What Chessington World of Adventures has to offer three generations
I’ll start by saying I don’t have any recollection of my “dad” – you’ll perhaps know by now I detest using that term – taking me on any one-to-one days out. Probably because he didn’t.
My mum, though? Let me tell you what a legend she is. She was effectively a single parent, left to raise me for the best part of ten years without him being of any value.
Now mum doesn’t have a driving licence but there was no way that an intense anxiety of travelling via train or not having a car were going to prevent us from going on days out. She bent over backwards to make it happen, booking up coach trips to get to our destination instead. From Chessington World of Adventures and Thorpe Park to Legoland and Alton Towers, I was fortunate enough to visit them all from a young age and they’re memories that will always be appreciated and stick with me – especially the vision of the intense fear on her face when we plummeted down a ride (no matter how small the drop).
So, when Chessington World of Adventures asked if I wanted to come along for the launch day of their Howl’o’ween season at the park, I was all over it. Jenna was working, so it was just Roma and I set to go but I thought I’d ask mum if she fancied coming along at the final hour. I’d have asked sooner but, as I alluded to, her tolerance of rides was never at its greatest even when we were all younger, so I didn’t think she’d fancy getting thrown around. I was right – she had no intention of getting whipped around on Vampire or Rameses’ Revenge. But that didn’t stop her from wanting to join in the fun.
Going there together was a moment. Jenna and I took Roma to Chessington before, but this was back in May 2018, so she was a lot smaller at the time.
Taking her back now she is infinitely more aware, taller and robust, as well as my mum, who’d always been the one to take me, felt like we’d come full circle.
With the gates opening at 10am, we pulled up about 10.20am. The first caution I would give is to be aware that much of the parking terrain is on grass and mud, so in the event of visiting on a rainy day like us, you may also want to consider taking wellies, which I failed to do. Well, I did indeed consider taking Roma’s wellies, but didn’t – my bad. Rest assured you’ll encounter a pavement after you’ve left the car park though, which allows for sure footing and less chance of having an impromptu mud bath. Although the wellies would have still served a purpose because across the park were a series of puddles that she kept looking at longingly before I hastily dragged her away from them.
After collecting our press passes from the entrance, we made our way inside through the gates where Roma – and my mum – didn’t know where to look first. From the Dragon’s Fury coaster blitzing by to our right and the animatronic mama dragon beside the entrance – who reminded me somewhat of the missus when she’s annoyed – to the seemingly endless stream of cobwebs and placement of pumpkins adorning the surroundings, there was plenty to feast our eyes on. So where to start?
The map mostly remained in my pocket to be honest and we freestyled it, ticking off rides as we went. The formula was simple: if Roma was tall enough, we queued up. Although it’s worth saying “queued” is an exaggeration. Given the drizzle coming down, which we were well equipped for with our waterproof jackets, the first couple of rides we tried had no line at all, so we went straight on. First up was Sea Dragons, a boat-themed ride that was sedate enough for even the old dear to board – although the image at the top of the post might suggest otherwise…
Continuing our walk afterwards, I noticed Griffin’s Galleon – a ship-centric experience which looked significantly more intense than the one we’d just boarded. But, on closer examination of the height board I was gobsmacked and probably didn’t look too dissimilar to my mum being slung down a log flume because… Roma was tall enough to ride it!
The first time we came with an almost one-year-old Roma, we rode a couple of calm options like Sea Dragons and The Gruffalo River Ride. But seeing the animals was a big draw, which was rather appropriate since the previous visit was in time for the opening of Land of the Tiger, while she also had a roll around in soft play.
So now she was able to ride Griffin’s Galleon, I wasted no time in scooping her up and charging towards the vessel. Although there was a lap bar in place, that didn’t stop me from putting my arm around her, which was a comfort to us both. I kept looking down at her expression to see how she was getting on with the sailing ship and her expression was largely joyous, mingled with some mild confused trepidation. But that’s understandable right? It’s the point of roller-coasters. I typically feel the same way about going on rides with horrendous drops or, worse still, the tea cups. Why do they have to spin so much?!
With the baptism of fire done, we continued the strategy of crossing off rides that caught our eye as we went:
Forget ponies and flashing lights; this wooden jungle-style carousel was enjoyed by Roma so much we went on it three times – with two of those rides being back-to-back. Remember what I said about the rain meaning lack of queue time?
Gruffalo River Ride Adventure
Visitors who came back in the day may not have Professor Burp’s to share with their kids, but the chance to cruise along the water ride with a Gruffalo twist is an ideal revamp for this generation.
