Next in our series of #GoProAdventures was our trip to fling ourselves around from tree to tree at Moors Valley Park, as excited guests of the GoApe centre there.
Go Ape is the UK’s No.1 forest adventure. Doing everything from the Tree Top Challenge to Forest Segways and Zip Trekking, there’s no shortage of options for an adrenaline-fuelled afternoon’s activity for the family! The bigger Tree Top Challenge is only for 10yrs + (and 1.4m and over) – but if you’re a certain fearless 7yr old of my acquaintance there’s no need for getting the rage face on. Moors Valley GoApe in Dorset also have the brilliant Tree Top Adventure course. Specially made for smaller people – and those who’re not quite so brave about the big heights, but still have a secret longing for giving that zip-wire a go.
First impression as you wander towards the centre in the woods is… awesome. As you crane your neck back and gaze upwards you can see the course stretching overhead and away through the trees; zip lines, beams, ropes, ladders, bridges and more creating a spiders web of adventurous pathways in the sky. Far higher than the back of your brain will be telling you is reasonable and safe. But try and ignore it.
The three of us on the Tree Top Challenge were harnessed up first – once greeted, there’s a safety talk with an instructor who walks you through the harnesses and clips. This is 100% necessary as (surprisingly, to me) the whole course is “Do it yourself” – there’s no instructor to hold your hand through the processes, or waiting on each platform – once they know you can manage the different styles of obstacles you’re just free to roam the course. Unless of course you need help, in which case an instructor is never out of earshot. Safety talks are usually arduous and painstakingly long, but ours lasted about 5 minutes before a quick 15 minute practice on a low-to-the-ground practice area. At which point we were let loose to go find the terrors that awaited us in the forest. Nervous? ME? (#terrified)
And up we went. A staggeringly tall rope ladder up to the top of a tree easily the height of a three story building – 11 year old Jolly needed a few words of reassurance just to make it up the ladder. We hooked on to the next guide line and begin to move forward, not really feeling the fear too much as the concentration on overcoming each obstacle doesn’t allow you to stop and think.
The course is made up of different types of paths to traverse; balance bridges, where you have to walk along an almost tight rope or a set of swings suspended over the gaping amount of empty air beneath you. Tarzan Swings, which is just what it sounds like – swinging off of a platform at speed into a huge cargo net (a personal favourite for No.1 son. I did NOT like leaving the nice, solid, secure platform to leap into space). Various bridges of different styles, including a mesh suspension bridge, and a much-more-hair-rasing-than-it-looks rolling barrel. And of course there are Zip Lines. Oh how we loved the zip lines!
The Adventure course lasts over two hours, and is split into five sections. Each section starts on the ground in a little enclosed area with a VERY handy water dispenser (seriously, that is a genius move, seeing as you can’t bring things into the trees with you and it gets very hot up there), and you ascend a long rope ladder to start. At the end of each section there is an impressive Zip line from the canopy back to the ground.
While we three were busy shrieking and “wooaaahhhh!”-ing around in the tops of the trees, the husband and 7-year old, plus the concerned-by-heights 13-year old tackled the Tree Top Adventure. Turns out this is essentially the same thing, just nearer the ground, shorter in length and more suitable for everyone.
PERFECT for our “not too fond of heights” Boy and Dad. It holds all the same elements of being up high, and even has a zip line big enough for the adults to get a buzz. Captain Fearless the 7yr old stopped being quite so ragey at the lack of the high Tree Top Challenge for her when she saw it, and while she was frustrated at being told she wasn’t big enough for the big stuff she did have a total blast on the junior trail. The major difference that we could see was the “One Clip” system. Whereas the adult Tree Top Adventure gives you three karabiner clips to use to keep yourself safe, on the Junior you get one easy clip system that doesn’t require you to unclip and re-clip at each intersection. This is perfect for the younger audience, so no matter who you are you can join in too.
Watch the video. It’ll persuade you like nothing else will that this is definitely a Very Good Thing To Do.
As you watch the video, the second over-the-head zip wire, and the starfish-ing Captain Fearless on the zipwire are both on the Adventure Trail; you can see the junior bridges and platforms zig-zagging through the trees.
Overall it was SUCH a fantastic day; possibly even more brilliant than the exhilarating fun we three had on the bigger Tree Top Adventure was seeing the husband and Boy conquer their fear of heights (huge thanks to the staff who were so amazingly supportive and patient with the genuinely fearful) and come hollering down the zip wire with triumphant shouts.
It sounds silly when we were all harnessed up and utterly safe at all times, but we all felt so bloody proud of ourselves! I can’t tell you how much fun we had, or the sheer nerve-wracking heady excitement of overcoming that voice in the back of your brain which is telling you that being way up here on this very wibbly thing is actually one of the stupidest things you’ve opted to do recently…
We finally headed reluctantly back to the car at the end of the afternoon, each of us picking zip-line sawdust out of our shirts, feeling tired but accomplished. Every single one of us with a huge smile on our face. We cannot wait to go back and do it again!
With 28 Tree Top Adventures in the UK, there’s bound to be one near you. An adult’s booking for the Tree Top Challenge costs £35 per person. The Tree Top Adventure is £20 per person.