I was given free tickets to Blackgang Chine, but the words are my own.
Our visits to Blackgang Chine are best described as militaristic.
I take on the role of Captain Mainwaring and tell the platoon in which direction they need to be walking.
At first, Mrs Guru felt this was a little over the top but I am convinced it is the only option to avoid the day spiralling out of control.
The alternative is to say "where shall we go next?" to a group of children with differing desires and interests. This always leads to 1) an argument 2) public embarrassment and 3) empty threats about ice cream not being available later.
On our first visit to Blackgang Chine of 2023, we were joined by my brother's family so Captain Mainwaring was in a particularly bossy mood.
Start with the rides
Blackgang Chine is a mix of rides which you queue for and imagination type stuff which you wander round at your own pace.
My advice is to arrive at 10am and head straight for the rides. There's a golden hour at the start of the day when queue lengths are short, even on a busy day.
We were at the waterslide by 10.10am and managed to squeeze in three slides with a wait of only a couple of minutes each time. Child two sat it out, but child one whooshed down with aplomb.
You might spend the rest of the day with a soggy bottom but it's worth the risk.
Dinosaurs, Pirates and Sea Creatures
I didn't have the stomach for further rides, so I declared that it was time for the dinosaurs of Restricted Area 5 - which are perhaps my favourite attraction at Blackgang Chine.
Visitors who last came to Blackgang Chine when Thatcher was in power will be surprised to read that the dinosaurs now move. Fear not though, some of the original carbon fibre models are still there as well. They can still be clambered on and the landing when you fall off is now slightly softer.
Dodo Valley was next, which I would put into the 'charmingly quirky' category of things at Blackgang Chine. Other curiosities - such as the Weather Wizard and the Triassic Club of dining dinosaurs - are no longer at the park, but there is still plenty of weird stuff to enjoy.
My tough schedule went a bit wonky at that point because someone needed the toilet. A couple of stray children started playing on the pirate ship and squirting water at strangers. I considered putting a stop to this unplanned nonsense until Mrs Guru gave me a look which suggested I might want to chill out a little.
Singing cats and crooked floors
We ducked briefly into the Musical Pet Shop, which confirmed for me that Blackgang Chine still has an oddball charm about it. My brother found the cacophony of noise a little much and looked like he needed a lie down.
A few minutes later, I moved things along and ventured into the Crooked House. This has had an update since your school trip in 1996 with the curious mannequins being replaced with more cartoonish characters. Check out this video if you want a reminder of what the previous occupants looked like.
Sea creatures and Cowboys
Next up was the Underwater Kingdom, which was added to Blackgang Chine in 2017. We like this area, particularly the giant whale. Child one suggested that it could do with a playground to make it last longer, although it does have a sunken ship on its side which can be climbed through.
We then made our way to Cowboyland, which competes with the dinosaurs as my favourite part of Blackgang Chine. This is based on a combination of nostalgia, the views of the cliffs and the gravestone puns which are scattered around (Blackgang Chine is excellent at hiding little jokes for parents to find).
I had some sympathy for the enthusiastic Cowgirl who was belting out tunes in Cowboyland. All was going well until the rain appeared, prompting the gathered crowd to disperse and take shelter in the saloon.
After lunch, it was time for the maze and the children's barrel ride. I also dug into my pockets and paid £1 for a water firing game, since child two didn't want to go on the ride. This is very much unlike me, as I prefer to cling onto my pennies once I'm inside an attraction. It turned out to be a highlight, with several people getting drenched for 25% of the cost of the Radio Times.
The Ride Formerly Known As Cliffhanger
We then went on the Shipwrecked ride, which was just about at the limit for my weak stomach. Nearby, Blackgang Chine's rollercoaster - Cliffhanger - was dismantled and disappeared in 2022 after serving for 17 years. According to Wikipedia, the ride moved to Margate and is now called the Rock 'n Roller.
There's currently a sign saying that they are planning something to replace Cliffhanger.
This began a debate amongst us about what should be Blackgang Chine's next investment.
Child one and I decided that it should be a free-play arcade/gaming museum. A couple of dozen machines would be presented in chronological order telling the story of gaming through time from the 1980s to the 2020s. At one end you would have a Space Invaders or Pacman arcade machine whilst at the other end would be a two player Mario Kart Arcade GP machine or a motorbike racing game.
Everything would be free to play on and a holographic dodo would tell you random facts about how Pacman was based on a pizza with a slice missing. It would be particularly appealing to older children who could be left to play for hours (for free) whilst younger siblings went to Fairyland.
We are currently debating whether it should be called Free Play City, Arcadorama or The Museum of Fun.
Anyway, I digress...
Legs were getting weary so it was nearly time to leave Blackgang Chine. It was at this point that my brother casually announced that he would like to go on the new ride - Extinction.
I made it quite clear that I would not be joining him. A few years ago I went on a rollercoaster on a stag do and was forced to spend the rest of the day sitting under a tree whilst groaning.
Of course, this meant that I shifted from being Captain Mainwaring to Sergeant Wilson ("Do you think that's wise, Sir?"). My brother/Corporal Jones ignored me and joined the queue for the ride.
Extinction has two queues. You can either join the 120 degree queue which doesn't go over the top, or the 360 degree queue which goes the whole way. I am told that when it first arrived, it went over several times but has now been altered to just do one full loop.
I was sort of hoping that my brother would get off the ride looking pale, but he just said "that was a nice view" as if he had just climbed up to a viewpoint.
A few days later, I returned to Blackgang Chine on my own for a night time launch evening for Extinction. At first, I declined the opportunity to go on the ride.
Eventually, they offered to run the ride at a specially adapted lower height for any nervous children who wanted to give the ride a go. I gingerly raised my hand and climbed onto Extinction along with a nine year old girl. What a brave boy eh?
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