Oakwood Discussion

There are no safety issues at Oakwood, it’s easy for people to make that connection because of the Hydro tragedy, but lessons have been learnt and Oakwood’s safety standards are as good as any other UK park.

The appearance of the park is pretty run down, there’s no denying that. Aspro don’t look after the cosmetics in the way that they should. But it’s wrong to suggest that there’s safety issues, as that simply isn’t the case.
 
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NuttySquirrel

TS Member
The rides at Oakwood are subjected to as rigorous safety testing procedures as any other park in the country; if they weren't classified as safe then they just wouldn't be operating.

However I do think the park struggles with lack of investment; it's in a bit of backwater slapped in the middle of rural Pembrokeshire and just doesn't have the demographic reach to justify major spending. It's quite something that Megafobia was even built there in the first place.

There haven't been any major new attractions at the park for well over 15 years, it does give the sense of a park that's just limping along and Covid will have only made matters worse. It's unsurprising that aesthetic upkeep and improving the ride experience on their two main coasters aren't a priority right now.
 

Coaster

TS Member
I have to agree regarding Megafobia. It's one of my favourite rides in the UK, a truly fantastic coaster, but goodness me the condition it was in a couple of months ago when I rode was appalling. It needs the same sort of hefty re-tracking work that the Grand National has had.

Speed makes me feel very uncomfortable on its lift-hill. The clunks, the fact it runs at a quarter of the speed of any other Gerst vertical lift, the fact the track looks out of alignment if you're sat in the front and the horrendous crunching and groaning noises it makes as it crests the top of the hill.

If you watch a POV of Speed when it was newly opened, the lift-hill runs at normal speed and is virtually silent in comparison to nowadays; terrifying.
 

Matt N

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Mako (SeaWorld Orlando)
To evidence what @Coaster is talking about, here’s POVs from early on in the ride’s life and 2019.

2010 POV (courtesy of robbalvey):


2019 POV (courtesy of Pleasure Beach Experience):


The difference is surprisingly profound! The 2010 lift hill seems to go at about twice the speed and makes none of the noises that the 2019 one makes… the PBE crew even reference the lift hill’s slowness and noises in the later POV, which is really interesting!

I must say, my last ride on Speed back in 2019 must surely be up there as one of the most disconcerting roller coaster rides I’ve ever had. To start off with, the area was deserted, and we initially weren’t sure if it was even open. It was open, and me and my mum ended up being the only ones on it. To top that off, the lift hill was terrifyingly slow and made all sorts of horrid screeching noises, and at numerous points, it even seemed to sort of judder back and forth, as though as it was struggling to make it up…
 

Rick

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Crux
How much of this is about Oakwood vs. how much is just the Aspro way of doing things ? They have built two coasters during the last decade across their portfolio of five parks ... both those coasters are at Oakwood.

As much I would love to see £10m of something or other at Oakwood, I just don't see how it would pay for itself - ever. If it pays for itself as it is, it'll likely just keep doing so until it doesn't. I don't want to say Managed Decline, that's probably inaccurate, but if you can make a bit of money with what you have got, why wouldn't you ?

The park has had some large investments in the past, I grant - but you can't do that forever. I don't ever remember that place being crazy busy - that's not the intention, I don't think.
 

Matt N

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Mako (SeaWorld Orlando)
How much of this is about Oakwood vs. how much is just the Aspro way of doing things ? They have built two coasters during the last decade across their portfolio of five parks ... both those coasters are at Oakwood.

As much I would love to see £10m of something or other at Oakwood, I just don't see how it would pay for itself - ever. If it pays for itself as it is, it'll likely just keep doing so until it doesn't. I don't want to say Managed Decline, that's probably inaccurate, but if you can make a bit of money with what you have got, why wouldn't you ?

