Remembering Aquasplash, the child-swallowing deathtrap you couldn’t get enough of

That big green bowl though

You will see many things in your life, and you’ll experience many incredible places – but none of them will compare to Aquasplash.

Aquasplash was a mystical destination, a place that existed in a pre-internet world where phrases like “health hazard” and “mastic goo” (both from their now-defunct TripAdvisor) didn’t have the power to put you off.

Sure, we all knew Aquasplash was a disaster waiting to happen: but up until the point it was literally torn down, it was a glorious monument to our wild and reckless childhoods.

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It never looked this clean

The glorious entry

As Jarman Park became visible through the car windows, you started to become short of breath. There it was, that looming yellow monument to all that was fun, blue and green slides coiling around it like huge flimsy arms welcoming you in.

You couldn’t do it all fast enough. The near-sprint from the car, the queue at the barrier, the floor-to-ceiling plexiglass windows by the entrance teasing you about what was to come. Even the dirty plasters, hairballs and unidentifiable stains in the changing rooms couldn’t put you off. You were home.

The walk through the kid’s pool

There was one more obstacle you’d be forced to face before the fun began: the kid’s pool. Leaving your parents and their friends chatting away on shiny plastic lawn chairs, you’d wade in – dodging between nappied little brats and a clumsily decorated metal water feature spraying you with lukewarm water.

Whether it was the painfully gentle gradient or the amount of urine in the water bogging you down, it would feel like eternity before you finally reached the lazy river at the other end.

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The lazy river

The river would immediately take you, and you’d be swept up in a steady stream of young dreamers in half-deflated rubber tubes. Occasionally you’d find an empty one, meaning you’d be able to skip the queue round the corner where the staff dispensed them.

Regardless, you were probably going to end up getting dunked out of yours by a little shit from Redbourn or a Watford hardman’s dad.

The big green space bowl

This was the main event, the centrepoint of Aquasplash which the lazy river and its inhabitants obediently orbited. The slide itself wasn’t anything special but that bowl – that bowl. Round and round you’d spin, like a used tissue in a toilet bowl, occasionally snagging bits of your skin on protruding bumps in the basin.

If they didn’t injure you, your exit definitely would: because no-one in the history of mankind has ever dropped out of that tiny hole without banging their head.

The rapids

The half hour of your life that you wasted queuing up for the rapids was always worth it – they were the most talked about ride at Aquasplash. Once you and your mates got to the front of the queue you’d jump into water and two of them would be sucked away by the 5mph current. You’d scream and wave as they sped off into the distance onto the next section of the rapids.

Laughing to hide your tears was the only way to make it through this ride, as the currents pulled you under and choked you. You were basically drowning, but you didn’t give a fuck. Plasters and smaller children whizzed past you trying to battle the treacherous water. You’d find your friend gripping onto the side in the final section with their legs being pulled forward by the current. You’d then both hold hands as you made your way down the final slide sighing in relief that your near death experience was almost over.

The blue slide which was always closed

You’d queue shivering on the white steps to the blue and green slides, never leaning over or looking down at the people beneath you as your mate told you a kid once fell down the gap on the side of the stairs and died. It might not have been true, but you didn’t fancy testing out the frayed green netting either way.

The blue rubber ring slide was rarely open and if it was, it was the biggest anticlimax – most times your rubber ring would get stuck going round the bend due to the lack of water running through the ride, and you’d have to manually push the sides of the tunnel to get you through to the end.

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You shall not pass

The slide which briefly took you outside

I’M OUTSIDE! I’M OUTSIDE! You’d get really inordinately excited by this tiny bit of your waterslide experience, even though you were still just in a leaking plastic tube and all that had changed for three seconds was the lighting.

The racing slides

Let’s be honest, you only went on these if literally everything else was busy/closed.

The jacuzzi

You and your friend would awkwardly slink into the lukewarm jacuzzi in your hot pink Tammy tankini, joining three pre-pubescent boys sitting around not knowing where to put their feet. The jacuzzi chat with creepy 10-year-olds was so bad all you could do was gaze at passers by in the lazy river praying they would get bored of trying to make chat and get out to see if the queue for the rapids had gone down.

The awkward cafe section

Your parents must have been the most patient people in the world, because they’d just sit there in the plastic chairs the whole time and talk and drink coffees and talk some more. How were they not tempted by the space bowl? What was stopping them itching to go on the rapids?

All that you knew was if you lost your mate on the lazy river and had to go wait by the parents’ table in your stripy towel before heading back to the slides, it would feel like the longest, most excruciating torture you could possibly experience.

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That decor though

The unisex showers

Aquasplash’s memorable Hawaiian decor was most apparent through the tacky unisex shower huts. You’d stand there awkwardly in the communal semicircular shower with six or seven other kids watching you as your mum passed your L’Oréal Kids No More Tears Shampoo through the little peephole.

Standing and facing the wall to wash your shivering, bony body was more bearable than having to make eye contact with complete randomers.

The inevitable meal afterwards

After a brief jaunt in the arcade with soaking wet hair, it was time to fill your stomachs and regain the energy you’d lost from all the death you’d spent the day defying. The possibilities may not have been endless, but the ice cream at the Pizza Hut buffet was.

There or Burger King? You were going to get sweets in your party bag anyway, so you weren’t exactly picky.

This piece is part of a series on shit attractions that you – mystifyingly – loved as a child. Want to write about your unmerry merry-go-round? Email [email protected] to volunteer yours. 

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