Memory Lane: New grand day out?

The Gold Mine at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, modelled on the Califorian gold rush mines of Sierra Nevada. Pictured just before it was due to open in October 1971

The Gold Mine at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, modelled on the Califorian gold rush mines of Sierra Nevada. Pictured just before it was due to open in October 1971

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UNTIL five weeks ago, there was gold in “them thar hills”, but next year will it be Wensleydale cheese instead?

That’s the question we ask after Blackpool Pleasure Beach’s Gold Mine ride closed without fanfare on September 25.

Wallace and Gromit

Wallace and Gromit

Mystery surrounds the future of the site, literally at the heart of the South Shore park, although according to reports on amusement park enthusiasts website www.coaster-net.com “construction work on the inside of the building and structure that house the ride began almost immediately”.

Fun park bosses are remaining tight lipped, saying only: “We hope to announce future exciting developments soon.”

But there is speculation that two of Britain’s best loved animated characters, Wallace and Gromit, will be the latest family favourites to welcome visitors.

Wensleydale cheese-loving Wallace, voiced by Last Of The Summer Wine actor Peter Sallis, and his dog Gromit, are household names, the creation of Lancashire-born animator Nick Park.

Almost a year ago, the Oscar-winning animator, who grew up in Walmer Bridge, near Preston, appeared on the BBC Radio 4 show Desert Island Discs, where he revealed: “We are in the middle of discussions with Blackpool Pleasure Beach about a Wallace and Gromit ride. It’s not a hair-raising terrifying ride, it’s a family-friendly ride.”

The Gold Mine photograph dates from October 1971, when the ride opened – admission 20p.

For the next 40 years it carried passengers in replica ore trucks into the heart of the 35ft high mountain, past gold rush scenes of “forty niner” miners.

It was hailed as the first of its kind in the world, “a combination of roller coaster and a ghost train-type dark ride,” and was designed by Academy Award-winning special effects director Maurice Ayers, who had worked on most Cecil B de Mille’s great film epics.