided pistols, players must take aim to shoot targets in order to stop the varmits, while competing for the highest score.
The park’s newest roller-coaster Marble Madness is aimed at families. Less extreme than those in the thrill rides category, it features bright yellow friendly-looking cars with cute expressive faces. Similar to Cannonball Express, it’s not immediately apparent where the Marble theme comes in, however, the ride itself makes it more obvious, being a heart-jolting yet fun experience from start to finish.
Then there’s the water-based Wavebreaker. Soaring down a twin water slide on a two-person dinghy to come to a sliding halt is guaranteed to create screams of delight, and leave you wanting to rush straight back up for another go. Once you’ve experienced it, it will definitely become a firm family favourite.
Taking the pace down a notch, if you are looking for a more family friendly and calmer ride, you might want to try the pirate ship, Shiver Me Timbers. Continuing the more traditional theme is the Carousel, with its beautifully painted horses and wagons, and Victorian-style music tinkling out for all to enjoy. It creates a true feeling of peaceful nostalgia in a the midst of a busy, loud world. There’s also the gentle fun of the delightful Sea Lion Show – but if you want to take a complete break from the excitement, there’s the option of a leisurely ride over the park in one of the Chairlifts. Floating high above the park gives you a great bird’s-eye view as you ride from one end of the park to the other.
And what’s a day at a theme park without good food? There are plenty of catering options available at different locations around the park. Sharky’s Fish & Chips provides good old-fashioned battered fish that melts in the mouth and chips that are crisp yet fluffy at the same time. You might also want to sample the smooth coffee and delicious ice cream at Bears Grill, which also offers great service from friendly members of staff.
The park caters exceptionally well for the younger age group (up to about 12 years). Indeed, it feels that more effort has been made in the kiddie rides area – with colourful, accessible rides with clear themes – than in other areas of the park. Theme Park mascot Woody Bear was also available to meet outside his castle throughout the day – although it might have been nice to see him roaming the park, greeting guests and offering more photo opportunities in different locations.
But it’s not all great; there are definite negative aspects. On our visit, the Tide Traveller was closed with no explanation. Timber Falls, the log flume, was also disappointingly closed for maintenance, and had been for a couple of days. A technical difficulty with Cannonball Express also led to a long delay while the staff performed safety checks – although it was reassuring that they were dedicated to maintaining safety for their customers.
So does Pleasurewood Hills offer value for money as a family day out? At the moment, £22 for adults and £19 for children (making a family of four around £100 for the day, including food) does feel a little overpriced. Some of the thrill rides are somewhat neglected, with overgrown and weedy surroundings, and unclear themes. More generally, there is not much to keep teenagers (or indeed adults) occupied as the adult rides are somewhat limited in their appeal. Also slightly disappointing is how early the park closes, especially during the weekend and the summer holiday period. However, with some more attention to detail, and longer opening times, this would be a good, value for money, full day out for all the family.