Nothing will ever be as exciting as Pleasurewood Hills was
We’re talking the 90s version, without the swanky new rides
It’s not as big as Alton Towers, nor as exciting as Thorpe Park, but Pleasurewood Hills in Lowestoft was our alternative and we absolutely loved it.
I’m not talking about the Pleasurewood Hills of today, with its newly built thrill rides such as Wipe Out and Fireball. You kids of today don’t know how lucky you are.
I’m talking about the glory days. The days before people were too bothered talking about health and safety, before we had the internet, when children still enjoyed playing outside. I’m talking about the theme park of the 90s, when all we had were the original rides.
It took an hour and a half exactly to get there from our house. We would leave early on a summer’s morning, always arriving way before the opening time and would have to wait impatiently in the car park for half an hour for the theme park to open.
Ten on the dot we would race through the rusty blue gates and would hardly be able to stand still long enough to pose for a picture with Woody bear, the mascot, before sprinting into Suffolk’s biggest attraction.
Situated near the entrance, up first was always the Pirate Ship. You clambered aboard, elbowing off other children to secure a back row seat. Then began th screaming matches between each side as we took it in turns to be swung high into the air. The screams from that ship could be heard all over the park. You’d get off, already feeling a little queasy.
Up next was Mousetrap. Remember that board game? With all those flimsy plastic pieces which would fall apart half way through the game? We had a rollercoaster version of that. With all the tight bends and curves you always felt like you were dangerously close to being flung straight off the rails, but you took your chances.
And how could anyone forget Snake in the Grass? It may be a child’s rollercoaster but this ride was certainly not for the faint-hearted. They should have considered calling it rattlesnake, as that’s what it did: rattled. The whole way round the carriage juddered so hard along the tracks that getting off without bruises was impossible.
But then again, perhaps Snake in the Grass was a better name, considering it was built around trees and if you didn’t keep your arms in this carriage, you would be dodging the branches hanging over the track – and if you were over the age of ten you probably had to duck to avoid knocking yourself out on trees. This isn’t to say it wasn’t a fantastic ride though. It was the favourite and if you were lucky, you’d even be sent round more than once in one go.
Next to Snake in the Grass were the dodgems. This is where the local Lowestoft boys hung out, waiting to get their own back on all us tourist children daytripping at their theme park. These little cars were brutal, and you, over-eager, would always end up in tears or nursing a busted lip.
Then it was time for lunch. You’d sit on benches eating burgers and chips whilst Mum would shout at you for fussing about the wasps. “Just eat your food, they won’t hurt you,” she’d say.
To be fair, she was right. She forgot to warn us about the aggressive ducks though. They’d go to any length necessary to try and steal a chip. One of them actually bit me once.
You’d ‘let your lunch go down’ on the cable cars – that mistake we all made, queueing up for half an hour for a ride that’s so boring you considered throwing yourself off after five minutes. Plus there were always some little fuckers in the car in front spitting on the people below.
Then it was time for the younger siblings to have their turn. Who invited them? You’d have to waste at least half an hour of your day watching them on the flying elephants or the vintage cars. At least when it was time to go on the carousel you could join them.
The sea lion show was fun for all the family: it’s billed on the website as “the jewel in the Pleasurewood Hills crown for over two decades”. If you got a front row seat you might have been invited to take part.
You didn’t save the best until last – only the wettest. The first of the water rides was the rapids. You’d queue up the stairs with yellow dinghies carried over your heads and fight over who got to go with Dad (it didn’t take long to work out the boats with the most weight in them went the fastest.)
Down you would shoot, a bruise on the bum after the first bump and that weird squinty look we all had in the photo, trying to stop the water getting in our eyes. The log flume was the last ride of the day. Not high enough to give you an actual thrill, only to cause enough of a splash to make you cold and miserable.
Tired, wet and hungry, with a souvenir Woody bear stuffed under your arm, you’d strip off in the car park, ride home in your pants and after your McDonald’s dinner fall asleep for the drive home, already dreaming of next summer’s visit.
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.