Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Thomas Land has Expanded!

Last Wednesday we were invited to Thomas Land to attended the opening of it's £2.5 million expansion, which has seen it increase in size by 40%. Thomas Land is situated within Drayton Manor Theme Park nr Tamworth, Staffordshire which is celebrating its 65th anniversary this year!  Being Kent-dwellers, this is not as local to us I we would like and organising the 3 hours plus car journey around rush hour took some planning.

This was to be our 3rd visit to Thomas Land.  C is still as mad about trains as she was for our first visit a year ago, and now B (no doubt spurred on by his sister) is really starting to take an interest too.  He loves playing with the Thomas Wooden Railway at home and is starting to pay more attention to the TV series. 

If Daddy had had his way we would have been in the car at 5am to try and clear the M25 before 7am,  We compromised on 6am and were fortunate to have a very good journey up, arriving to Thomas Land soon after 10am.

Because it was the Easter Holidays the car park was already busy.  We were handed our tickets, before making our way into the Park and round into Thomas Land.  The expanded area is on your left as you enter Thomas Land and you feel the additional space immediately as you walk in. Tidmouth Station now feels very much at the centre of things rather than at one side.

Once inside the new area we began to explore what was on offer. C was desperate to try out some of the rides but we needed to wait until the official opening at 11am.  On the plus side this have us time to walk around and really appreciate what was on offer.

Taking centre stage in the new area is the Sodor Airport Terminal.  Downstairs this houses a new coffee shop serving both hot and cold food.  Upstairs are a VIP area and function rooms that can be hired out for parties and other events.

The band on the bandstand kept us entertained with Thomas themed tunes until 11am when the Fat Controller made his way on to the terminal balcony for the official opening.  It was a very privileged feeling to be part of the opening ceremony and fun to watch each ride individually spring into life as it was officially opened.

We asked C which ride she wanted to go on first and she led us straight to the Flynn's Fire Rescue. Typically this had the longest queue but C waited extremely patiently for her turn.  Flynn's Fire Rescue has a water theme.  The ride consisted of a roundabout of Flynn's with a "fire" in the centre that needs to be put out by those manning Flynn's hoses.  There is also the option to drive Flynn and keep away from the wet action.  C opted to drive which left Mummy to stand on the back and hose out the fire.  Those on fire duty on the back, stand for the duration of the ride however are locked into a secure "cage" to ensure safety.
The thing I particularly liked about this ride is that although water themed, the fire hoses were fixed so that you could only attempt to put out the fire, and not turn and fire at others on another engine.  I know C would have been beside herself if someone had thought it funny to soak her!

Next to Flynn was Captain's Sea Adventure.  For those not as avid Thomas fans as us, Captain is the lifeboat who works at the Sodor Search and Rescue Centre.  Not surprisingly then, this was also a water ride.  Unlike Fiery Flynn, you do have the opportunity to get your fellow ride-goers wet on this ride.  For this reason, we decided to content ourselves watching others rather than going on it ourselves.

Next Daddy took B on Jeremy Jets.  This is not a new ride, but has moved to a sensible new location outside the new Sodor Airport Terminal.  C remembered that she did not like this ride when we last came to Thomas Land 6 months ago and refused to ride on it this time.  I can see B is going to be a dare devil though when he is older as, even at 16 months old, he loved it!

The other original ride that has moved location as part of the expansion is the Blue Mountain Engines.  This was another ride that B loved and C hated.  In fact he went on it 3 times in a row and was not impressed at being pulled off after that.

The final new ride was Toby's Tram Express. Considering what a slow, laid back engine Toby is, I was expecting a much more gentle ride than this "bucking bronco" type experience.  The minimum height for this is 1m which both C and B are still below, therefore we did not have an option to try this out. 

Considering the site has expanded by 40% it is a shame that there are only actually 3 new rides.  I must admit, I had been expecting more.  Having said that a dedicated coffee shop within Thomas Land is a welcome addition.  We were especially tempted by the large portions of cake available!

C had a go at the hook-a-duck stall and won a Thomas cushion.  She insisted on hugging in all the way home in the car and has taken it to bed with her every night since we have been home!  I much preferred this to the "get the ball in the bucket" stall also on the site as the chances of walking away with a prize are higher.  It was extremely difficult trying to explain to a 2 year old on our last visit that we hadn't been able to win a toy.

As the expansion gates opened to the general public we took the opportunity for a break and a picnic lunch before heading off to our favourite rides in the rest of the park.  We walked up to the zoo for a change of scenery before catching Percy and his mail train back into Thomas Land.  C opted to go on the Winston Whistle Stop Tour monorail and the Sodor Classic Cars. Daddy and B went on Diesel's Locomotive Mayhem - definitely an adrenaline junkie in the making!

By now C was visibly exhausted.  It had been a long day with an early start.  It was tempting to stay longer but will C flagging we also knew in the back of our minds that if we left now we had a chance of clearing the M25 before rush hour - a blessing that should not be underestimated!  We therefore decided to call it a day.

I wish we lived nearer and could come more regularly.  It really is a special place for train mad youngsters.  Since we have got back C has told everyone we have seen about her Thomas Land visit.  We will no doubt be back again later this season.

Disclaimer: We were given free entry to the Thomas Land Expansion launch event for the purposes of this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own

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