There is nothing you can say about the Camelot Theme Park any longer to sell it as an exciting, thrilling destination for a fun day out with the kids on a sunny summer's day, for like King Arthur himself the theme park has passed on into the mists of time to become the stuff of legend!
But not so for the average urb-exer. The park closed its doors at the end of the 2012 season for the very last time and now it stands empty and forlorn practically begging to be explored.
Time and tide wait for no man and in the cut-throat world of entertainment one must constantly strive to stay ahead. Sadly Camelot could not. At risk of sounding rather over critical I would suggest that perhaps Camelot was always the poor cousin to the likes of Alton Towers, though it must be said that it did have a few serious rides such as "Excalibur", and the whole Arthurian legend was exploited to great effect not least with battling knights in armour in the jousting enclosure.
The slightly seedy, down at heel feel could not be more readily apparent than now just six short months after the theme park's final closure in October last year. The operators state that the Olympic Games and the Queen's Jubilee celebrations together with unseasonably bad summer weather affected them so badly that they could not continue however I would suggest that had they actually continuously inputted sufficiently into the "Pot of Kid Appeal" then they may well not have had to blame factors which affected everyone last year, not just Camelot. A brief foray onto the well known internet review site Trip Advisor threw up an interesting selection of comments:
The majority of the rides were at best mediocre, and at worst, down right awful. Attention to detail appears to have been severely lacking with amateurish hand painted signage and ride decoration of extremely dubious artistic quality. Few of the rides were anything special, and in at least one case they look as though they were ripe for condemning as unsafe.
I must be honest and say that I think that Camelot was doomed, Olympic Games or otherwise, and the owners, Knights Leisure, had no one to blame but themselves. By the way folks, Lancashire is normally wet in the summer so I fail to see how the weather can be quoted as a reason for closure when it is simply a fact of life! Knights Leisure's managing director is quoted as saying, "Following a number of years of declining visitor numbers, the 2012 season proved particularly challenging."
In fairness though Camelot did survive for 29 years so perhaps their sad decline in fortunes is the reason for the appalling state of the place now so soon after closure. We spotted buildings with bare chipboard walls crumbling from exposure to the weather, and in one place I stepped on a wooden walk way to a ride and it snapped beneath my foot! Paint is peeling everywhere you look and yet despite the obvious and rather premature decay it feels very strange to wander around a theme park totally devoid of cheery children dragging frazzled parents from ride to ride.
I can find no mention anywhere of what is or has been happening at the park since closure however voices on the urb-ex grapevine mention that a few rides have already been sold off and removed, and the remainder are destined for the bulldozer blade. When that will begin is another matter.
The highlight of our exploration had to be "Smiffy's Dungeon of Doom", a conventional ghost train ride. It has to be said that I have a rather chequered history where ghost trains are concerned - my first time was as an 8 year old in Bury where my family lived some 48 years ago. A touring fun fair would set up on waste ground near "the Baltic" once a year and I well remember looking forward to my annual outing with my dad... I was brave that day and eschewed the comfort of his proffered hand despite inwardly quaking, however to my eternal shame I fell at the first hurdle and grabbed it the minute something leapt out of the dark into our faces. Oh the shame of it all! Then many, many years later I sat with my girlfriend in the car on the ghost train at Blackpool pleasure beach and as we came out of a scary bit into day light for a few brief moments before being plunged back into the horror again, someone on a side show below shot me in the back with an air rifle! Fortunately neither of these things happened at Camelot during our exploration - the scariest thing we experienced was our own reflection in a mirror! It was really interesting discovering the nature of the ride's construction, a look behind the scenes in the most literal sense of the phrase! It has been built in exactly the same way as a film or TV set - decorated wooden flats propped up with timber housed inside a rather large tent, the facade at the front being the only permanent part of the structure. Amusingly too the front of the ride, which looks for all the world like a solid and apparently conventional building, has been boarded up comprehensively to prevent access to pykeys et all, and yet behind the frontage the main part of the ride is inside the tent, the back of which unzips - great security measures there guys!!! All of the various "horrors" are poorly constructed with plastic Halloween props and what looked like papier mache or the like, ghoulishly painted with lurid fluorescent paint, Blood Red and Rotting Corpse green being the predominant colours! And before you pop off to B&Q to check you simply will not find those shades or names on a Dulux Match Pot swatch! Lit with black light it has to be said that some of the horrors must have been rather shocking to the average child!
Actually - rewind - to a nation of pre-teens brought up playing the likes of Grand Theft Auto and Zombie Killer Gorefest III under the desk on their iPhones during lessons it's probably all rather tame actually.
Anyways, sad as it is to see the passing of an era, it has happened, we are just happy that we managed to visit Cam-A-Not before the wrecking crews begin their work.