Off over the valley
By Natalie Boxall
We look at a day out that is not only green and healthy, but is also fun at the same time.
Climbing across to the biggest slide
Living in the urban jungle that is Middlesbrough, sometimes you yearn for a bit of greenery, so when I got asked to spend a day not only in the country, but 30ft up in the trees, well, I couldn’t say no.
Go Ape is a tree-top adventure course and eco-educational experience in Dalby Forest. If you can imagine the Krypton factor assault course set high in the trees on the Ewok forest moon of Endor, then you're pretty close to what it looks like.
As I signed my disclaimer I heard a scream and saw a body whizzing through the trees. What was I letting myself in for?
Our friendly tutor Mark took my group of 8 (including some mums and their teenage boys) through an hour long course where we were strapped into our very secure harness, and were taught how to connect ourselves safely, and to land properly.
There were seven stages to go through and after a run though of how to attach to a zip line and walk sideways across, it was time to begin.
With the highest I go normally being the top of MIMA, the thought of being in a tree suspended by just two cables was daunting at first, but after doing my first zip line the adrenaline rush meant that I couldn’t wait to get onto number 2 - a Tarzan swing into a vertical scramble net.
Trying to climb the scramble net made me realise how rubbish my upper body strength is, and for a moment, I worried that I’d be left hanging due to me feebleness. Eventually, though, I managed to heave myself up and onto the next obstacle.
Go Ape is not only an active day out, but its green too. Rather than relying on energy-sapping rides, the structures (obviously) use no power and are designed to allow trees to grow unrestricted. The trees are ultrasounded to monitor their internal health, and build materials are selected to blend into the natural scenery.
The staff work closely with conservationists, and whilst waiting for the next obstacle, I noticed that there were boards dotted around the site with environmental facts and suggestions on them, which was much nicer than the usual ‘buy stuff’ ads you get at most parks aimed at families.
Each stage got progressively harder, but as there are more extreme or easier options at each level, it means that almost any reasonably fit person can take part.
A view from the floor
I decided to challenge both my fitness and fears by taking the harder routes on most of the activities, but didn’t feel scared at all, even when leaping into a valley from a post 70ft above the ground. As I got to the other side, I wondered why I’d ever been scared of heights.
Over the next two hours, I got out of breath, both from pulling myself along wobbly suspended bridges and from charging along to the next one, and managed to forget that I was actually doing exercise.
After the penultimate challenge – a Tarzan swing high in the trees, which lets you drop some 2 metres before catapulting you into another scramble net - I walked across a swinging bridge to the last zip line and took a moment to have a look out over the forest, which looked beautiful in the June sunshine.
Then I became one of the bodies I’d seen earlier, and flung myself off down the last zip wire, landing, on my feet, feeling tired but completely exhilarated.
last updated: 03/09/2008 at 10:40
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