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 Park||Alton Towers|
|Opened||20 March 2018 (soft opening)|
24 March 2018 (Grand Opening)
|Manufacturer||Great Coasters International|
|Designer||Merlin Magic Making|
|Height Restriction||1.2 metres|
|Codename||Secret Weapon 8 (SW8)|
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.
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.
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.
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.
Wicker Man: Alton Towers' new wooden rollercoaster for 2018
The giant head of the Wicker Man statue at the centre of the ride
The Wicker Man dominates over the ride area
This is the land of The Beornen
The flaming Wicker Man combines real fire with smoke, lighting and other theatrical effects
A train races towards the Wicker Man
Looking through the wooden ride structure towards the top of the lift hill
The Wicker Man erupting in flames as a rollercoaster train passes close-by
Huge flames shoot out of the Wicker Man's shoulders
The Wicker Man entrance area
Wicker Man ride entrance
Wicker Man ride sign
A train makes its way up Wicker Man's unusual lift hill, which changes angle half way up
Riders experience Wicker Man
One of the rollercoaster's trains passes over a hill
The Chosen Ones ride towards the blazing Wicker Man
Wicker Man is the UK's first wooden rollercoaster in 21 years ... we've waited a long time for this!
The queueline offers some great views and chances to get up close to the rollercoaster
A train dives downhill after leaving the airtime hill tunnel
Wicker Man's trains seat up to 24 riders
The rollercoaster passes through the Wicker Man statue 3 times
Gaze deep into the flames ... the Wicker Man will rise
Inside Wicker Man's station
The Wicker Man station is lit in flaming oranges and yellows
Detailing on the front of the Wicker Man train
Wicker Man's face looks out on the start of the queueline
The rollercoaster track interacts with the queueline at several points
Wicker Man, or Danger Ride?
Wicker Man is hungry for human souls, not doughnuts
Looking out of the station and into the sunshine
Waiting to be let into Wicker Man's preshow
Wicker Man's preshow uses spectacular digital mapping technology and other effects
The queuelines meet ... the privileged and the commoners converge
Wicker Man has its own games stall
A train bursts through the heart of the Wicker Man
Wicker Man smoulders, waiting for more souls to consume
While the Wicker Man may be fronted by a human face, his back is that of a ram's head
Non-riders can get spectacular views of the ride too
Wicker Man as seen from Congo River Rapids
The Wicker Man theming element towers over the ride area
Wicker Man blazes as darkness falls
The fire and flame effects look incredible at night