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The Carters Steam Fair brought a traditional feel to the park in the February event
The Carters Steam Fair brought a traditional feel to the park in the February event
Haunted Hollow reopened a previously abandoned section of the park
Haunted Hollow reopened a previously abandoned section of the park
Chocolate Towers was a disappointment compared to 2006
Chocolate Towers was a disappointment compared to 2006
The Halloween event made a triumphant return
The Halloween event made a triumphant return
The Sky Ride fire made national news headlines
The Sky Ride fire made national news headlines
2008 looks promising with the pirate retheme of Merrie England
2008 looks promising with the pirate retheme of Merrie England

Tuesday 25th December 2007

The 2007 season kicked off with the opening of the new-for-07 attractions; The Dung Heap, Haunted Hollow, and over at the hotels, Extraordinary Golf. The new additions were generally well-received, with the Golf in particular standing out as a highlight. Well themed, good value for money and boosting the resort's "non-theme park" related activities, it was seen as a good step in the right direction.

Vandalism was a problem at the start of the season, however. Haunted Hollow in particular had all sorts of problems, with speakers being kicked in within days of the attraction opening, which prompted the park to reinforce certain parts to try and avoid it being damaged so easily.

Never far from the headlines, Mr and Mrs Roper were back in court in March, this time taking Alton Towers to the High Court in an attempt to overturn the more lenient restrictions placed on the park in terms of their Noise Abatement Order. Thankfully for fans of the park, and locals who depend on its success for their B&B trade, the Judge didn't take long to throw out their claim.

There was some good news in early April when the Runaway Mine Train reopened to the public, with refurbished trains to boot. The ride had been in the news the previous August when it had a low-speed accident which caused some people to go to hospital as a precaution. Despite Alton Towers considering the possibility of retheming the ride to a "karaoke" type of interactive experience, the ride remained unchanged, much to the relief of just about everybody.

The Easter event Chocolate Towers returned for its second year in 2007, having been a success in 2006. However, the event was scaled down from the previous year and was generally derided by enthusiasts. An inflated entrance price didn't help matters, either. The event will not be returning in 2008.

In July, the park announced that they would be hosting a concert called "Rhythm & Rides". Days before the event was due to occur, the park pulled out, citing problems with Reece Productions' organisation of the event. There was animosity between the two parties, each claiming the other was at fault. Eventually the event went ahead, at nearby theme park Drayton Manor.

To top an eventful summer off, the park struggled with visitor numbers due to the appalling weather the country suffered. This led to some bizarre announcements by the park, including their employment of a Native-American brave to try and bring good weather, and also their musings about possibly using weather control techniques to ensure sunshine at Alton Towers. It was, of course, a total PR stunt and they never had any intentions of doing so, but the resulting debate on ethics generated some much-needed publicity.

The park enjoyed a strong October with the return of the Halloween event, the Alton Towers Scarefest. The event had been dropped in recent years in favour of the fireworks event, but issues relating to the Noise Abatement Order convinced the park to give the Halloween event the nod. It was hailed as a great success, probably the best event the park has held in many years. The return of the Terror of the Towers scare maze was much-welcomed, and the new addition Field of 1000 Screams over at the hotels was as inventive as it was unique. Targets for visitor numbers were comfortably exceeded during the event, which means it should easily be returning in 2008.

It wasn't all plain sailing though - at the end of October Alton Towers hit the headlines once again, this time due to a fire in the Sky Ride station in Forbidden Valley. Thankfully, due to the ride closing at dusk, nobody was in the station at the time, and no guests were injured as a result. The fire, caused by a faulty halogen lamp, lasted throughout the night, though it was mainly concentrated in the roof of the station and therefore didn't cause as much damage as it otherwise might have. The good news is that the park are pushing hard to get the station repaired in time for the 2008 season starting.

And finally, speaking of 2008, we have the new development Mutiny Bay to look forward to. The Merrie England area is finally getting the retheme that it has needed for some time now, along with the rides in the area - though notably, due to the sponsorship arrangement, The Flume will stay as it is. We hope that when the contract runs out at the end of 2008, that it will be rethemed to bring it in line with the rest of the area. As always with Alton Towers, expectations are running high for Mutiny Bay, and what we've seen already points to high quality theming for the area and a fun new ride in the form of Battle Galleons. Kids will also enjoy the new Heave Ho attraction being put in.

Overall, 2007 has been a positive year for the park, with the Scarefest event being the firm highlight of the year for me. I can't wait to see what Alton Towers have in store for us in 2008!

Dan Ketteringham