The park has had some large investments in the past, I grant - but you can't do that forever. I don't ever remember that place being crazy busy - that's not the intention, I don't think.
I imagine that the location is a fairly major struggle for the park. It’s extremely remote compared to just about every other UK theme park… even getting there from a major Pembrokeshire holiday spot like Tenby is surprisingly difficult. It took us half an hour to get there from near Tenby, and it is literally the first thing you see for miles and miles in that neck of the woods… everything else is just empty green fields.

And that’s before you get to the point that it’s a 3hr+ drive for a significant proportion of the UK… I’m not nearly as far from it as most, living less than 10 miles from the South Wales border, but it would even take 2.5 hours from my area!

Based on the amount of people on here and in other enthusiast circles who moan about how far of a drive it is from where they’re based, I’d imagine that the location alone would make it a hard sell for the vast majority of the UK…
 

JAperson

TS Member
Speeds lift is slow, loud and the jolt it does at the bottom is quite uncomfortable, but the ride itself is actually not that bad, I actually really quite enjoyed speed as a ride, it was good fun.

Oakwood certainly isn't in a great location although I don't really think it's the biggest hinderance to the park, that's the owners as @Rick has pointed out. They don't seem to be bothered about bringing attendance numbers up, they're more bothered about keeping similar levels and making that bit of money that they already make without any investment. It seems to be the way Aspro work with all there parks. If a company wanted Oakwood could be made a destination that people would travel out of there way to do but at the moment I don't think it's that. What the future holds for the place is unclear. I'm not sure it's in immediate danger of closing but I also don't think we are on track for anything major being added for a very long time.
 

Matt N

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Mako (SeaWorld Orlando)
Oakwood certainly isn't in a great location although I don't really think it's the biggest hinderance to the park, that's the owners as @Rick has pointed out. They don't seem to be bothered about bringing attendance numbers up, they're more bothered about keeping similar levels and making that bit of money that they already make without any investment. It seems to be the way Aspro work with all there parks. If a company wanted Oakwood could be made a destination that people would travel out of there way to do but at the moment I don't think it's that. What the future holds for the place is unclear. I'm not sure it's in immediate danger of closing but I also don't think we are on track for anything major being added for a very long time.
While it isn’t the only issue (as the saying goes; “if you build it, they will come!”), I don’t feel that the location helps. Even if Oakwood was the world’s greatest theme park, I feel like its remote location within rural Wales will always limit the number of people who will want to visit. As I said above; for the vast majority of the UK, it is over a 3 hour drive away. That is starting to get into “not possible in a day trip” territory; I know my family’s limit for a day trip to a theme park is about a 2.5 hour drive (for some idea, the driving distance from the Forest of Dean to Alton Towers is about 2.5 hours), and I’d wager that for many, Oakwood would be considered too long of a drive for what it offers, even if it was still putting in reasonably big hitters like it was during the McNamara era. I’m afraid that that will always limit a park’s financially feasible growth potential.

For what it’s worth, the Welsh Tourist Board first referred John Wardley to Oakwood to try and tell the McNamaras that they thought that building a theme park in that location would be an awful idea… the only reason the park came to fruition was because Wardley liked the McNamaras and their ideas when he went to visit them.
 

AT86

TS Member
While it isn’t the only issue (as the saying goes; “if you build it, they will come!”), I don’t feel that the location helps

Indeed, the big factor with that comes down to what the ‘IT’ is.

If you invest hundreds of millions of pounds turning Oakwood into the Disneyland of Wales then you might convince people it’s worth the journey. But I doubt Aspro can afford that.

If you spend tens of millions plusing the park to turn it more towards a good regional park, you probably still wouldn’t convince people to travel that far, and so you end up bankrupting your park.

Hence the much of a much-ness that Aspro appear to be doing.
 

Coaster

TS Member
I agree that Oakwood's location is challenging but there is also an opportunity there; it's the only theme park in the whole of Wales. There has to be a market for that, surely?
 

AT86

TS Member
There is a market, which is probably why Oakwood still exists in some capacity.

I guess it still provides an issue when it comes to location. Compare population size to a regional park like DMP.

