“ Amusement park in Northampton, England. „
As far as unglamorous locations go for holiday resorts Billing Aquadrome would have to be near the top, as near as you can get to an American style trailer park, squeezed between an industrial estate, a shopping park and the town of Northampton's sewage plant! You don't want to be here when the wind blows the wrong way guys! If there is a tornado in the Midlands it would surely hit here. And if the pong and traffic and industrial hum doesn't deter you then the maze of flood overflow gravel pits that the River Nene snaking through surely should, two foot of water in the holiday camp near the rivers edge not unusual, as proved this week an avacuation, why the mobile homes and cabins are on stilts, one presumes. There wa sso much rain in the county they actually cancelled anewarbye boatig festival, which was under threat the previous month by drought! I just can't think of a more unromantic place to have a holiday than here. Ok, I forgot Ryhl.
But it is popular, somewhat bizarrely, people coming from other grim Midlands towns to holiday in another grim Midlands town, residents actually living at the 250 acre Aquadrome all year around. Older fishing fans love it as a small town of rows and rows of mobile, static and portable homes and caravans and lodges are placed near the small lakes that fill the site like flooded bomb craters, some residents fishing off their own balconies, whilst the misses potters around in their garden shed on wheels glued to the portable TV. Most of the mobile homes are effectively second homes for retired working-class people and cared for like their loved ones graves, lots of pot plants and manicured lawns on show to make them feel snug and house proud, neatly tucked in behind their little picket fence to mark their territory. In a way they are quite romantic places and offer a certain escape and intimacy you don't get from hotels and B&Bs, especially if you are using them to cheat on your partner.
The park closes from New Years to early February for council tax reasons and so a really depressing place in the under grey skies as the skeletal gothic tress claw at those who are left in the wind, dog walkers, joggers and workers heading down to the equally grim factory units, all shuffling by as if it doesn't exist. In the spring it comes alive though as the park holds various events to shake of the dewy cobwebs, everything from VW Beatle jams to Elvis weekends on offer, pulling in the niche punter. When you get that eclectic crowd in it feels more cosmopolitan and less blue collar. In fact its rather fun as you can pitch your tent, get drunk, and chat with people of like mind for your hearts content. The Comic Book weekend was a sight to see a few years back when I worked one summer there and the mix of people always amazed me. Last weekend it was the American Auto Club with the big old American gas guzzlers and next week it's a caravan and boat show, this an aquadrome after all, marina facilities also on site, of course. The day ticket for the park is quite steep at around £15 for adults and half that for Children but that's if you go through the main gate, where as public rights of way mean you can walk in free elsewhere on site.
To buy a static home there they can set you back 40 grand or more and then you pay monthly rent on top, whilst the more traditional caravans top end at 15 grand, the park an upmarket gypsy site for some. The hire charges for caravans, boats and mobile homes and rather nice wooden chalets (more suited to Switzerland) are high and you could easily have cheaper holiday in Benidorm. The fully equipped wooden chalets sell for up to 100 grand here! You don't get the sun, sea and sand of Spain for the prices and that same clientele are here in numbers in high summer. At least you don't get pickpockets, bag snatchers and condoms on the beach. The beach at the Aquadrome is the sandy area for the sewage outlet pipe.
It's not that easy to get to so just follow the smell off the A45, the main gate opposite the sewage treatment works. As I say its income comes from accommodation and punters in vehicles and so you can always get a bus down there and spend the day for nothing. They have a small fairground and an after a five million pound renovation they have built 'The Venue', an indoor pool with adjoining bar & restaurant (with entertainment), a kids arcade and soft play area and a cyber café with sun and BBQ decks, lots of other stuff like a small kid's train that goes around the site and a pedal and full go-kart tracks to keep the kids occupied so mum and dad can have some personal time in the caravan. There is mini golf, of course, housed on Shark Island. It's like Butlins without the sea and most of the things to do in Butlins as you seem to have to pay for all the extras.
As far as hiring a boat goes there isn't really anywhere to go in it, other than chug around the big lake bumping into each other. The kids can have a pedalo out and there are water based activities going on in the summer season. There are good canal and river connections but you expect people prefer to stay on site. The actual maritime traffic coming to the park to stay appears rather limited. Most of the boats look like they haven't been anywhere for years with that familiar green mildew covering the Plimsoll Line, their satellite dishes proof of anchor. You can also camp, park caravans and motor homes near the boats or on the park for between ten and twenty pounds a night.
A four bed spacious caravan costs around £ 450 per week or along weekend for half that, more for the static homes and lodges, very steep. If you were going to the British Grand Prix, for example, some ten miles away, it is a good deal for accommodation in context so an option there. They have wireless internet (extra cost), microwaves and all mod cons in most of the accommodation. Like hotel rooms, the fewer beds you want the more expensive it gets, the highest price quoted on the website up to £750 quid in high season for the log cabins. I would not be impressed if this was my honeymoon girls. Even for seven nights on the first day of the season in February a caravan costs £ 250 per week. Are we going to see more people living in mobile homes as recession bites? A packed Billing Aquadrome seems evidence of.