Room on the Broom
This felt familiar to the Gruffalo River Ride and for good reason – author Julia Donaldson is responsible for creating both books-turned-attractions. Running all year round, but feeling very apt for Halloween, the interactive story is set inside what looks like an old haunted mansion and tells the tale of a scatty witch who has lost numerous belongings. Guests are then tasked with making their way through the house to help find her missing items, with each room featuring a different backdrop. Roma was a bit apprehensive to get too involved with the hands-on tasks, something I put down to her being overwhelmed by the crowded nature of the walk-through experience, which means the entire group moves through each scenario together. Nonetheless, she wanted to go on it again the moment we got off. It was fine with me because it was still raining and offered shelter, but it was also really good fun and well orchestrated, so easily worth a second round.
I thought Roma being tall enough to ride Griffin’s Galleon was surprising but nothing shocked me more than this. When we started off towards the Scorpion Express, I presumed we were going to end up boarding a toddler-scale equivalent. Nope. She was able to get on the full-sized runaway mine train with me, which I find mind-blowing because it’s a ride that adults genuinely enjoy boarding for its wild and rapid blitzing around the tracks.
Toadie’s Crazy Cars
A Wind in the Willows-themed car ride that offered the chance for Roma to get behind the wheel and show she has what it takes to do her own nursery run now. With enough room for four passengers and more of a driving lesson than Grand Prix, my mum also buckled up for the ride.
We took a trip back to ancient Egypt and went all Indiana Jones on this quasar-fused ghost train, firing at the miscellaneous mummies and ghouls within the tombs in a bid to see who could get the top score. I spent so much time helping Roma, that I lost to both her AND my mum. I demand a rematch and next time and it’s every man, woman and child for themselves.
What goes up must come down on this classic “I’ve lost my stomach behind” experience that lifts you up to the treetops before, as the name suggests, you get hopped up and down around the leaves at random before finally coming back down to land.
Tuk Tuk Turmoil
Despite her being tall enough, I wouldn’t take her on these again for my own nervousness. The only victim in my sights for this was my mum, so I skirted around all the other riders to avoid any aggressive revenge attacks coming up. But when we finally managed to bump her, Roma went flying. I had my arm outstretched to complement the lap bar, but that was enough for me. Helpfully, our car seemed to seize up afterwards, so we were pretty much parked up and left motionless, which suited us just fine.
Given it was Halloween though, as is always the case for Merlin-owned theme parks, a series of spooky walkthroughs had been put together. While Alton Towers and Thorpe Park specialise in the fear factor though, the Chessington haunts were all family-friendly but varied in their level of creepiness and came with recommended ages – all of which are down to parental discretion.
We were offered a fast-track pass to Spyders, the latest attraction of the eerie variety to be introduced, which is a blend of the films Johnny English and Arachnophobia as guests are invited to join a group of not-so elite spies in attempt to take down a group of giant talking spiders – the name Spyders makes sense now, doesn’t it? With an advisory age of 8+, we quite literally laughed in the face of danger and joined the queue.
Roma has made her way through the Forbidden Forest at Hogwarts before and faced the terrors within Gringotts Bank, so a few eight-legged beasts would have been light work in my mind. Before entering we were told that, once in, there was no way out aside from the exit at the end, at which point a mum in our group asked if Roma would be okay. I assured her it was me who she should be most concerned about – I am not one for the arachnids unless I’m going to end up with superpowers at the end of the encounter.
As my suspicions confirmed, Roma was absolutely fine, though there was no chance she was going to walk through and clung to me for the duration. I think it was my mum who had the most to worry about inside, especially as one of the spidery actors demanded my mum’s participation in one of the rooms, which she was none too enthused about, though it certainly put a smile on my face – and a nervous one on hers. She wasn’t alone, the other mums in attendance and the older kids were equally full of squeals throughout.
We also went through the Trick or Treat Wood, a trek through a magical woodland area filled with fauns, fairies and, yes, more spiders. The outdoor nature of this meant it was immediately less chilling than Spyders, while all of the actors were clearly there for comic relief rather than to leave fear imprinted upon our souls.
All in all, it was a brilliant day and even the rain couldn’t dampen our spirits. In fact, with the appropriate attire, it could be said that a wet day is actually a better time to make a trip because it will cut down on queue time. Although I don’t have much to go on since the downpour has came out to play on both visits with Roma.