TV's Family Favourites
Alongside personal appearances from Noel Edmonds and Mr Blobby, Crinkley Bottom needed a permanent fixture that would entertain visitors on those rainy days. An indoor water ride was devised, and TV's Family Favourites was born.
The ride was essentially a looped river that gently drifted a number of yellow and blue 'TV Dreamboats' through various tableaus and rooms featuring everyone's favourite BBC children's TV characters. The simple idea was turned into something quite magnificent, as the attention to detail in each segment of the ride was breath-taking.
The attraction was located adjacent to the Crinkley Bottom Post Office, which stocked TV-related merchandise relating the characters featured in the ride. The building was used as a warehouse before £750,000 was spent on turning it into a televisual haven. The ride was designed and manufactured by a company called T.H.E. Limited, which is no longer trading. Several of the animated characters were created by David Aldridge Animations, who also made the animations for Noddy in Toytown and the Postman Pat attraction at Longleat in Wiltshire. The ride opened in mid-July 1995, with a grand opening by Noel Edmonds himself.
The brightly-coloured exterior enticed visitors through a maze of dark corridors, lit by clapperboard-style chevrons pointing towards the starting point. The first room, themed around the Noel's House Party set, was where staff would assist visitors with their boats and lower them into the water.
Once in their boats, visitors drifted along the river and through a giant television set, its screen smashed open to allow the boat to enter. Using fake smoke, UV lighting and giant electronic components, the effect of literally entering the TV set was hugely effective.
Through the TV set, clever use of lighting and paintwork turned everything black-and-white, and visitors were greeted by looming puppets of Andy Pandy and Bill and Ben, the Flowerpot Men. Operated using real strings, these imposing animations were rather memorable!
Continuing the monochrome theme, 2D building and cut-out figures from Ivor the Engine were featured. An array of signals and railway signs accompanied a large Ivor against a wall, with his wheels rotating. A tunnel with a sign above declaring 'Now in Colour!' took visitors back into the world of colour television, with the cast of Camberwick Green and Trumpton.
The Trumpton room was large and displayed a dramatic scene of the Town Hall on fire, with the trusty Trumpton fire brigade attempting to extinguish the flames. The fire engine sat on one side of the river, squrting water over visitors' heads onto the Hall. Nearby, Windy Miller watched on, next to his famous mill.
Though the entrance to Pippin Fort lay the Magic Roundabout room, the most-photographed section of the ride, as it was used in publicity materials regularly. Riding through, Dylan strummed his guitar next to a rapidly-rotating Roundabout, with Florence waving from one of the horses.
Brian wriggled close by, and opposite the Roundabout, Zebedee bounced and Dougal spun round at great speed. In the same room, a crowd of static, 2D Mr Men and a suitably-glamourous Pink Panther tableau stood proudly, though no photos of this part of the ride remain.
Through the doors of the TARDIS stood a simple but effective Doctor Who scene (though admittedly not a scene that has ever existed in any Doctor Who story!). A red and white Dalek stood next to a hatstand, which held a famous Tom Baker scarf. K9 sat beside the hatstand, nodding his head and wiggling his tail.
Continuing the extra-terrestrial theme, the Clangers appeared in the next room. Mother Clanger and Tiny Clanger prepared a recipe, whistling as they went. Finally, visitors entered the finale of the ride, another mock-up of the Noel's House Party set. Edmonds, face hidden by a giant newspaper, sat next to Mr Blobby watching a TV set showing Edmonds' face.
Once back into the Foyer room, visitors were again assisted out of their boat using a bizarre conveyor-belt contraption, and exited through the same clapperboard corridors. TV's Family Favourites was a very popular ride at Crinkley Bottom, so much so that when Blobbyland was removed, it remained open. However, a small number of changes were made.
With the Noel's House Party elements removed, the final room was changed so that it featured a scene of Noddy and Big Ears instead. Additionally, several embellishments were made, such as laying astroturf on the white floor of the Magic Roundabout room. But the biggest change was the black-and-white room - it was painted in colour!
Apparently the reason for behind these cosmetic changes was because staff felt the black-and-white theme looked unfinished, however the ingenuity of the idea was lost once the puppets were painted in bright colours. The Noddy section didn't quite live up to the egotistical Noel Edmonds finale, either.
after crinkley bottom
When Warner Hotels bought Cricket St Thomas in late 1998, the ride was closed to the public. Following this, Cricket St Thomas staff stole the Dalek, Dylan the rabbit and Zebedee, and their whereabouts remain unknown. With the ride left untouched, the water that remained in the river rotted much of the wood and fabric elements of the attraction.
However, in 2001 the ride was bought by Watermouth Castle in Ilfracombe. Salvaging what they could, the river track was turned into an open-air river ride, retaining the same boats and conveyor-belt system. The ride remains in operation to this day, embellished with a jungle-themed selection of animations from another theme park ride from the 1970s.
A few of the animations and scenic items that survived the rot can be seen hidden away at Watermouth, such as Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men, the Brian and the Clangers. In addition to this, K9 was given to Ilfracombe Dogs Trust, then transferred to the charity's main offices in London in 2010.
The building used to house the ride was originally due to be converted into a leisure centre for the Hotel. This idea was quickly abandoned and instead it remains standing to this day, although the wooden exterior was taken down in 2010 following further expansions of the hotel.