The Birmingham urban area has a population of 2.9m across an area of 231 square miles.

Wales has a population of 3.1m across an area of 8,023 square miles. It can still be a fair old trek to Oakwood.
 

Matt N

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Mako (SeaWorld Orlando)
Oakwood isn’t just in Wales; it’s probably in one of the least accessible parts of Wales from the rest of the UK. If it were somewhere in South East Wales near to Cardiff or Swansea, or in North East Wales near to Wrexham (as just some examples), then you’re very near to a big proportion of Wales’ population and also accessible to a fair proportion of England for a day trip. Cardiff is only ~2h from Birmingham, ~1h 30m from Worcester and ~1h from Gloucester, Cheltenham and Bristol. Wrexham is ~30m from Chester, ~30m from Liverpool, ~1h from Manchester and Stoke-on-Trent and ~1h 30m from Birmingham.

Oakwood, on the other hand… yes, Pembrokeshire is a fairly popular holiday destination, but the only vaguely major population centre that is less than a 2 hour drive from it is Swansea, and unless you’re like me and live extremely close to the South Wales border, then Oakwood is likely to be a 3hr+ drive for you if you live in England (and likely an utterly ludicrous drive if you live in Scotland…). For some perspective, I’m based in the Forest of Dean, less than 10 miles from the South Wales border in Chepstow, and Oakwood is 2.5 hours from me… even for me who’s very close to the Welsh border, it’s the very furthest I’d feasibly be able to travel for a day trip. I went there on a school trip once; my secondary school was literally on the Welsh border, and it took nearly 3 hours to get there by coach.

If it had been located even a little bit further east, I feel like its success prospects would be somewhat greater. There clearly is a market for the park, or else it wouldn’t be here today, but I feel like that market would have been greater had it been located elsewhere in Wales.
 

Thameslink Rail

TS Member
Favourite Ride
The Smiler
Timings according to Google Maps
Swansea 1hr 6mins
Cardiff 1hr 44mins
Newport 1hr 47mins
Bristol 2hr 32mins
If I lived in Swansea I might conside Oakwood a reasonable day trip, not sure I would if I lived in Cardiff or Newport.

As a rough comparison
Wolverhampton to Alton Towers is 1hr 6mins
Milton Keynes to Alton Towers in 1hr 50mins

I guess in the 1980s Pembrokeshire was a popular holiday location so families would have done Oakwood along with walks and fun at the beach. I would have guessed the number of holiday makers there has declined but I haven't been for a while.
 

Shaggy_Dog_

TS Member
I agree that Oakwood's location is challenging but there is also an opportunity there; it's the only theme park in the whole of Wales. There has to be a market for that, surely?

It is indeed the only theme park in Wales but its remoteness could still be a problem for many.

I’m just looking at Google Maps and according to them if someone lived in Cardiff then Oakwood would be a 1hr 55 drive. However Paulton’s Park is 2hr 27 and Drayton Manor is 2hr 36 and arguably they are much more attractive parks to visit and worth the thirty or forty minutes each way for some people.

And it’s a similar story for someone living in North Wales. Wrexham to Oakwood is 3hr 30, yet it’s only 1hr 30 to Towers or 1hr 55 to Blackpool Pleasure Beach. And that’s the thing really, they built the park in a remote location and it isn’t really that much of a draw these days to be honest in that apart from Megafobia and Speed (which both seem to have seen better days) and Hydro there isn’t really that much of a reason to make a long journey to it.

Edit - Just seen that a similar point about driving times has already been made above.
 

Skyscraper

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Nemesis
It is indeed the only theme park in Wales but its remoteness could still be a problem for many.

I’m just looking at Google Maps and according to them if someone lived in Cardiff then Oakwood would be a 1hr 55 drive. However Paulton’s Park is 2hr 27 and Drayton Manor is 2hr 36 and arguably they are much more attractive parks to visit and worth the thirty or forty minutes each way for some people.

