DON'T MIND IF I DO!!! This is the return to freakin' Camelot, baby!
That's right. When I nipped up to Liverpool to see my buddies from Runcorn, I couldn't resist a little frollick further north where I found the Latvian Consulate. But I wasn't going to saunter around Lancashire without a return to my favourite abandoned theme park! Especially since I first explored it prior to my readers lovely donations paid for my current camera. They were dreary mobile phone days. But in addition to that, I was having theme park blues from missing out on Dismaland.
So what's one to say about Camelot now?
Well, it has seen better days.
I first came to Camelot during a sad point in my life. A lot of stuff had happened, my fathers passing being the hardest thing to endure and sadly also the hardest thing to show emotion for, which meant that there was a ton of guilt and self analysis mixed in with the grieving process, the solitude of which is exacerbated by my own introversion. I don't know if an emotionless front is normal for grief, but eventually I reasoned that I was never good at normal anyway.
The thing is, places like Camelot, and indeed places like Calcott Hall and Christmas Cottage, anywhere that's somewhat a trek to get to for one who doesn't drive, all these places were filed in my mind under "would be awesome, but probably too much hassle to get to." And when I went through Hell in the early months of 2015 I emerged with a brand new view on the world. Everything seemed bright and new. Existence suddenly seemed worth celebrating and when my mind wandered to the tediousness of getting to places like Camelot, I asked myself "Why can't I go there? The only thing stopping me is me."
Having said that, does it really belong on a blog called "Shrewsbury From Where You Are Not?" Well, it's not in Shrewsbury. It's not even in Shropshire. But everyone in Shropshire knows someone who went here. When I posted the original adventure I had a torrent of feedback telling me how nostalgic it was. And let's face it, it's a little late to ponder the accuracy of the blog title.
For a bit of backstory, Camelot theme park was built on the site of what was formerly Britains largest lake. It was drained in 1692 but features in Arthurian legend as the Lost Lake of Sir Lancelot. The story goes that Lancelots parents were fleeing to Lancashire from France, but the mother tripped and dropped baby Lancelot, and he was abducted by a lake nymph that raised him. He then became one of the knights of the round table.
I sure hope Lancelot didn't decide to haunt the spot where his adoptive parents found him. He'd probably be rolling in his grave.
Camelot theme park opened to the public in 1985, but in 2006 a food hygiene survey of tourist attractions placed it at joint bottom. It closed in February 2009 due to a drop in sales but reopened in May before closing for good in 2012.
An abandoned theme park was simply irresistable to the public, and ever since closure Camelot has still been recieving hundreds of guests. Unhindered by staff, the guests had their way with the place. There isn't a window that hasn't been smashed. Theres barely a wall that hasn't been scribbled on.
But there's more. In recent months Camelot is being gradually demolished. In front of the main castle, just beyond the entry gate, there were square benches around flower beds, bins, trees, and a lovely litter-filled moat. But none of that remained anymore, and I could just stroll into the castle without fear of the drawbridge breaking under my feet. Now I was very disappointed. A lot can change in six months.
Beyond where the drawbridge used to be, the castle itself opened up into a large food-court with a dodgem attraction. The cars are long gone, but various pieces of decoration remain, including some funky chandeliers.
Miraculously, the signs in the kitchen had endured the plethora of vandals.
Behind the castle, on my last visit, had been a wasteland of manniquinn parts and burnt ride wreckage. The shed had contained dragon-shaped rollercoaster cars. Now it had all been cleared away, leaving just the shell of the building.
Nearby is the remains of the ride, Pendragons Plunge, which had long ago been removed. It hadn't been here on my visit six months ago, but I had seen pictures from other peoples adventures prior to mine.
Pendragons Plunge offered a lovely view of the rest of Camelot.
But before I re-explored this I wanted to check out something else. Having explored this place initially prior to my research, I did notice that there were things I'd missed last time, such as the racetrack at the front of Camelot.
Also nearby was the remains of the Candy shop! This had been relatively unchanged since my last visit. I'm pretty sure that wall wasn't collapsing though!
Behind the candy shop was the old Caterpillar ride. This ride is currently still in use at a theme park in Warrington, for anyone willing to sample a surviving chunk of Camelot.
The graffiti below made me laugh, purely because on my last blog of this place I did comment on the poor grammar, and since then someone has come along and corrected it.
