Many visitor to the Isle of Wight remember exploring the magic of Blackgang Chine as a child, as it has been a staple British holiday favourite for over 150 years now.
Blackgang Chine is one of the oldest theme parks in the country, if not the world. Ever since the original owner, Alexander Dabell, dragged a beached whale from the Needles to his newly opened Chine gardens in 1843, for everyone to see the enormous beast’s bleached bones, there have been people flocking to see the attractions on offer.
Nowadays there is so much more to see and do, with bits being added practically every year. Newer attractions such as the roller coaster ‘Cliff Hanger’ and the ‘Waterforce’ shutes are the most thrilling and adrenalin pumping activities that are on a par with larger amusement parks and a great hit with kids of all ages.
But it’s the oldies but goodies that everyone loves. The maze with its lofty viewing platform from which relatives and friends shout directions. The lifesize dinosaurs on the steep cliff walk who’ve had a new paint job this year – the blue Brontosaurus is an interesting colour combo. Those of a certain age remember Blue Peter covering their arrival back in the sixties.
The Crooked House has been moved a few times, because of subsequent cliff falls, since it was first installed in 1968, but Blackgang wouldn’t be Blackgang without it. Frontier Town must be the only place where you can buy a gun and shoot people – albeit with caps and while you’re pretending to be a cowboy/girl. It’s all so refreshingly non PC.
Walk a little further on and you find the brand new Fairy Castle and Fairyland, which, as everyone has just bought guns, is somewhat incongruously being defended from the battlements by hoards of tiny gunslingers. Little girls love the little fruity fairy homes below too.
Need more exercise? Then there is the giant Snakes and Ladders game next door with loads of steps to climb and slides to take you much faster back down to the bottom.
Want to be scared? Make sure you visit Rumpus Mansion with its eerie inhabitants. Or pay a visit to the dinosaur’s dinner with more monsters to terrify tiny tots.
The enormous fibreglass whale that you enter at your peril, being squirted with water for your troubles, is always full of children screaming with laughter. And Hell’s Mouth is another garish cavern for those who dare to crawl into it. What’s not to like about being curious and scared in equal measure? You wouldn’t experience this on a computer screen.
But there is a large screen where you can taste The Wight Experience, a helicopter ride around the Island, and some parts are pretty exhilarating – especially as you climb the cliffs at Luccombe or race along the coastline, with the whirring of the helicopter in your ears.
The park also goes to some length to educate the visitor on the history of the surrounding area, the landslides and what might have been nearby in days of yore. A reconstruction of a Victorian sawmill, with the various trades associated with wood. Old steam traction engines and other ancient machinery that would have been used in the fields and local industry long ago.
Blackgang got its name from the local band of brigands who used to plunder the shipwrecks around this coast, so there is a smugglers cave to explore. But pirates have got in on the act too and a new pirate themed area opens next year. The lofty pirate themed Cross Bones Adventure Island playground that spans the walkways near the way out is very popular – how can those kids still have any energy?
And don’t forget the hall of distorting mirrors – another of the original attractions from the mid 1800s that everyone still loves.Blackgang Chine - the UK's original theme park,