The Swarm, Thorpe Park.
The Swarm, Thorpe Park.

A Family Break at Thorpe Park, Surrey

My eldest son’s been nuts about rollercoasters since hitting the magic 1.4m. Thorpe Park about 30 minutes outside central London was top of his hit list, mainly so he (read 'we') could try The Swarm Backwards. The apocalypse-themed Swarm itself was as the UK’s first winged rollercoaster – which for non-buffs means its seats dangle out over the each side of the track. The reversing of the last two rows of the ride made it the first UK coaster you can ride backwards in its entirety. Its other USP is its ‘near misses’ – at certain points it seems you’re going to crash into props including an airplane wing and a billboard.

Whichever way you ride it, The Swarm pulls no punches with its first, inverted drop – meaning that it goes upside down as it plummets down. The feeling this gives you is quite indescribable, especially if you are riding on the front row, as we were. As for riding it backwards – I found this actually quite unpleasant, because obviously you can’t see what’s about to happen. But Ethan loved it and was completely divided as to which way he preferred riding it.

"Thorpe Park is definitely best for those who like to be thrown around, flipped upside down or spun violently through the air."

The weather wasn’t kind to us on this Easter break, with some rides (notably the horror-themed Saw and 10-inversion Colossus) closed for safety reasons due to the cold. However, we did try the super-terrifying Stealth, a booster coaster shooting you from 0 to 80 mph in 1.8 seconds, taking you up and over a 60m ‘top hat’ and into a 90° twist (the added frisson being that sometimes it doesn’t make it to the top of the ‘hat’ and rolls down backwards), and also Nemesis: The Inferno, a hanging coaster that takes you upside-down four times.

Thorpe Park markets itself primarily to ages 16–34 and ‘up for it families’, but we were pleasantly surprised, when he returned at the end of the summer holidays, to find plenty to entertain Ethan’s younger brothers – frankly, they could easily have spent all day in Wet Wet Wet with its outdoor waterslides for all ages, or on Amity Beach, which made us feel that we were at the seaside. Nonetheless, Thorpe Park is definitely best for those who like to be thrown around, flipped upside down or spun violently through the air, as Ethan discovered anew when he finally got to try out Saw and Colossus – and to reexperience his favourite The Swarm again, and again, and again…

Rhonda and family stayed on-site, at the hotel subsequently converted to the THORPE SHARK hotel.

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