As we count down the days to the official start of the 2016 season here at Drayton Manor Theme Park, there’s lots going on behind the scenes in preparation.

Our newly appointed Head of Facilities, Doug Stuart, is heading up the teams that are out and about come rain, sleet, snow or shine to get the park ship-shape ready to welcome our guests for what promises to be a momentous year.

Doug took some time out of his busy schedule to tell us what’s going on behind the scenes before the gates open on Saturday 12th March for the start of the main season (or 13th February for our half-term week of fun & Thomas & Friends™ weekends on 27-28th Feb and 5-6th March).

Here’s what Doug had to say…

“Although the park is closed, it’s a very busy time for the rides maintenance team. The guys are out working in all weathers getting the rides spick and span ready for the start of the season. It was -1C the other day and the team was up on the top of Maelstrom working away!

“Every ride across the park gets completely stripped down and we have inspectors in that check everything – every single nut and bolt – to make sure it’s all in good working order. A lot of kit gets sent off for NDT (non-destructive testing) and certain parts are sent off for x-ray. The rides are completely dismantled and given a full service and clean up.

“Once everything has been checked over, the inspectors issue us with remedial work and if there’s anything that needs repairing, we get it done. They then come back and inspect again to make sure they’re happy and then we put it all back together.

“We have a smaller team of seasonal staff that comes in and jet washes and steam cleans all the rides to spruce them up.

“The estates team is busy with general maintenance and repairs to buildings across the park. There are trees that need to be felled, areas to replant and shrubs and bushes to trim, as well as leaves to clear.

“The estates maintenance team – that’s the joiners, plumbers, painters, handy men etc. – is out and about carrying out lots of little projects all over the place. We’re currently taking down the frontage of the CN Café and rebuilding it to improve its look. We’re doing all the little things that we can’t do when the park is full of guests.

“One of the biggest projects that’s been keeping us busy is preparing for the launch of the brand new Tamarin Trail. The project is now in its latter stages, we’ve built all the enclosures, planted trees, shrubs and bamboo and we’re now preparing to move the monkeys over to their new homes. Once we’ve successfully re-housed them and they’ve settled in well, we’ll dismantle the old enclosures and start working on how to best utilise the space.

“We’re also looking at painting Maelstrom and carrying out remedial works on the Haunting to bring it back to its former glory.

“The hygiene team is out cleaning all toilets, offices and other facilities. Staff are carrying out a mass park clean-up operation, litter picking etc., which happens every year before the start of the main season.

“We also control water flows in and out of the lake. We’re re-building the wall around the front of the lake and have put boulders in to try to keep back the water pressure to prevent leaks and flooding. We drained the lake so the work could be carried out, but it will be filled back up again in time for the start of the season.

“Finally we’ve been working on improving the car parks to help with drainage. They are grassy so we have had problems in the past but this will hopefully help the situation. It all contributes to improving the guest experience, which is what we’re all working towards.”

It’s going to be hard to top 2015! We celebrated our 65th anniversary in style with the launch of the brand new £2.5 million Thomas Land™ expansion and welcomed record breaking visitor numbers.

But 2016 may just have the edge, with the arrival of the brand new Tamarin Trail, which is expected to open in the spring. Guests will have the opportunity to walk through the attraction, getting up close and personal with the cute and inquisitive monkeys.

2016 will also mark the five year anniversary of the opening of the hugely popular onsite four-star Drayton Manor Hotel, which has introduced Thomas & Friends™ themed rooms since its opening in 2011. The park’s onsite restaurant the Grill Inn will also celebrate its fifth anniversary this year.

We will also host our annual Halloween event, fireworks spectacular weekend and hugely popular Magical Christmas event to finish the year off with a bang.