Towards the back end of last year, my friends at Go Ape sent me a moving present in the form of a voucher for a Tree Top Adventure at my new local Go Ape course – the one at Mallards Pike in the Forest of Dean. There are a whole load of things to do in this area of the country, and I am determined to explore properly and get to know it better now I live very close by; and what better way than by spending a morning in the tree canopy of England’s largest oak woodland?!
You might think that March isn’t the best time to do Go Ape because the weather is cold and most probably damp, but I’ve done courses in March before and while it is always muddy underfoot (so be careful on those zip line landings!), you keep warm through moving up in the trees, and the tree canopy is not a bad umbrella. On this particular outing the rain stopped as we arrived onto site and we were treated to some amazing blue sky and even a little bit of warm sunshine – perfect.
We paid £5 to park all day at the site to give us time for lunch and a walk around the lake after our Go Ape adventure. Money from the parking charges goes back into the area, helping the Forestry Commission to maintain footpaths, provide public toilets, and keep the forest as a good place to visit – it’s really not a big amount to pay for that. The café at Mallards Pike is new, and despite the guy at the till being the most miserable person in the whole of catering, we had a decent jacket potato for lunch. The whole site is worth a visit, the walk around the small lake is flat and easily accessible, there are other walking trails and a family cycle trail, and there is also one of the Gruffalo trails here like the one up at Sherwood Pines.
The course at Mallards Pike is split into five sites, each starting with a rope ladder and ending with a zip line. The first site is the tester – it’s a low to the ground and an instructor shows you first and then each person follows, giving an opportunity to practice using the safety system. Once you leave site one you are no longer directly supervised, but there are instructors around – actually, Mallards Pike had more instructors on the ground than I have noticed at the other sites I have visited, I could pretty much always spot one from my position up in the trees.
There are all kinds of crossings to get you between the trees once you are up in the canopy, from simple bridges made from wood and rope, fixed lines and wobbly ones, sometimes with hand rails and sometimes without. I really enjoyed the tunnel and the rope bridges, definitely got over my fear of the tarzan swing (long story). When given the option, I always opted for the most challenging route because, well, why not?! By far the most challenging crossings included rings dangling from ropes that you put your feet in – not quite impossible but certainly hugely difficult, and my upper body is now a little angry at me for that!
You won’t be surprised to know that my favourite part of the course, as most people will say I’m sure, are the zip lines. They seem to get longer and higher each time at Mallards Pike, I’m not sure if that is true or not, but it seemed that way. Zip lines are just so much fun (did you read about my experience at Zip World Velocity?). It’s a shame you can’t just go and do that over and over again… maybe I should try the Zip Trekking Adventure up in the Lake District next time I want a Go Ape day out?
Our Tree Top Adventure lasted just shy of two hours. At one point we caught up with the group that started half an hour before us, a family of four taking their time, no problems there, that’s the beauty of being left to your own devices and not always following an instructor. As a result, the instructors skipped us ahead to one of the later sites so we didn’t have to wait in line for anything, and then had us go back and complete our missed site at the end. This worked perfectly well. Apart from being bumped onto a different section early, we only waited once more to take part in an obstacle, and that was for the zip line at the end of site three, when a young lady was psyching herself up to jump off the platform – even then the group of four or five after her only waited a few minutes, enough time to enjoy being in the trees but not get impatient.
Overall, and once again, we had an excellent time at Go Ape, I really do recommend it as a place to spend some time outdoors. It’s just another example of how One Hour Outside can be all kinds of things! It’s not cheap at £33 per person if you’re paying for lots of people to go, but it is a fantastic experience that makes for an ideal experiences-not-things gift for yourself or someone you love.
Note there are two Go Ape sites within the Forest of Dean, offering different adventures. If you’re booked on the Tree Top Adventure or the Forest Segway, you need to be where I was at Mallards Pike. But if you’re doing the Tree Top Junior then you need to be at Beechenhurst, which is where you will also find the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail.
I think I’ve just added to my bucket list to make my way around all the Go Ape courses in the UK… they all have their similarities but are all so different; I’ve now done Sherwood a number of times, Rivington, Mallards Pike and one other that I really can’t remember. I’d love to know which is your favourite Go Ape course – where should I go next?!
For more information about Go Ape and to book your own experience or buy a friend a voucher, the visit Go Ape website.
In the interests of full disclosure, and to confirm what I said above, Go Ape sent me a Tree Top Adventure voucher to use at my local course to help me explore my new area. This is not a sponsored post; I was not asked to blog about my trip, but thought you might like to hear about my experience.