I journeyed Northwards for the first Halloween event of the 2019 spooky season, up to Twinlakes Theme Park in Melton Mowbray for Xtreme Scream.
The usually family-friendly Twinlakes Family Theme Park takes on a darker twist on October nights as it is transformed into Xtreme Scream Park.
Some of the characters from the Pie Factory came out to play as we queued to get in.
7pm and it was time to enter the park for an evening of scares.
New signs warning against abuse of staff were very obvious at the front of the park. Were these a bit extreme, or were there problems last year? They certainly didn't give a particularly warm welcome!
Most of the crowd seemed to be congregating at the front of the park, so we headed towards the mazes nearer the back.
Our first maze of the night was The Village, the long and winding pathway through various houses and other buildings populated by genetically modified scarecrows.
We were the first group of the night meaning we had much of the maze, including the climactic Church finale, to ourselves - much more intimidating than the usual queue of people that end up clumped together inside the building.
Since we were in the vicinity, it made sense to do Pie Factory next. Another good run through, and this year the experience was enhanced by some new animatronics.
Pie Factory always makes me hungry, so we went for something to eat.
This year's food of choice was an Easy Cheezy "Gormet" Burger ... mmmmmm, spoonfuls of liquid cheese.
The new attraction for 2019 was the Rocky Circus Big Top show.
As circus shows go, it was a damp squib, and felt completely out of place with the rest of the event.
Back to the mazes, and into Ash Hell Penitentiary. I like the theme of this one, but it feels a bit too long (how much variety can you have going from prison cell to prison cell?), and it gets a bit frustrating walking through dark sections only lit by occasional slow flashing strobes after a while. Top quality actors though,and I got a few really good jump scares!
Hoodoo Voodoo, Xtreme Scream's hooded maze, has never really done it for me and is my least favourite of their offerings.
A few years ago, Alton Towers proved that walking around with a bag over your head could be immersive and scary with their Haunting of Molly Crowe scare maze, but Hoodoo Voodoo just doesn't do it for me:
I don't find anything particularly exciting about walking around a fun house with bouncy floors without being able to see where I'm going.
We saved the best to last: Stilton Hall Hotel and Hell Spa is by far my favourite maze. It's long, immersive and there's an almost infinite variety of rooms to explore as we wander through the spooky hotel. We had some great character interactions, not least with the drag queen in one of the upstairs bedrooms!
Xtreme Scream 2019 complete. I really enjoyed this year's visit: the park seem to be dealing with batching issues a lot better than previously, with it becoming much rarer to bump into the group in front or have the group behind us catch up. The mazes have all seen some improvements, and the park has invested in a number of new animatronics that add some great elements and even a few outright scares of their own. While the old clown maze isn't much missed, the new circus show was a bit rubbish and felt like a very weak addition. I'd love to see a new maze next year, but please keep Stilton Hall ... forever!