Points to this man for one of the best garden upgrades we’ve seen.
Leigh Downing, 47, decided to make his 11-year-old nephew’s dreams come true by building a rollercoaster in his back garden.
Leigh and his son Charlie, 20, worked together to bring nephew Calden’s sketches to life, creating a 230ft-long big dipper with old bits of scrap metal and wood.
They got crafty with unexpected materials, even using an old wooden chopping board as the seat of the ride, which circles Leigh’s back garden in Llandyrnog, Wales.
The pair built the rollercoaster as a surprise for Calden, who was feeling a bit fed up after being unable to see his friends due to lockdown.
Former engineer Leigh said: ‘Calden has been rollercoaster mad for as long as I can remember.
‘Even before he was tall enough to ride, he was designing them on a computer.
‘It all started a couple of years ago when I had an operation and was off work for a couple of months.
‘I gave Calden a wooden marble rollercoaster kit I had when I was a child.
‘He was so thrilled with it.
‘My son Charlie built him a small wooden rollercoaster that he could ride.
‘He was absolutely ecstatic with the end result, but a couple of years on had got a little bored with it.
‘We hatched this latest idea during lockdown.
‘We built it with a wooden frame for the structure, PVC pipe for the rails, and 462 wooden bearers that we mounted the rails on, all of which Charlie cut and filed a 40mm profile in. We did it all in eight days.’
Charlie, who passed his maths GCSE when he was 11-years-old and skipped his A Levels to go straight to university to study maths and science, is a hobby mechanic.
Leigh, who has a background in engineering, added: ‘We said to Calden, you do the design. He designed it from start to finish including every twist, turn and bunny hop.
‘We had to rein in his expectations. At first we thought we could do the drop two metres. We built the car and put it down and then went to three metres.
‘He loved it when he saw it but he had been involved in making it so he saw it as it came along.’
Leigh said when it came to making the car, there was ‘lots of trial and error’ – and some injured hay bales damaged by the car dismounting the tracks with them on board.
Simon, Calden’s dad, served as a guinea pig, riding the rollercoaster first to make sure it was safe, followed by Leigh’s mum.
Calden loves the end result – and the project has helped the family bond.
‘It was good fun,’ said Leigh. ‘We worked well as a team and had lots of laughs along the way, and I feel we did something absolutely amazing.
‘Calden was very cautious at first. We got him parked at the top and just let go and oh my god – we were exhausted. It is human-powered to get to the top. Then you climb in the car and off you go.
‘It is too frightening for me. I have had a go and Charlie has had a couple of goes.
‘After months of lockdown and Calden not able to see friends, as soon as they said two families from two households could meet, we said we would built it.
‘They really didn’t believe me when I told them I was building a rollercoaster until I showed them the video.
‘Our next plan is a full steel rollercoaster with a corkscrew and a loop which, of course, will rely on Charlie’s maths degree coupled with Calden’s rollercoaster designs.’
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