What is this, promotional advertising for the movie "Teeth"?
Onto what I assume was the first part of Camelot to get looted following its abandonment- The Bar!
The bar, back in its glory days, would have been quite nice, overlooking the rest of Camelot. There was a balcony around it, with stairs leading down to a cellar area I had missed on my adventure last time. It was here that I found the toilets.
And they're still in better condition than some of the toilets in some Shrewsbury pubs!
Oddly enough, there was a secret door which led to this narrow room behind the toilets. Here the backs of all the toilets were accessible. Why??? Is it because toilets in the middle ages lacked tanks on the back and so this feature was hidden from public view to give it some feeling of authenticity? How odd.
In the back of the bar was some maths graffiti, and also the names of other visitors.
Out from the bar was a view of the rest of the park.
Nearby was a small flat blue area that I missed last time. Apparently this was a water ride.
And then there's this place.
Someone had pushed a rock in front of this door.
The doors that were open led to a small stage where bands had onces played. On my last visit a group of presumably local teenagers had decided to make this place their lair. They paid me no attention, presumably because Camelot has had so many visitors, strangers walking past taking pictures are a common sight. My phone had captured this area poorly, so it was great to have a second chance at it.
I was saddened to see that someone had smashed the horses noggin, which was fully intact on my earlier visit. The sign pointing to the mini golf was also broken. Realising that I hadn't seen the mini golf area on my last visit, I decided to follow the signs to see what was left of it.
Wait a minute, whats going on here? This is the creepiest entrance to a game of mini golf I've ever seen. This looks more like a scare attraction than mini golf!
But sure enough, I did find the golf course, and not anything sinister like Pennywise, Voldemort or David Cameron.
Satisfied that I'd seen something I'd missed last time, I made my way back to the rest of the theme park.
Also circling the park was a small rollercoaster, which I was thrilled to see was mostly still intact along with some of the bizarrely passionate anti-Arthurian graffiti.
There was also a jousting attraction.
The stables were nearby, still full of hay.
Moving deeper into the theme park, I found some places that must have been staff-only areas at some point, and they now contained some really interesting graffiti.
The "Run" commands were pretty spooky.
All of which climaxed in a cryptic message on the ceiling.
Here some other explorers called The Burnley Urban Warriors wrote their names, but have apparently made a few enemies along the way.
Beyond the top of these steps awaited the childrens play area, the remains of the ghost train and the proverbial cherry on top that was the Knightmare Rollercoaster. A trip to Camelot would not be the same without climbing that rollercoaster!
On my first explore of Camelot I met a couple of explorers beyond this point. This was back in April when I attended the Shropshire Blogger Meetup, and took from that a vital piece of information- Social media can be a bloggers best friend! Everyone was exchanging Twitters and Instagrams and I had none of that at the time. So I set up an Instagram roughly around the time I went to Camelot, and thanks to various tags I was found and followed a few months later, shortly after I explored Brogyntyn Hall, by a female explorer, and then later by her partner. Upon browsing there Instagrams and seeing some fantastic photos of various locations, some I'd been to but most I haven't, I noticed that they had a couple selfie at Camelot dated April 2015. I have poor facial recognition skills, especially from such a brief meeting but when I asked the girl if she remembered meeting someone who looked like an out-of-work magician, she revealed that she and her partner were in fact the two I had met here at Camelot, and that Instagram had quite coincidentally reunited us.
They always post excellent photos captioned with nice, deep, thoughtful phrases. I tried to do the same once but all I could think of at the time was that the word "bed" actually looks like a tiny bed.
I mention it all now purely because I was remembering the meeting as I wandered along, and then noticed in the exact same spot I'd first seen them, a man in a hi-viz yellow jacket.
Now he could still be an explorer. I myself have worn a hi-viz vest for my adventures, particularly on infiltration missions of active sites and the occasional daytime rooftop adventure.
There's a lovely functionality of the human mind that I refer to facetiously as the Someone-Elses-Problem Effect. Whenever the human organism sees something it cannot immediately explain or doesn't expect, especially if it's momentary in that it vanishes straight away, the Someone-Elses-Problem Effect makes the whole thing disappear in a puff of instant subconscious dismissal. Looking like one is meant to be where one is, rather than sneaking around suspiciously, also activates the Someone Elses Problem Effect, and the results are very liberating. This makes hi-viz clothing the most ironic of all invisibility devices. While wearing one, I can go wherever I want.