And it’s a similar story for someone living in North Wales. Wrexham to Oakwood is 3hr 30, yet it’s only 1hr 30 to Towers or 1hr 55 to Blackpool Pleasure Beach. And that’s the thing really, they built the park in a remote location and it isn’t really that much of a draw these days to be honest in that apart from Megafobia and Speed (which both seem to have seen better days) and Hydro there isn’t really that much of a reason to make a long journey to it.

Edit - Just seen that a similar point about driving times has already been made above.
It's a former potato farm if I remember correctly, hence why the site is remote.
 

Coaster

TS Member
It is indeed the only theme park in Wales but its remoteness could still be a problem for many.

I’m just looking at Google Maps and according to them if someone lived in Cardiff then Oakwood would be a 1hr 55 drive. However Paulton’s Park is 2hr 27 and Drayton Manor is 2hr 36 and arguably they are much more attractive parks to visit and worth the thirty or forty minutes each way for some people.

And it’s a similar story for someone living in North Wales. Wrexham to Oakwood is 3hr 30, yet it’s only 1hr 30 to Towers or 1hr 55 to Blackpool Pleasure Beach. And that’s the thing really, they built the park in a remote location and it isn’t really that much of a draw these days to be honest in that apart from Megafobia and Speed (which both seem to have seen better days) and Hydro there isn’t really that much of a reason to make a long journey to it.

Edit - Just seen that a similar point about driving times has already been made above.
Yeah that's true, although you can look at Alton Towers and that's in the middle of nowhere yet attracts customers from all over.

I guess ultimately Oakwood needs a massive investment into the park and into marketing, but no-one's willing to make that, so it plods?
 

Skyscraper

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Nemesis
Yeah that's true, although you can look at Alton Towers and that's in the middle of nowhere yet attracts customers from all over.

I guess ultimately Oakwood needs a massive investment into the park and into marketing, but no-one's willing to make that, so it plods?
Towers is centrally located though, making it a reasonable distance from most places in the country.
 

Shaggy_Dog_

TS Member
Yeah that's true, although you can look at Alton Towers and that's in the middle of nowhere yet attracts customers from all over.

I guess ultimately Oakwood needs a massive investment into the park and into marketing, but no-one's willing to make that, so it plods?

Alton Towers might seem like it’s in the middle of nowhere once you turn off the motorway but it’s not really that remote. There are several large towns that aren’t too far away from it, so it’s easier to find cheap hotels in the wider area and make say a weekend of it by having two days at the park. I live a fair distance away so if I’m coming to Towers a couple of times a year I’ll find a cheap Premier Inn room at Derby for example and then drive the 40 minutes to the park in the morning. You don’t seem to have that with Oakwood and it’s not really a two day park either is it.

But the real difference though is that many people see Alton Towers as a decent park that is well worth travelling a long distance for, whereas with Oakwood they don’t. Even with massive marketing Oakwood still wouldn’t have that same draw. Sure, the remote location really doesn’t help but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of quality rides there though and that’s just as big a problem with it.
 
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Matt N

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Mako (SeaWorld Orlando)
Most of South Wales (including Cardiff) and much of mid Wales is under 2 hours drive, Matt.
That is true about South and Mid Wales, but in terms of major population hubs (i.e. large towns and cities), my searching through Maps suggested it was only Swansea within a 2 hour drive. Cardiff came up as 2h 2m, although that could admittedly have been caused by congestion (I didn’t look too closely).

Even then, though, you’d only be reaching Swansea, Cardiff and Newport within 2 hours, which aren’t huge population centres compared to some others in England.

My point was more; had the park been located further east in Wales, it would still be reachable for the bulk of West Wales, would be very close to some of Wales’ most major population centres, and could also have tapped into a fair few English population centres as well.

I’m preparing a more in-depth post comparing the potential reach of Oakwood to the potential reach of Cardiff and Wrexham to show you what I mean, but it’s taking a lot longer than I’d anticipated… that probably won’t come until tomorrow, as it’s taking a surprisingly long time!
 
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