Thursday, October 30

Promising Yellow: Exploring hidden Alton Towers


A couple of weeks ago we grabbed our buy 1 get 1 free Kellog's voucher and set off for a day of roller-coaster madness at Alton Towers! Although it was a bit drizzly we had a wonderful time and spent the day drinking gallons of hot chocolate to keep us warm. 

Alton Towers is a huge Theme Park in Staffordshire. It's probably the number 1 theme park in the country - it's certainly the most advertised!! There are 7 huge roller-coasters and at the moment the Smiler is still attracting all the attention although Rita - the super-fast racing car themed ride - is still my favourite. 

For all the attention the park and the rides get it was originally a beautiful family home of the Earl of Shrewsbury and was opened up as pleasure gardens in 1924. It wasn't until the 80s and 90s it became a theme park. 

The gardens are still there - a huge expanse of winding paths and little summer houses just ready for exploring. Our favourite place is this huge conservatory. Surprisingly there's little information about what it was used for but some wonderful photographs here  show crowds of people enjoying themselves in the 1920s. It's at once a wonderful and sad place to be. 

With the fun of the rides and no more 'garden only' tickets available these days the once grand 19th century conservatory is ignored and falling into disrepair. As you walk around it and stick your camera through missing window panes to get a shot of the indoors you can almost hear the music coming from the bandstand below every Saturday and Sunday. You can imagine that it was a vibrant place full of romance, 'best dresses', picnics and fun. 

It's a perfect representation of how leisure changes. Nearly 100 years ago people were excited about a day out to the Alton Towers gardens - a beautiful place where you could flirt, gossip, dance, picnic and dress up and have a wonderful time. Now there's still the laughter and the fun but it's done on huge thrill rides, a new kind of leisure to replace the old. It's as though one has been swapped for the other - they can't co-exist so the rides take over. The once bustling gardens full of people posing by the fountains, the bandstand and the pagodas are empty. We sat by the conservatory for our own little picnic and saw nobody all the time we were there. 

We did however get to spend a good 20 minutes quick-stepping in the bandstand. So for that brief period of time we brought a little bit of the old times back to the gardens - a pastime of yesteryear which still had us laughing and breathless and gave a little thrill to hold his hand in mine as he led me around watched over by the many stone statues, decorative bridges and once-grand conservatory. 

With the long queues for rides often reaching an hour or more most people don't have time to venture into the gardens. But if you're fortunate enough to go on a quiet day with lots of time to spare, like we did, have a little amble through the gardens for a quiet escape from the screams and steal a little kiss or 2.
Ciao for now

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