I've never fancied doing urban exploration myself - not just because I'm far too clumsy to wend my way into derelict buildings without incident or accident, but because there's something incredibly melancholy about certain types of abandoned places. When places appear left quickly, personal possessions left behind, signs of life in notes still hopefully pinned to walls, they seem to teem with invisible ghosts of happier times. And as someone who finds abandoned toys intrinsically sad (all they want is to make children smile! No wonder I cried at Toy Story 2) the shots of closed theme parks I've been looking at today have been the most depressing thing I've seen in a long time.
I started looking at the wonderful archive of brochures on this site - see the zoo that once stood near my last house in Manchester down Longsight, where a park now stands - as I'm interested generally in ephemera, and particularly FrontierLand in Morecambe caught my eye. I remember going here as a child - there is a photograph of me wearing my dad's tweed deerstalker and smiling while he put his arm round me in front of the wooden rollercoaster - possibly in 1987, the year it became a Western-themed funpark to bring in more visitors. I returned to Morecambe in 2004 and was sad to see the decline. Blackpool still thrives due to the huge tourist trade from the Pleasure Beach and more lately hen nights, but Morecambe suffered from the availability of cheap foreign holidays and now the beautiful Midland Hotel lay closed, Frontierland shuttered and all left were seafront amusement arcades, their machines casting multicoloured glow over harsh young faces. Frontierland apparently briefly became a Mr Blobby themed theme park. I'd love to see Morecambe become an Aldeburgh of the North, but it probably won't happen.
I used to go to Southport a lot with my dad and when my nephews were small. My dad hated Blackpool, thinking it too tacky and commercialised, and as he was a bargain fan the huge discount centre there was a big draw as he could stock up on things like pickled sliced onions. (Opposite is a supermarket - possibly a Waitrose - that looks like a Victorian plant conservatory.) We never went to Southport Zoo, but we did go to the theme park a lot, and I was suprised to see it was now closed. Seeing the remains of places I last visited, grumpy with a book, when I was twenty gives me a strange feeling.
I never went to American Adventure, but as someone who
was in thrall to cultural imperialism liked American things and really wanted to go there, I alwas wanted to. It seemed the next best thing. Sadly, that too is now gone -jennywooyay sent me the link with the comment 'now it looks like Silent Hill'.
However, sometimes dereliction looks not so much like the abandonment of places once full of life as much as nature trying to hide the abhorrent: see here.