But I wasn't wearing it to Camelot and I had to assume, which I did correctly, that this was a security guard, and not a fellow adventurer in stealth mode. This was something new. They'd been absent from my April adventure. Luckily this guy hadn't seen me, and I was able to position myself behind his gaze at all times and what ensued was a hilarious game of Hide & Seek, with the ultimate goal being to get myself to the Knightmare rollercoaster, and as a bonus, return to the kiddie area to play in the ballpit, without security seeing me.
All the while, I was snapping photos of the places I explored while I evaded my way around Camelot. It was loads of fun. I mean sure, most of the places I've explored are good fun but a lot of them, anything from the Knights Templar caves to Calcott Hall, are all out in the middle of mowhere and anyone who knows that they are there can essentially just stroll on in. Whereas my introduction to this entire sport started with rooftopping, scaling the buildings of Shrewsbury, a small town with a thriving nightlife, where my eccentric appearance and presentation makes me impossible to forget. A lot of the buildings I've sat on top of with a camera are active buildings, and I haven't always carried out these antics under cover of darkness. So yes, here at Camelot, I was very much in my element.
The graffiti in this little room seemed to be written by the previous staff. Various nails sticking out of the wall were designated for certain keys.
To my delight, my games of evasion awarded be something I had missed on my previous visit. A shack containing all the old Knightmare coaster cars.
And there it is! The Knightmare! On my last visit I had sat right at the top of this magnificent structure and seen the wonderful Lancashire countryside from a point of view seldom beheld by its own residents. I was starting to realise though, that if I got up there I'd be visible to security from all over the park. Nevertheless, I waited for the opportune moment and I ran for it.
And as I approached, mere feet away from my goal, I noticed that a big metal fence had been set up around the Knightmare. I stopped my approach and paused momentarily. It was that pause of panic one has when they have everything planned out and suddenly something unpredicted pops up. And so I forgot in that pause that I should ideally be hiding. And then I felt a hand clamp down on my shoulder. Oops. Busted.
The security guard was really nice though, completely understanding the appeal of an abandoned theme park, and apologising for having to escort me out. And of course, I was polite back. There are those out there who do brag about taunting and insulting security but I take no pleasure in that. These are just people doing their jobs, and being rude to people gets us nowhere. On a personal level and as a species. So many people are complaining about how crap they think the world is, and yes it does have its problems, but existence would be a billion times happier for everyone if everybody was just nice to everyone else.
On a smaller, more personal scale, being nice to people has awarded me visits to places in Shrewsbury that I never would have gotten to otherwise, and it's also gotten me out of some hairy situations with authority figures. Let's face it, if I ran around insulting police and security, and then went up to someone and said "Hello, may I photograph the underground tunnels attached to your cellar?" they'd have every reason to say No purely because they would know from gossip that I'm an unpleasant person. So being unpleasant isn't good for anyone, least of all the person one is being unpleasant to. Everyone reading this should, upon finishing reading it, go out and compliment a stranger. That is the one thing I ask of my readers today. I mean someone could be having a horrendous day and you just might take the edge off. But even if they're not, compliments are great. So just do it.
Just uh... keep the compliment bombing tasteful.
Back on topic, I was escorted from Camelot and sent on my way. I walked to the nearest bus stop, caught the bus to Wigan, and from that a train to Liverpool where I drank with some homies. It was a pretty awesome day.
But just to give a sense of closure to this blog post, here's the view from the top of the Knightmare from my earlier adventure in April. These photos were taken with the phone, so excuse the drop in quality.
And that's it from Camelot. I won't be returning, I don't think. The moat being filled in, and the horses head getting smashed has given the whole place a feel of being temporary. Camelot is great when one first visits, no matter when one visits. But return visits will always disappoint, because it's always going to degrade more. Even though my initial adventure here was loads of fun, I later saw photographs taken by other peoples earlier adventures, and realised just how much had changed during the years of abandonment. Soon there will be nothing left.
Camelot is still awesome, and it was a pleasure to have explored it twice while I had the chance.
If you have any stories of Camelot, or any information about it or other places on the blog, please get in touch! I can be reached on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Find me, add me, we'll be buddies!
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Thanks for reading. Stay awesome!