Behind the scenes at GreenWood Forest Park
There are cows in the Crocodile Maze, and Harley the giant rabbit is on the loose. It’s just another day at GreenWood Forest Park, explains operations manager Steve Williams, as he takes us behind the scenes at North Wales’ award-winning family attraction.
All in a day's work
Donkey rides at Greenwood Forest Park by Greenwood Forest Park
I arrive at the park before 8am. The few hours in the morning before visitors arrive are invaluable, with lots to do before we’re ready for families to come and have a fun day out. Fun is a serious business and we have to inspect the whole site and all of our rides before we open at 10am.
Expect the unexpected
Fire eater at Greenwood Forest Park by Greenwood Forest Park
The golden rule is to expect the unexpected, which over the years has included sheep in the Den Building area and cows from a neighbouring farm in the middle of Crocodile Maze (which doesn’t, luckily for the cows, have real crocodiles – although you’d be surprised how many times we get asked!).
We get over 130,000 visitors to the park each year. Our prime market is children from 18 months to 13 years, but people come from far and wide and for different reasons. One of the most extreme was a German rollercoaster enthusiast who came to see our ‘people powered’ rollercoaster. He was delighted to have a personal tour of the ride, before he hopped back on a train to Manchester en route back to Germany. And I’ve just had an email from some else who’s writing a book about roller coasters, and he’s coming, too.
The Green Dragon
Rollercoaster fun at Greenwood Forest Park by Greenwood Forest Park
Our coaster uses the funicular technology they used in the quarries: as a full load of slate or granite went down the hill, it would pull an empty car back up. In our case, people get into a lift which, as it descends, generates the power to get the coaster back up to its start point. Some people groan when they realise they’ve got to walk back up the hill to actually get into the coaster, but in fact most visitors love its ingenuity.
Most of our attractions are zero or low-energy. For instance, it would have been very easy to get motorised go-karts, but that’s not what we’re about, so our MoonKarts are pedal-powered. We want people to use their own energy to have fun.
Awaken the senses
Barefoot trail, Greenwood Forest Park
Then there are sensory experiences like the Barefoot Trail, the first of its kind in Wales, where you walk barefoot through different terrains including sand, bark, straw, timber and water. It sounds odd, but people really like it, especially the kids. Designing it was a funny experience, too - a group of us had to put our feet into bags of different types of pebbles and stones to confirm which felt the best.
The days at GreenWood can include challenges of all kinds. Most children love Harley the giant rabbit [a costumed character] but some are afraid of him, so we have to subtly divert him away if there’s any sign of a wobbly lip!
The extra mile
Jungle Boats at Greenwood Forest Park by Greenwood Forest Park
We receive all sorts of odd requests from visitors at the park. Last week a headmaster of a school asked if two of his teachers could dress up in costume and surprise the children on one of the rides. As long as safety is not compromised we try and accommodate.
I remember one time being a little thrown by the request from the guardian of a blind boy who wanted to have a go at the longbow archery. Thankfully it was a quiet day, we were able to allow the boy to come and feel the target and then took him for his instruction with the ranger. The huge smile on his face when he heard his arrow hitting the target was priceless. That was a special moment.
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