Is Camelot an abandoned Knightmare?

When Airgates first started publishing online, Camelot Theme Park was a thriving destination for families, couples and groups looking for a great day out.

This small Theme Park in Chorley, Lancashire was home to Knightmare, a rare custom rollercoaster that was made by both Schwarzkopf and Zierer and the legendary line-up also consisted of a good selection of rides that were perfect for the whole family from Whirlwind and Falcon’s Flight to the Dragon Coaster and Pendragon’s Plunge, they also had regular Jousting Knights shows throughout the season provided by Lionheart Entertainments.

It had the charm, the character, a great theme and a good atmosphere to be one of Britain’s best theme parks, and in many people’s eyes it was. It may have not had the Heritage background like Blackpool Pleasure Beach or owned by the big league competitors; Merlin Entertainments, but it was still a great day out for the whole family. However, this is just how we saw it as fans of the Theme Park. It was things behind the scenes that had caused for concern, as Camelot had suffered from bad reviews based on their pricing to gain entry and the park even scored badly based on their catering options, gaining joint bottom in a survey taken in 2006. Camelot even went into receivership in early 2009, with the park not opening again until May of that year when Story Group purchased the park and leased it to Knights Leisure.

The worst thing about Camelot in their final years right up to closure was a severe lack of investment. Knightmare opened in 2007 and five years later in it’s final season, Knightmare was still the latest ride in the park and they instead invested in mediocre investments like a Birds of Prey centre, not really something to bring the crowds in. However this may have not been Camelot’s fault as then owners of Camelot Theme Park – Story Group wanted to step away from the Theme Park era of Camelot and transfer the site into Housing Development, meaning that the investment had slowed down to near none existent because the owners didn’t want it to succeed anymore.

So after quite a bad year for Camelot Theme Park in 2012, the park was closed forever after  29 years of operation as a Theme Park. The Legend was no more; the Knights had stopped jousting and Whirlwind had spun it’s last for Camelot. The then Managing Director would go onto blame the closure on very poor summer weather and events such as London 2012 as things that led to it’s demise. But it really was the fact the Story Group are a construction company and Theme Parks aren’t their cup of tea, and they want to build so many Houses on the site.

 

Nearly three years after the closure, the former Lancashire park is completely unrecognizable in places, as a documentary from broadcaster Channel Four has shown the park as it is now. It is empty, abandoned and in a state of disrepair. The footage is quite eerie, reminds me of a Horror Movie set and is a shadow of what it once was. Back in the day the now empty paths would have been busy and buzzing with tons of eager guests, waiting to get on the rides and experience the attractions. Most rides have been bought by other Theme Parks, such as Southport Pleasureland, Gulliver’s World and Oakwood Theme Park. Even, Whirlwind was bought by Skyline Park in Germany, where it now operates as ‘Skyspin’.

Back to present day, Camelot as shown in the documentary is still as it was at the end of 2012, but now has badly decayed with most ex-ride sites left with massive holes and a number of Arson attacks have took their toll along with the weather, which as you can see in the Documentary, has destroyed the Castle, which looks ready to collapse at any given minute and is nothing like how it used to be. The park seems very lonely, and a sad sight indeed, especially for fans of the park, who grew up with the Theme Park as a kid. A very small number of rides remain on the site including The Ghost Train, Dragon Coaster and Knightmare, all now open to the elements and a lack of maintenance. Knightmare is potentially getting a new lease of life at Southport Pleasureland, if the rumours are true. But, the Dungeons of Doom ghost train and The Dragon Coaster are now in such a bad way, it would be uneconomical to attempt repairs. The site is now a prime location for Urban Exploration, however to prevent this a security team are on the site daily.

Story Group despite getting rejected time after time still own the park land and plan to build 420 houses on the site. However, it has been unanimously rejected by Chorley Council in August 2014, as the development was not permissible within the Green Belt,and they would much rather use the site for leisure purposes. Meaning that Camelot Theme Park is stuck in a loophole,  like most closed UK based Theme Parks, nothing happens with future development. Frontierland, American Adventure, Rhyl’s Ocean Beach and Loudoun Castle all have proposed developments i.e. Hotels, Golf and Housing, but nothing ever comes to fruition.

The Wizard may have left and Camelot Theme Park maybe gone forever, but one thing that the documentary has shown is that the “Legend Lives On” as the memories of the magical kingdom will last a lifetime and be one to share with the next generation. Plus, with social media today, you can go back and watch some of the rides and attractions in their entirety and go back to when Camelot was a perfect Family sized Day Out.