Greenwood Forest Park, known in Welsh as Gelli Gyffwrdd (The Touchable Grove), is a leafy and relaxing country park situated on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park. Squarely aimed at families and young children, it contains a host of activities and things to see and do.

You can even see the peak of Snowdon from a vantage point inside the park. The emphasis is not only on family fun but on education too. You are shown how man and nature can work together, creating crafts from the environment and keeping the environment safe. And best of all, it's only 8 miles from where I live!

Then completely out of the blue in 2004 came a roller coaster! I had heard the press releases a few months before opening and thought from the description that it was only going to be a toboggan slide. Somehow, it wasn't going to use any power at all but would get the train up the lift hill by the weight of the previous passengers. So would it be restricted by a rope system? Wouldn't it have any corners, hills and dips?

The Green Dragon (Y Ddraig Werdd) is now open and I can truthfully state that it's the world's first environmentally friendly coaster. Not only that, it's a pretty good one too. It's a family coaster so it maybe won't satisfy all the adrenaline junkies, however saying that doesn't do it justice. It's beautifully constructed around the hills, rocks and trees and fits in perfectly with the park. The name Green Dragon is a clever use of words too.

The train rolls out of the station and soon picks up speed around the edges of a wooded area, performing a series of undulations and S-curves. And believe me, it's faster than you think it's going to be. Halfway through the ride it careers over a bridge that spans the Great Green Run hillside slide and then enters a 270° helix. The helix is powerful and totally unexpected on a junior coaster, and after exiting the helix the coaster runs along the side of some rocks, the track supports firmly embedded in the cliff. This section reminded me of Boulderdash. It's astonishingly fast along this section and provides a great finale to this lovely little coaster.

So where does this environmentally friendly thing come into it then? Well, the lift hill (which effectively takes place at the end of the ride before the train arrives back in the station) is like a cliff railway. The train ends up sitting on a section of track that is actually a moving platform. The platform is connected to a passenger-carrying cabin on a parallel incline via a series of chains and pulleys. New riders walk up a hill to the station, enter the cabin, and the weight of the full cabin causes it to move down the incline, pulling the platform that's carrying the train up to the top of the incline. When the riders reach the bottom, they step out of the cabin and walk up the other side of the hill where the train is now waiting for them in the station. Meanwhile, the now-empty platforms reverse the action to put the passenger cabin back at the top for the next riders and the train platform at the bottom to catch the train when it finishes its next run.

Provided they've had a decent breakfast, the riders provide all the power to operate this coaster! Here are a few pictures to clarify the process.

Further reading: