When Go Ape appeared in the UK around 16 years ago, as a young (ish!), free adventurous couple we wasted no time at all in getting stuck in. Climbing, balancing and zip-lining through the trees was right up our street! But what does such an adventurous activity hold for young children and above all, is it safe?
Last week we were invited to try out the Go Ape Tree Top Junior course based in Cannock. Aimed at children aged between 6 and 12 years old the course is a miniature version of the traditional Go Ape set up. Although this is the target age, as long as your ‘little Tarzan’ is above 1 metre tall you can still access the course.
Upon arrival, we were met by some lovely, enthusiastic staff who immediately engaged with both my children and put my slightly nervous 6 year old right at ease. We were given some safety rules to read through and sign and then swiftly directed to the start of the course a few metres away.
At the course we were met by another friendly member of staff who got us all into our harnesses and worked really hard to chat to each of the children in our group, ask their names and get them all fired up for the course. It was then time for a quick practice on the (very low to the ground) practice course before we were passed onto the ‘gate keeper’ who would hook us safely onto the course itself.
Using a pulley type contraption which is attached to your harness, participants are hooked onto a line at the start of the course and then there is no way to get off this line until you reach the end. This ensures that once on, the children (and adults!) cannot disconnect themselves until the end of the course at the bottom of the zip line, thus making it a safe activity for any of the participants.
Once attached to the course (around half the height of the full Go Ape Course), my little Tarzan wasted no time at all in working her way through the first course. This initial course has a few extra handrails for support and to help build confidence and takes participants on a series of short bridges and challenges between the trees. A little word of warning for any older helpers, the safety rail is at child height so at times needs a little negotiating! As a result, my little one was way ahead of me as she confidently made her way from tree to tree (well, that’s my excuse anyway!).
Having successfully negotiated the first course and full of tree trekking confidence, we bravely approached the second course. This one was a slightly harder challenge with longer stretches between trees, slightly trickier obstacles and no extra helpful handrails for support. Having built confidence on the first course, my little Tarzan happily approached these trickier sections, and with lots of shouts of support from the ground (not just from our family but again from the fabulous staff!) she made her way round the course, enjoying it so much she wanted to go again so she could master the challenges she had found tricky the first time round.
By the time we had completed 3 rounds of the Tree Top Trek, I was informed that I was no longer required and my daughter had built up enough confidence to go round by herself, and as we were watching from the ground this was absolutely fine! We were really pleased to see how she had grown in such a short time and loved the fact that she felt safe, happy and confident to go herself. She then spent the remainder of the allocated hour working her way across the courses and thoroughly enjoying every moment.
I have to say, what made it for us was the staff. Each member of staff we encountered was calm, enthusiastic and made a real effort to remember my daughters name. One of them even produced a football to entertain my toddler as he watched from the ground and again, took time to engage us in conversation. At one point, a little girl on the course became really upset with nerves. The staff wasted no time at all in shouting encouragement and support as one swiftly made their way over to her and then took her hands and led her through the remainder of the course, making sure she ended with a smile!
I am pretty sure that this won’t be our last Go Ape experience and if the staff at Cannock are anything to go by, we would love to try out some of the other courses. All are based in Forestry Commission sites and therefore easy to locate, easy to find parking, close to other activities and more importantly, with a cafe selling good coffee and cake. Much needed refuelling after such an adventurous morning!
Why not PIN this for another day!