Lightwater Valley is a theme
park in Ripon, North Yorkshire, England.
is perhaps best known for being the home of Europe’s longest
rollercoaster - The Ultimate.
Lightwater Valley was founded by Robert Staveley and initially
evolved from a small farm attraction. The park features around 40
other rides and a birds of prey
and other animal displays and attractions and is also home to
retail outlets and restaurants.
The complex is operated by Lightwater Valley Attractions Limited, a
division of the holding company Heritage Great Britain PLC.
The park currently attracts approximately 330,000 visitors.
The boating lake at Lightwater
In 1969 Lightwater Valley started life as a small self-pick fruit
farm attraction which was quite popular with the local community.
The farm was owned by the Staveley family, who had been in
ownership of the land way back until 1516 when Cardinal Wolsey
handed the grounds over to John Staveley. The farm was dealt a
crippling blow in 1976 as a severe drought was brought to the
region, having a huge effect on the strawberry crop which was the
main source of the farm's revenue. Later that year a lake was
excavated to help reduce the effects of a future drought, the very
same lake that is at the park today.
Lightwater Valley Theme Park was born in 1987 after Rat Ride was
built. The ride was considered to be one of the best in the country
and over the years more and more rides were added and the park was
officially established and up and running.
In 1990 construction began on the world's longest rollercoatser.
Costing £5.2 million and over long, The Ultimate was open to
the public in 1991. The Ultimate reached incredible speeds and set
staggering drops over . Lightwater Valley was flying high but
sadly, it had reached its limit. Robert was sent plunging into debt
and decided to hand the park over to his children, John and Lynne
Over the years many more rides and attractions were added but
didn't match standards set by earlier additions. Eventually there
was a change of ownership from a private family firm to
Queensborough Holdings, who bought the park for £5.2 million
in 1997. Queensborough Holdings were also in ownership
Hills Theme Park at the time, which resulted in both
parks sharing the same mascot Woody the Bear.
The parks were
somewhat 'sisters' and operated under Leisure Great Britain of
which Queensborough Holdings financed. However, the new owners put
the park back up for sale within 11 months of buying it as they
decided to re-focus their business in the current market. However,
no bid was accepted during the following few years. The park was
given a new lease of life in February 2001 when Queensborough
Holdings handed ownership over to Heritage GB, a company which was
formed by Queensborough Holdings Chairman Kevin Leech and his son
Allan. Therefore, the park was simply owned by a re-branded company
of its previous owners. Allan Leech bought £4.75 million worth
of shares in Lightwater Valley Attractions Ltd which was the new
holding division for the park, in other words they run the park
while Heritage GB financed the initial buyout using Allan's money
from Ball Investments Ltd.
Lightwater Valley has over 40 rides and attractions, ranging from
thrill rides such as The Ultimate for the brave and daring, Falls
of Terror for the more modest thrillseekers and small rides such as
Dragon Boats for the park's young visitors. Lightwater Valley
categorise their attractions into 3 groups - Jaw Droppers, Whipper
Snappers and Nippers. This helps establish what rides are suitable
for visitors and the expected height restriction for each. The
theme park has a total of 5 rollercoasters, 2 water rides and
various flat rides.
In 2009 the park opened the Wild River Rapids
, a family
water ride. The ride is rented from Mellors Amusements
. They have also
removed the Hornet's nest mid season, after failing to get the ride
to operate correctly after two years of operation.
The park's attractions are split into the following
- The Twister- Ultimate
- Eagles Claw- Black Widows Web-
- The Wave- Trauma Tower
- Grand Prix Go Karts- Dodgems- Carousel- Falls Of Terror- Wild
River Rapids- Flying Camels- The Ladybird- Skate Karts- Buffalo
Express- The Caterpillar Coaster- Lightwater Wheel
- Swan Lake Boats- Amazing Maze- Lightwater Express- Spinning
Teacups- Mini Ferris Wheel- Magic Wheel- Noah's Ark- Dragon Boats-
Vintage Cars- Lady Bug- Magic Marc's Magic Shows- Gator Park
(selection of junior rides)
The park recently revealed details of the expected shape of the
park over the next few years on the popular Valley Mania fan site.
Amongst these plans are proposals to extend The Ultimate
rollercoaster to regain it's record breaking status, to replace the
ageing Rat Ride, and to buy a permanent version of the popular Wild
River Rapids. Further plans suggest that the park may be split into
two themed areas - Lightwater Valley for young and aged visitors,
with more sedate rides, and Darkwater Valley to house the rides
intended for thrill seekers.
The Ultimate was designed by Big County Motioneering and the park’s
original owner Robert Staveley. Construction began in early 1990
taken 18 months to complete. The ride was constructed by in-house
workers and British Rail who used track supplied from Tubular
Engineering, after BCM were sacked due to track problems. The
project was over a year behind schedule due to track alterations
and trouble with train wheels.
The ride finally opened on 17 July 1991 by Frank Bruno
. When opened, ride was the world’s
longest rollercoaster at , taking over 5 minutes to ride and
costing £5.2 million. The Ultimate has 4 trains in all named
after park staff. They are called, Tony’s Tornado, Ron’s Rocket,
Mick’s Meteor and Jim’s Jet.
However, only the latter 2 trains are used in present day. The
trains also used to have over the shoulder restraints until 1992
when they were removed and replaced with lap bar restraints.
"The Valligators" are three green alligator-costumed entertainers
who currently act as the park’s mascots and entertain the younger
visitors. They are better known as Sally, Harry and Baby Al. They
were introduced to the park in 2001 to mark the beginning of a new
era following Heritage GB takeover of Lightwater Valley.
Bird of Prey Centre
The Bird of Prey Centre is separate from the theme park and is home
to over 60 birds including owls, vultures, falcons and even
Britain’s largest golden eagle. Guests are allowed to handle and
even feed the birds as well as see them fly alongside the purpose
built centre. The centre is also home to many reptiles with daily
Twenty year old Gemma Savage died on 21 June
following an accident the previous day
when two carriages collided on the "Treetop Twister", a spinning
Wild Mouse roller coaster
which had opened in May that year. Police decided not to prosecute
a maintenance worker, who claimed that he had only received an
hour's training on that ride and had not seen its manual. Faulty
wiring had also caused a malfunction on the ride. In October 2004 Deputy
Coroner John Sleightholme at
Skipton Magistrates' Court ruled death by
Lightwater Valley's owners and electrician Eric Butters admitted
breaching health and safety laws at Leeds Crown Court on 14 November 2006
Valley Attractions Ltd was charged with failing to ensure the
health and safety of riders, Butters was charged with failing to
ensure safety through his work. Both pleaded guilty. A French
manufacturer, Reverchon Industries SA, was convicted of two charges
of failing to ensure the ride's safe design and construction.