TPJThemeParkJames

Wicker Man

Alton Towers

Follow the mysterious Beornen on a rite of passage aboard the UK's first wooden rollercoaster to be built in 21 years ... have you been Chosen?

Theme ParkAlton Towers
TypeWooden Rollercoaster
AudienceThrillseekers
Opened20 March 2018 (soft opening)
24 March 2018 (Grand Opening)
ManufacturerGreat Coasters International
Height72 ft
Length2028 ft
Inversions0
DesignerMerlin Magic Making
Height Restriction 1.2 metres
CodenameSecret Weapon 8 (SW8)
Cost£16 million
ExtrasFastrack
On-Ride Photos
The giant Wicker Man statue

The giant Wicker Man statue

The Beornen are a secretive group who inhabit the woodlands surrounding Alton Towers. They have shunned modernity, choosing instead to practice ancient rituals worshipping the Earth and the natural world, selecting individuals to join The Chosen.

Wicker Man gives Alton Towers guests the chance to join the Chosen Ones aboard one of The Beornen's works trains and journey into the group's mysterious world. En-route their path is lit with burning embers, before they encounter a spectacular flaming Wicker Man effigy which bursts into flames as the train hurtles through the heart of the blazing sculpture. Perhaps then riders will learn their real role in the ancient Wicker Man ritual.

The rollercoaster has been heavily marketed by Alton Towers as the world's first rollercoaster to combine fire and wood. While this may not be strictly true (Joris en de Draak at Efteling, Wodan at Europa Park and Apocalypse at Six Flags Magic Mountain are all wooden rollercoasters featuring fire effects), Wicker Man does feature fire and simulated fire effects as one of the most prominent features of the ride, with the spectacular Wicker Man effigy appearing to burn up in a blazing inferno as trains pass through.

What is undeniably true is that Wicker Man is the first wooden rollercoaster to be built in the UK in 21 years - the last was Megafobia at Oakwood, which was opened in 1996. Parks have argued that the General Public see wooden rollercoasters as old fashioned and potentially unsafe, so choosing to construct Wicker Man has been a big gamble for Alton Towers, although much welcomed by rollercoaster enthusiasts in the UK and internationally. If the ride is successful, could we see more wooden rollercoasters in the UK in the next few years? Let's hope so!

Before the ride name was officially announced, Wicker Man was known as Secret Weapon 8, or SW8 for short. Progress on construction was widely followed by the coaster community throughout the 2017 season as the coaster rose from the ground on the site of the old Flume ride. You can see how the rollercoaster came to be on the dedicated Theme Park James SW8 Construction page.

Backstory

The flaming Wicker Man statue at the heart of Beornen folklore

The flaming Wicker Man at the heart of Beornen folklore

Wicker Man's backstory surrounds a mysterious group of woodland dwellers known as The Beornen who live in the woods near Alton Towers.

The Beornen were first introduced to the public during Scarefest 2017, with The Welcoming: Be Chosen scare maze giving visitors the chance to partake in one of the group's ancient ceremonies conducted to select members of The Chosen. These chosen ones got the opportunity to explore The Beornen's village, before ultimately encountering a burning man overseen by a strange priest-like figure.

The Beornen's life is wrapped up a legend of the Wicker Man, a character that is both their guardian and the focus of their ancient worship. The legend tells of a time when the Wicker Man will come to life in a spectacular ceremony. The chosen ones are a central part of this transformation - becoming sacrifices and having the "honour" of having their souls consumed by the Wicker Man as he explodes in fire and flame.

Ride Experience

The ride experience begins as guests hand in their bags and enter Wicker Man's preshow area. The pre-show takes place inside one of the Beornen's huts, and is where guests first learn about the ceremony in which they are about to partake. There's a lot of sound, projection and lighting effects here, and the sequence is really nicely done.

From the pre-show, it is a short walk into the ride's station, which is lit in red and orange. Glowing embers are seen through the station's wicker walls, as riders board the comfortable and superbly themed GCI trains.

A train breaks through the heart of the Wicker Man statue

A train breaks through the heart of the Wicker Man statue

Taking a 180 degree turn out of the station, the train dives into a smoke filled tunnel then emerges into the daylight and doubles back on itself to engage on the lift. Part way up, the lift's gradient changes from 24 degrees to 12 degrees.

At the top of the lift, the train enters a sound tunnel before diving down the first drop and briefly breaking out into the open. It quickly enters another tunnel and flies over a large airtime hill, then turning right and surfaces back into the open air. From here, it makes a left turn, aiming straight towards the Wicker Man effigy for riders' first close up encounter as they burst through the wooden edifice. Entering a long left turn, the train turns, circling over queuing guests below, and races through the statue from the opposite direction. This gives one of the ride highlights, as flames and smoke seem to envelop the entire rollercoaster. Continuing onward, it climbs uphill, then turns once more to descend back towards the Wicker Man for the final brush past its fiery limbs.

Taking a speedy left then right turn, the train passes underneath the first drop and lifthill, before hitting the final brakes. Trundling left, it passes through the rollercoaster's darkened maintenance building, then turns back to re-enter the station to the sound of the Boernen's drumming.

Photo Gallery