Have you heard of Go Ape? The treetop adventure company which has courses all over the country? No? Well you need to…
I never thought I’d like it myself, I’ve been to watch a couple of times and although I fancied the zip wires (of which there are many), I suspected I’d be bored by the rest of it and probably terrified! Leaping from platforms high up in trees, swinging into nets and having to climb my way up to the next tree on the agenda… Seemed a bit like hard work and from a spectators point of view it takes a REALLY long time!
I just wan’t that interested. I thought it would be, well, nothing special. Oh how wrong was I!
So I was persuaded to give it a go and went off for a day in the forest with my husband. Although he’s been before, like I said, he didn’t need any encouragement to sign up for a third time; it’s only now, after the experience that I see why!
Walking through the forest and watching is one thing. Both occasions for me were damp days and I’d had more than enough after an hour. The experience for the tree toppers however takes far longer so I’d had to stick around getting bored and freezing! The day I did it myself by contrast, was on one of these gloriously sunny spring starts that we’re having. This might have helped but my husband says not and that for him, even on a cold day the experience was exhilarating! I totally see that now and as you get lost in the adventure I bet even on the most miserable of weather days the zip wiring, climbing and concentration leads you out of the cold and into the zone, into the moment!
I didn’t think I liked heights. I didn’t think I could leap off a tree high above the ground. I didn’t trust the safety… I thought I was an idiot to even try it but soon after arrival my first fears were alleviated somewhat by the super calm and entertaining Aaron, our Go Ape guide. He explained and demonstrated all the important things in a very interesting way. Things he must say and do over and over and things which could easily become a pattern like a tired air hostess reading out the list of possibilities as she demonstrates for the millionth time how to use a whistle. But he wasn’t boring or bored in the slightest, he obviously loves his job which I suspect is a prerequisite of the employees at Go Ape and also something which I think must happen naturally for them, even if they don’t start out like that! Once you’ve done it once you are bitten by the bug and working for them must mean you get to do the course loads which would be enough incentive for me! One of the chaps in my group even started enquiring about a job for himself!
I found it hard work but in a good way, while it was thrilling, exciting, scary and brilliant all rolled into one! We had a practice on the ground of clipping and unclipping all our safety gear which (and I hadn’t realised it would be this way) we were entirely responsible for ourselves. Although the instructors are on the ground, occasionally shouting up to the thrill seekers (to see if they are having fun – the answer was always YES for us), we took the course in our own time and in our own little groups. This meant I couldn’t employ my usual trick of not really listening and letting someone else do everything for me when it came to the important part. I actually learned something and gained a new skill I think! Although it’s not terribly hard to remember always to put green on green or blue through blue of course!
Aaron showed us the next stage too and for the first zip wire, just for our practice above ground, he went through it all one last time with each and every one of us before we were left to it! Climbing up that first ladder was daunting. And high. Jumping off the platform into the first net was almost unbearably frightening. With encouragement from both the group, which was made up of people I’d never met before (excluding my husband of course) and the instructors on the ground, I managed my first jump and made it onto the next platform. I actually did it rather quickly I think!
I won’t say it was all a walk in the park from then on in because there were moments when my legs wobbled and my nerves nearly got the better of me. There were seconds when I thought about taking the easy option (I didn’t) and times when I thought I couldn’t do it (I could). However, it was all exhilarating and I found every single moment amazingly fun! I’m not a typical thrill seeker and nor am I outdoorsy in the slightest. I own Hunter wellies as a fashion statement darling… Still, if asked would I do Go Ape again and my answer would be ‘when’? I LOVED it!
Questions I had about Go Ape and the answers I have discovered:
What’s it good for? Team building, thrilling fun, exercise, concentration, being out doors, a new adventure, laughing, helping, over coming fears, beauty, amazement and a sense of health and well being!
Who can do it? You have to be over 10 years old, 1.4m tall and weighing less than 20.5 stones. There is also a tree top junior course at some of the venues suitable for those over 1m.
How long does it take? Well, we took 2 and a half hours and it felt like we were moving very quickly. I couldn’t believe the time had gone so fast but they do say that’s what happens when you’re having fun!
How safe is it? Obviously it is very safe and you can see that amazing thought has gone into the structure with attention to the smallest of details. You are always harnessed with two carabiner clips, the pully bit attachment and a metal loop. Everything is coloured so that you know what to attach when and where and instructions are on every tree with warning signs to remind you to stay attached at all times. Ultimately the safety is in your own hands but everything is in place for you to follow safe rules.
Where can I do it? There are 29 tree top adventure courses in the UK but we did it at Trent Park near Cockfosters in London. This is perfect for London living adventurers as you don’t even need a car to get there and the tube station is minutes walk from the forest.
How much does it cost? The course we did is £32 per person which yes, is expensive but when you think of the insurance and everything else a place like this must need then I think it’s reasonable. It’s an expensive day out for a family but it IS something like nothing else and I think, totally worth a try!
There are lots of other questions answered on their own website www.GoApe.co.uk as well as a wealth of other information about all the courses, Junior courses and also their Segway experience! I’ve definitely got the ‘Go Ape’ bug and want to go back! I especially want to take Florence on the junior course in Thetford – I know she’d LOVE it and I’d jump at trying the Segway experience too!
I was invited to Trent Park to try the course for a website I write for (not this one). I decided to post on my own blog as well because the day was so much fun!