For the first time, Alton Towers kindly gave enthusiast websites and vloggers a sneak peek at this year’s new coaster, Wicker Man. We’ve been following construction of the project closely and with great anticipation, to see just what would appear in the space formerly home to The Flume. Construction of the ride has progressed well over the last 15 months, with the lift topping out in July 2017, track installation being completed before the end of the 2017 season and landscaping being completed in sections throughout construction. Scheduled to open on the park’s first operating day of the season, Saturday 17th March, the area and ride are now largely completed, ready for guests in a little over a week’s time.
We’ve put together a quick overview of the ride along with a sprinkling of our own opinions.
With the IMAscore produced soundtrack blaring from the speakers around the area, standing at the entrance you can really notice the scale of the theming structure. Smoke and mist pours out, and screens with flame effects are embedded within, with lighting and real flame effects on the shoulders creating an impressive sight.
Themed signs point to what could be contained within
Rather than a standard cattlepen as seen in the likes of The Smiler, Wicker Man’s queue meanders up and down the terrain as riders make their way toward the preshow building and station. A zoned approach to construction saw parts of the queue line finished very early on in construction. This allowed the resort to install theming elements throughout.
The varying heights throughout the queueline give plenty of different views as guests wait to ride
The sound tunnels have now been themed, with Wicker Man flags and bunting being added to the lift hill. When on the ride, a smoke machine inside hides the train’s route as it heads toward the first drop.
The preshow itself is being kept as a surprise for guests, so no photos or video have been allowed of that so far. We can say that the round shaped room is themed from top to bottom, and the audio within is impressively clear and loud! Moving into the station itself after the preshow, it’s also well themed. The highlight being a huge animated fire wall which covers the length of the exit platform.
The ride itself is a solid and really enjoyable family coaster. If you’ve ridden smaller GCI coasters such as White Lightning at Fun Spot Orlando, then solely as a ride it’s a sensible comparison. There’s some great moments of airtime, particularly on the first drop and we would definitely recommend hitting the back row if you can. Like most wooden coasters, the ride noticeably warms up the longer it operates and so end of day rides could be fantastic. As with GCI’s other wooden coasters such as Wodan at Europa-Park, we can imagine the speed of the ride will only get better with age.
That said, the ride is not perfect, with a lengthy corner section in the middle of the ride giving a break in pacing. It’s something those who enjoy the non stop nature of some other wooden coasters may not welcome whereas others, particularly down at the 1.2m minimum height, may appreciate.
What really lifts this from a good ride to a great one is the experience as a whole. The theming, soundtrack, preshow and ride gel together to create an experience that really is a next level up from the resort’s recent additions to the theme park.
The longer operating days for Scarefest and Fireworks, and the added bonus of dark rides will no doubt have the ride looking seriously impressive. That said, Wicker Man does still look great in the daylight. On our first walk around the ride, rays of sunshine were piercing through the mist and smoke, creating an impressive effect against the blue sky.
Time will tell whether the myriad of effects that feature throughout the attraction stand the rigours of long operating seasons, but for now Wicker Man certainly surpassed our expectations. If you’re heading to the resort for opening day, you’re in for a treat!
We’d also like to say a massive thank you to the team at Alton Towers for putting this event together. It’s the first time the resort have chosen to involve enthusiasts in this way, and we hope that it becomes the first of many.