Britain’s making a splash! The water parks that make for the perfect family day out

Britain’s making a splash! Channel your inner toddler at the country’s most amazing water parks

  • They’re common at Mediterranean resorts, now Britain has gone water park mad 
  • These huge inflatable archipelagos are thrilling playgrounds for all the family 
  • As Robert Hardman found on a visit to Aqua Park and Liquid Leisure 

As bouncy castles go, this one is very bouncy indeed – and you don’t have to be a child to enjoy it.

Right now, there are 150 people aged from six to 60 channeling their inner toddler as they clamber up plastic ramparts, only to throw themselves over the edge and into the water.

I have brought the children to Aqua Park on Rutland Water – and I’m going in, too.

Jump in: Rutland Water’s Aqua Park is in a sheltered inlet on a large man-made lake

It is one of a growing number of family friendly adventure playgrounds popping up in British waters. They are a common enough sight in many Mediterranean resorts, where anyone can turn up and pay a few euros to mess around on inflatables until they get bored.

Here in Britain, they operate on a very different scale and are fast becoming destinations in their own right.

Rutland Water’s aquatic playground – open weekends until September 30 – sits in a sheltered inlet of a vast, man made lake.

An aerial view of the obstacles, slides and jumps all on offer at the park

An aerial view of the obstacles, slides and jumps all on offer at the park

Visitors must pre book an hour long session. The £20 fee includes a life jacket, which is mandatory, and a wetsuit, which is not.

Each session has a compulsory safety briefing before launch. The herd soon spreads out around what is a very substantial archipelago of slides, trampolines and climbing walls anchored 25 yards offshore. Hauling myself up an inflatable iceberg the size of a house (you can slide down the other side or jump off a precipice) is exhausting. The children want to do it over and over again.

The most eye-catching feature is the ‘blast bag’. It is straight out of a cartoon. One person sits on the end of a long, inflated cushion and another (preferably heavier) person leaps from a tower on to the opposite end. My three, aged 12, ten and seven, went flying each time their father crash-landed on to this giant whoopee cushion.

Attractions at Aqua Park range from high jumps (above) to more moderate water slides

Attractions at Aqua Park range from high jumps (above) to more moderate water slides

Even more extensive is the setup at Liquid Leisure (open until November 3), which occupies its own freshwater lake outside Windsor, just a half-hour drive from Central London (unlike at Rutland Water, parking is free, but wetsuit hire costs £5 a head).

Here, most visitors head for the main water park, but you can add on other activities such as the new Ninja Warrior obstacle course.

There are also assorted forms of high-speed action. Whizz around a lake circuit on skis or a wakeboard, towed either by a speedboat or a cable.

A group of happy customers pose for a photo on one of the many obstacles at Aqua Park

A group of happy customers pose for a photo on one of the many obstacles at Aqua Park

For serious water-skiers, there are slalom courses and jumps, while beginners can take an introductory two-hour session starting at £28.

This time, I have come with my eldest and her friends. As they do not need supervision, I happily adjourn to the waterside cafe to watch the cricket, while the girls spend an energetic hour tearing around the main aqua park.

Afterwards, they have a go on the new Ringo Ride, a giant inflatable tea tray that drags up to four people at a time behind a high-speed cable until everyone falls off. Much hysterical shrieking is swiftly followed by pleas for another go.

A morning flies by. I notice that there is a busy campsite alongside. Several families have clearly decided to make a weekend of it.

And there was me thinking tourists only go to Windsor to see the castle.

 


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