We didn't figure to go Alton Towers amusement park. We'd like to sometime. But we wanted to stick closer to London. (If nothing else we weren't sure how much bunny_hugger's uncle would need us.) We were tempted by Thorpe Park, near enough the city. But we decided to go to Chessington World Of Adventures, even closer yet to our hotel. It was near enough we could get there on the Underground, albeit in stretches that mostly went overground. Still, to take the subway to an amusement park is almost perfect for the kind of people we are. We were excited. So were some young women who squealed as the train pulled up to Chessington North, despite the sign there warning to alight at Chessington South for the World Of Adventures. They apologized for squealing; we promised that wasn't necessary.
Though the Chessington South station is near the park, it's not at it, and we joined a small, slightly confused herd of people wandering that direction. We got to the front, and I noticed someone at the parking lot changing the direction of the exit arrows for Aisle B (``Binturong'') and the like. Other parking rows include M for meerkat and O for otter. There's not pictures of the animals at these rows, just the names of them. And they change the exit direction between the start and the close of the day, somehow.
As we approached the ``Welcome To Britain's Wildest Adventure'' entrance a woman came up to us and asked if we'd bought tickets yet. We hadn't. She held out a couple. I was steeling myself for, at best, someone hawking tickets and dickering over the price; at worst, someone hawking counterfeit tickets. She said to take them, and asked for nothing, and walked off after we thanked her, confused. The tickets were valid, and that's how we got into the amusement park for free.
It transpired that the tickets we got had been sold by some promotional deal linked with The Sun, and they could either be used that day or not at all, so the woman wasn't losing anything by giving them away. It's still a kind act.
Chessington World of Adventures was, once upon a time, a manor house, until the 20th century made that an impractical option. In the 1930s it opened up as a zoo, and in the late 80s turned into a zoo with an amusement park, soon to be an amusement park with a zoo. (Coincidentally that's about when Deer Park Funland changed to being Michigan's Adventure, though I'm not sure when they dropped the petting-zoo side altogether to focus on the amusement park business.) Both sides are still going strong --- the zoo just took delivery of a new fossa this week --- although it's easy to spend the day just in the park and see few of the animals.
For that we blame the short hours. Again, the park closed strikingly early, around 5 pm. It was a cool day and it rained a little in the late morning but, still. It was early June. By that time of year even Michigan's Adventure is open till 6 pm. We'd see some of the animals --- just past the entry gate are Asian short-clawed otters, behaving just as you'd expect --- though not enough.
The first attraction we went to was Hocus Pocus Hall. This used to be Burnt Stub Mansion, the original manor house. It had been redesigned as one in the 18th century; before then, it had been an inn. Before that, it had been torn down by Parliamentary forces in the Civil War, and before that, as you might imagine, it was a Royalist stronghold. Apparently its history can be traced back to the mid-14th century. Now, it's a child-friendly haunted house walkthrough attraction, with animatronics and 3-D paintings you wear glasses for and gremlins poking out around all corners, that sort of thing. There's a moral here but I don't know what it is.
It's a splendidly maintained spot, though. And there's gremlin-type gargoyles sitting outside the arches leading up to the house. We noticed the tail of one was broken off, revealing it was stone-painted wood. bunny_hugger put the broken shard of tail back in its proper spot, so it wouldn't stand out.
Trivia: Charles Dickens's Dombey and Son sold better than 30,000 copies per monthly issue from 1846 to 1848. William Thackeray's Vanity Fair did no more than seven thousand. Source: The Age of Paradox: A Biography of England, 1841 - 1851, John W Dodds.
Currently Reading: After the Reich: The Brutal History of the Allied Occupation, Giles MacDonogh.
PS: A Summer 2015 Mathematics A to Z Roundup, a quick guide to all 26 of the A-to-Z glossary postings. Three.