The forest looks awesome from up in the trees doesn’t it? Not seen it from forty foot up? You should…
A couple of weekends ago my sister and I were treated to a Tree Top Adventure courtesy of the lovely people at Go Ape. They have recently launched gift vouchers and so they gave me the opportunity to try out a couple of hours of climbing, walking and swinging so I could tell you all about it.
We went over to Sherwood Pines, which is a Forestry Commission run woodland near Nottingham, where Go Ape run their high ropes adventure course, off road segway tours, and mountain bike trails through the forest. My sister Veronica and I were booked to do their standard tree top adventure which was to last up to around three hours. It was a cold and damp morning at Sherwood Pines, a few spots of rain here and there, but Go Ape don’t cancel for many things and a bit of drizzle and being muddy underfoot would be just fine.
The registration was straight forward; we had to sign consent forms and the instructors helped us put on our harness and we were ready. The safety talk and demonstration seemed to take ages and waiting was rather boring but we understood the importance of checking everyone in the group (there were twelve of us – the rest were in a group of ten, plus the two of us) could use the clips and ropes before climbing the first tree. We attached ourselves to a wire at floor level and walked along sitting back in the harness to feel it working. This gave us plenty of confidence in the equipment, and as this was Veronica’s first time this helped her feel less apprehensive. We were both looking forward to getting started. The last scary bit was doing the first low ropes course in front of the other group members but we managed it without any problems, remembering which clips to use when and managing to avoid dropping the pulley on our shins. Rules were made very clear and there were plenty of signs around to remind you which clips to use when and to help you navigate your way around the course.
After the initial briefing and practice with an instructor we were left to our own devices. This meant that we could do the course at our own pace, could chat about anything we wanted on the way around without feeling like we were being rude, could stop and take photos, and could just be ourselves. There was no pressure (well apart from that the only way down was the zip lines!), and much giggling.
The fact that the instructors were not watching your every move was also a confidence boost – they really do believe in their safety equipment, and also less stressful – not having people watch your every move. The “emergency whistle” in the harness meant we could always get someone there quickly if needed, but of course we didn’t have to use it.
The course was challenging but everything was completely possible. Some bits were wobbly, some made your legs split apart, some had nowhere to put your hands. But it was all doable with a bit of self belief. All that was really needed was a trust in the equipment and that you were attaching yourself correctly. The most difficult – challenging – element of the course was the big Tarzan swing because you had to commit to jumping off the platform before you felt the harness tighten up and take your weight (oh, and climbing up the rope ladders was hard work!). Veronica and I got round with pretty much no problem at all. A few nerves in places perhaps, a lot of concentration on certain parts, quite a bit of strength used when the ropes took your legs and arms in different directions, but all done and all survived, with a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment at the end.
Somehow I managed to land on my feet at the bottom of every zip wire – Veronica didn’t quite manage and ended up ‘landing’ (read: dragged) on her back, side, bum… getting muddy was all part of the outdoor adventure of course and we’d both gone prepared in clothes we didn’t mind getting muddy or scraped, and we’d both worn our walking boots to give our feet and ankles some protection.
We took LincsGeek along with us to take photographs, and it was good he could walk around the course on paths put in place for spectators – it’d be really dull for non climbers otherwise. We were able to chat with him at the end of each part of the course (there are five or six sections each with a zip wire at the end). I was also allowed to take a camera up onto the course that was attached to a lanyard I’d taken with me.
The fact that a group of up to 12 people starts the course every half an hour means you will almost certainly either catch up with the group in front of you, which results in waiting, or be at the front of a line of people behind you, which puts pressure on you to speed up. We did catch up with the group in front of us but they were a small group of four and we all joined in the banter together so it was fine.
The whole course takes two-and-a-half hours or so, which seemed to fly by. We both had a really enjoyable time up in the trees – especially whizzing down the zip wires – and would both love to do it again some time. We were given a certificate at the end of the course which was a nice touch, and had opportunity to buy a tshirt or hoodie which was tempting but neither of us gave in.
Go Ape definitely gets a recommendation from us – the staff were really helpful and friendly, the course was loads of fun and safe, and the grounds (Sherwood Pines) was an excellent location. If we’d have paid the £30 each for our adventure we’d have been pretty pleased with the value too.
You can book your adventure (or buy a gift voucher for someone else) on the Go Ape website.