We all know the story - it's the middle of the summer holidays and parents are going crazy! Mums and dads around the county are desperately searching for something that will entertain their energetic off spring. So how does an afternoon swinging in the trees of Cheshire's Delamere Forest sound? We thought so too - so we went along to try it out.
A playground in the trees!
Go Ape is a relatively new attraction in South Cheshire's Delamere Forest. It's a wooden playground built into the trees and reaching heights of up to 60 feet. Groups of people take turns to climb ladders up to the small wooden ledges on the trees, where a variety of obstacles await them, getting them from tree to tree across swinging bridges, foot loops, nets and of course zip wires!
|A thorough training session.|
Not one to shy away from trying new things, I was looking forward to jumping off trees and shooting down zip wires - but as I read the safety instructions about being responsible for clipping all your equipment, I admit I became a little scared. I was reassured however by the very thorough directions we were given by our instructor Oli, who made 100% sure that everyone could use their ropes and 'Karabinas' (safety locks to you and me) properly.
Safety, safety, safety
A great deal of time was spent making sure that everyone understood the rules - for example at least one safety lead must be attached to the tree or obstacle at any time (say it with me "long one loves the tree"), only three people per platform, and parents must accompany under 16s. The instructor also accompanies groups around zone one or the 'training course', before leaving the eager 'apes' to their own devices.
The course is made up of five different zones altogether, each gradually higher and more exciting than the last. Despite being relatively low, I was most scared at the beginning of the course though. I felt like I wasn't attached by very much and was a bit wobbly - but I was surprised how much I learnt to trust the safety ropes and after just a short while I was striding up the rope ladders confidently!
|Where's the next foot hold gone?|
As we made our way through the following zones we tackled an array of moving, wobbling and swinging wooden obstacles to get to the next tree ledge. One of the most difficult was a series of stirrup looking foot holders that you had to some how reach and fit your limbs in while swinging about in mid air! As well as wooden ledges, ropes and wires that also moved around a fair amount. Each obstacle had a coloured difficulty rating however, with alternative routes where necessary for children (or wimps!)
A zip wire at the end of each zone
We climbed a rope ladder to the trees at the beginning of each zone, but there was a much more interesting route down - via zip wire! The first time I was a little apprehensive about jumping off a ledge while high in the trees with only a safety wire holding me up, but by the end I was getting a run up and going backwards. It was loads of fun whizzing along high in the air and wasn't as fast as it looked either - it was the landing that was the hard part! The instructor had made it sound so easy, "start running before you hit the ground, or if you're backwards dig your heals in to slow down". Basically I landed backwards every time and ended up with wood chipping in very uncomfortable places. I'd advise wearing non stretchy trousers - you have been warned.
The Tarzan swings were just as much fun. They involved jumping off a high ledge holding onto a rope (as the name suggests) and swinging full speed into a huge rope net, which you then had to climb (arguably even harder) to get off. It's one of those things that your instincts tell you not to do, but kids big and small will definitely enjoy it.
A three hour adventure
|Caught in the Tarzan swing net.|
We went along on a weekend when the course was at its busiest, and the whole course took us around three hours to complete. This was largely due to waiting for each other, or other groups to move around the course, although the time went quickly and we didn't feel like we were waiting for long periods at any point.
The course was physically challenging at times, and a bit of muscle power was needed to pull yourself up rope ladders and cling on to moving obstacles, but nothing that most people would generally find challenging. The minimum age for children is 10 years old with restrictions on how many children an adult can accompany - but there is no upper age range and the site manager told me that they've had people as old as 80 taking part!
Despite initially feeling that the high ledges and wires at Go Ape would be scary, I felt surprisingly safe as the afternoon went on. It became second nature to attach first the long then short safety leads to the tree and after jumping down a zip wire a few times you learn to trust your harness .... although the 200 ft zip wire at the end of Zone five does go pretty fast!