We have just come back from a day by the sea in Southend, visiting Adventure Island. It was hot and crowded and, as far as I can make out, most visitors were having a good time. Our excuse for going was a five year old boy, a son of a friend, wanted to go and we promised to take him as his birthday treat (on a day he happens to share with me albeit with a 95 year (so I tell him) age difference). Four hours after arriving just as the park opened, having sampled all the various attractions (often more than once), we ate and drank from the assorted fast food items selection on offer and then (he, not us) had a great time playing in the water fountains near the Kursaal.
It has been a while since we visited Adventure Island. Our son is now a stroppy teenager who along with his chums has long ago left the delights of visits to places like Adventure Island behind him. But not so with our young friend who thoroughly enjoyed his first experience and still had fuel left in the tank when his two adult minders had some time before realized we would soon run on empty. For me, there is always a touch of nostalgia, recalling as a 16 year old, during my school summer holiday, I worked at the Boating Lake and Peter Pans Playground, either side of the Pier, long ago being swallowed up and completely revamped into Adventure Island, later along with the not to be forgotten Golden Hind and other bits and bobs. Our experience today was a most enjoyable one.
There was no better judge as to how good the rides were than our young friend, who was thoroughly taken with his new experience, even though toward the end I began to doubt my own staying power, having been often obliged to accompany him on what I found were often dizzy inducing rides. Several things struck me, mostly positive and very much so. Everything was so well organized, clearly sign posted, pretty, clean, tidy, safe, with lots of clean toilet facilities and comfortable seating areas, some covered, overseen by attentive, friendly and helpful, usually very young, staff, of which there was a large number. I lost count of the number of high fives my young friend received along with encouraging words spoken and the right amount of help given (sadly, it was not like that in my day). I should add that while Adventure Island attracted good numbers this didn’t detract from our enjoyment and when it came to queues these were short if at all, although I think coming early (it opens 11am) helps.
The positive feeling began with the helpful girl who sold us our wristband to the in charge of the crooked house and giant slide where our young friend signed off his day for his final foray at the Island, four hours later. Given height restrictions, our young friend could only have a green band, but I felt for £22 it was good value and there was still a lot to do. I noted there were good deals to be had (adults go free) for the regular visitors and is something that might interest many parents. While the food and refreshments (wide range available and of a reasonable quality) and other items and attractions that could be paid for were plentiful, albeit a little too pricey for our liking (although this is true of most commercial seafront outlets and something many visitors accept), it is quite possible to bring one’s own picnic and not have to fork out for anything else. There are no hidden costs and unlike some places entrance is free. For those on a budget, not only are there deals to look out for but there is more than enough covered by the ticket.
While it would be nice, I don’t get anything personally out of singing the praises of Adventure Island. I am just pleased this is an asset the town can be proud off. And while much of the employment, I would reckon, is seasonal, at least (I would imagine) hundreds of young (and some not so young) people are being usefully employed in the overall enterprise and are taking pride in their work. I also understand they do get looked after and are given training. I hope it will be around for years to come and go from strength to strength, playing its part in the town’s regeneration, maybe even taking some of the pier operation into its portfolio, and perhaps adding new rides (something around getting wet might be nice). I like what it did with the old Golden Hind area – its own version of an adventure playground is a masterstroke. Having taken free wristbands off Adventure Island in the past for various community enterprises e.g. to use as prizes and, as I understand it, these days it offers good deals through local schools, as well as doing stuff most folk don’t get to hear about, I would say to them – thank you for what you do for the community and, while I would not want you to take over the whole seafront, you are a key player and I wish your enterprise well.
One prospect to look forward to is that, unless his siblings or other young charges get in first, it won’t be long before our young friend will have grown the extra couple of inches to qualify going onto the seriously scary rides, and with us in tow. O to be young again 🙂