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Scattergun

Apocalypse Park. And a lion. Scotland 2012

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A report? Surely not... And yet behold! Tis true. I've decided to make the time and effort to report on the status of a specific location, combining factual written word entertainment with some half arsed pictures for your viewing pleasure. You knew I would eventually, I'm just lazy.

A few years ago I went for a group wander around the former Loudoun Castle theme park and took a few snaps as I went. I've been to a few decrepit theme parks over the years and this one, at the time of visiting at least, was one of the better ones. Here's some history, as is the tradition;

Set in the grounds of the ruined 19th century country house from which it took its name, the park opened in 1995 under a company based in London, changing hands several times through the course of its run including a brief spell under travelling showman Raymond Codona before Henk Bembom's Parkware Ltd took over in 2002. Bembom invested £5m during his first year there, followed by an additional £2m in the second. Bembom continued to bring new rides and attractions to the park each year, including another £2m worth of investment in 2007, having moved all their operations and ride stock to Loudoun from their previous storage buildings in Margate the previous winter.

Following several years of dwindling numbers the park closed at the end of the 2010 season, Bembom stating that it was "no longer economically viable". The rides were eventually dismantled and sold off to other theme parks around the UK. I did mention a lion. His name was Rory, he was the mascot. Presumably he's now stacking shelves in a supermarket somewhere..

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Loudoun Castle itself was the former home of the Mure-Campbell family. A grade A listed building, it was designed in 1804 by architect Archibald Elliot around an earlier 17th century building and 15th century keep, comprising a large square, castellated mansion with some 90 apartments, grand entrance hall and regal library. An impressive arched stone bridge spanning the river to the rear of the building provided access to sizable estate grounds including a large walled garden, stables and kitchens.

Upon the marriage by Flora Mure-Campbell, 6th Countess of Loudoun, to Francis Rawdon-Hastings, 2nd Earl of Moira (later Marquess of Hastings), on 12 July 1804, it became the home of the Rawdon-Hastings family. The building stayed largely in the care of the Campbell family until 1941, when it was gutted by fire on the eve of being leased to the war office as a military headquarters. (Archive image swiped from Wikipedia, depicting Loudoun Castle in 1890)

These pictures were taken just prior to the sale of most of the rides, which have now been relocated. One exception is 'the Plough', arguably the largest chair-o-plane in the world. That's the big planet thing. Originally designed by Franz Schwarzkopf and built in the late 1970's as 'Apollo', it operated at Bemboms Ponypark Slagharen in the Netherlands as a gondola swing. When moved to Dreamland in England (then called "Bembom Brothers"), it was reconstructed into a Chair-O-Plane and named Heatwave. Leaving Dreamland, it opened in Lightwater Valley in 1998 where it operated until 2003 when Henk Bembom moved Heatwave to his new park, Loudoun Castle, where it was renamed 'the Plough' and painted green. It now sits derelict, awaiting its trip to the scrappers while the empty estate hangs in redevelopment limbo.

And now.... pictures

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And there you have it. A few choice cuts from a leisurely poke about some mouldy old theme park rides, between war stories from the resident grounds keeper. (If he's still around he'll hopefully be enjoying some respite from the dwindling number of troublemakers). Some pics I've published before, some from the depths of the archives I'd forgotten I'd taken, all mostly in focus. ^_^

 

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