About two months ago I got an email inviting me to a hen do. This was a hen do I really had to go to based on who the hen was so imagine my dismay when it was announced that we were going to do a ropes course (Heights are evil. If one must be high up it should be in huge, over designed buildings or planes, not attached to ropes) followed by camping. I wondered when my friends had all become outdoorsy people and where the spa going hen do's were. So I offered to be the group's official photographer and bag carrier and a plan was formed.
That's right, I am going to review the Thetford Forest Go Ape without ever having climbed a ladder or travelled down a zip line! "Oh dear, I must alert the dooyoo powers that be," I hear you say. No, I intend to tell you just how important it is for groups doing Go Ape to take a non-participating group member and convince some of you that you can enjoy such a trip without dealing with vertigo and paralysing fear! I might even convince one or two that you might be able to do the course despite that paralysing fear.
The Thetford Forest Go Ape (http://www.goape.co.uk/days-out-in/suffolk/thetford/the-course) high wire adventure is the original and really one of the most beautiful locations of the franchise. Located in the largest lowland pine forest in Britain, you will find the High Lodge Forest Centre in Suffolk is "off the B1107 Thetford to Brandon Road, and signposted from Brandon and the A11" according to the website. I suggest using some maps and sat-nav for those not from the area, but it really was surprisingly easy to find. A bus service can be pre-booked to get you from bus and rail stations. Check the website for more details as I did not use this particular service. There is tons of parking, but beware, it is not the cheapest parking out there at £1.60 per hour! You can pay for parking using cash or card at the machines located near the toilets.
One of the benefits of being the non-participating member of the group (or official photographer/carrier of bags and water bottles) is that it's free to wander any of the paths through the forest, including those that follow the high ropes course. However, the six ladies who did the course felt that it was very good value for money. For the Gorillas (18yrs+) it is £25 and for Baboons (10-17yrs) it is £20. They do not allow under 10s on the course and the under 18s must be accompanied by an adult. There were two boys with their mother ahead of our hen group and the boys were kicking everyone else's butts. Mom was just trying to keep up with them.
Everyone signed a waiver to ensure that if they were stupid enough not to clip themselves in properly and fell to their death that Go Ape would not be responsible. It was very straight forward. They then got kitted up and paused for a photo with the ape statue. This was followed by the instructional section which seemed to go on for quite awhile. As this portion is not very photo worthy, in retrospect, it would have been a good time to go get an ice cream! Anyway, most found that when they were actually holding their two safety ropes and pulley at the top of the first platform most of the instructions went right out of their heads but the staff were there to talk them through it.
There are 5 sections to the course and you return to the ground via zip chord at the end of each section. According to the website the crossings cover 739m and the highest point is 12 m off the ground. The first is about five feet off the ground and is merely to allow you to practise clipping yourself in and then using the zip wire to exit the section.
The second piece quickly throws the other complicated portion at you. From the first platform you swing into the first of the two rope walls. The space for this is about ten metres (estimating from the ground) but was pretty daunting as the first activity out! The staff continued to keep a close eye on how everyone was doing with the safety procedures during this section and after that trusted you to get on with it. A couple of our group members needed a little encouragement to get through this first piece and we quickly discovered that it was best to have some of our stronger members (the hen had actually done it three other times!) sort of paired up with some of the weaker. They would wait on the next platform for them to arrive and give advice on getting through a particular section.
The engineering that went into the course is unbelievable. All of the Go Ape ropes courses were designed and built by James Comte. Go Ape has been allowed to build in some of Britain's protected areas and so takes its environmental responsibilities very seriously. Nothing is actually screwed into a tree. This might make one a little nervous as what then is holding up the platforms? There are braces that grip the tree that everything rests upon. As the tree grows the braces can be widened and the trees are checked every year. The fourth section of the course is the longest and most challenging. It begins with the Tarzan Swing which is quite a large swing into another rope wall. You are able to skip this by taking an easier route however every member of our group did the leap. This was the only section where I lost site of the ladies for awhile as it weaves through the trees quite beautifully.
So how was I helpful? Well Go Ape has no facilities for storing your belongings so unless you have friends and family not heading up on the course you must leave them in the car a fairly long distance away. One section of the course has a water fountain at the bottom which is very helpful, but we were there on a very warm, sunny day and the ladies found it helpful to have water after every section! There was someone on the course ahead of use who had a camera up on the course with them but it isn't really recommended as it's hard to ensure the camera's safety. I got photos of the girls along the way which we've all laughed over since. They found it was rather fun to pose while waiting on platforms for the next piece. I also have some hilarious video footage of the ladies coming in for their landings at the bottom of the zip cords.
When booking we really wondered if there was anyway it could take the three hours suggested on the website. It was a Saturday morning and there were people on all sections of the course at all times so at points there was a wait, particularly on the swing sections that take longer to attach and detach from. We were kept occupied and generally entertained for three hours! Four members of the group doing the ropes course were very athletic types and didn't struggle with much other than slight nerves. The other two were not at all athletic types and did struggle with the rope ladders in particular. Everyone was tired and hungry by the end of the course!
That leads to the other facilities available at High Lodge. The toilets were fairly clean considering the high volume of traffic. The café served very nice jacket potatoes and baguettes as well as cakes for very reasonable prices. The jackets and baguettes were less than £4. There was a mini zip line for children which had a constant queue as well as a fairly large playground. There is a grassy area for picnicking and bbqs can be hired from the forestry commission. Bike hire was also available and many were arriving with their own bikes to take advantage of the extensive cycle trails which are labelled by difficulty. The cycle and walking trails allow people to explore 50,000 acres of forest which is pretty impressive!
We had a great time at Go Ape and would recommend it to others. At my age I decided I am old enough to know that, while I might force myself through the ropes course, I would hate the heights and at some point have a hissy fit. I'm not going to force myself to do something to prove a point to no one. However, I'm so glad I chose to join the girls for the experience rather than arriving later in the day. If you're concerned about your strength and fitness level more than the heights then do not be put off. If our mixed group could make it through then so can you!
I am a fan of certain sporting activities such as Diving, Kayaking and walking but as a treat me husband thought it would be good if we tried something different.
He booked us a trip to the Go Ape adventure obstacle course at Thetford forest, I am not sure what he was thinking of as I am petrified of heights and this just does not appeal to me, but as it was all paid for I did not have the heart to disappoint him and say I was not going.
I put on a brave face and went, although I was secretly scared stiff and my stomach was churning. I have to admit after the experience I was so glad that I did not back out as it was a really enjoyable day.
ABOUT GO APE.
Go ape is basically a high wire adventure obstacle course that sits in the tree tops of the trees in Thetford Forest, It consists of many high wires, zip slides, Rope ladders, bridges and swings.
All of the obstacle course is set over a mile long course, at Thetfort there were three types of course for you to endure so there really is something to suit every ones needs. The first section is a mild course that consists of smaller high wires and climbing ropes, if this seems to mild you can move on to the intermediate section of higher wirers and obstacles, lastly you have the advanced course which it the mother of all courses standing high above the forest floor on the extreme wires, slides and zip wires.
The course is designed for you to start at the beginners section of smaller obstacles and work through to the advanced stage, but if you are confident enough you can go straight to the intermediate course. My husband headed straight to the intermediate section as he did not want to follow a load of kids around the smaller section, I would have loved to just to get a feel for it.
GO APE SAFETY
This had to be the most important thing for me as I was scared silly and I wanted to be assured I would be perfectly safe.
When we arrived at Go ape a small group of roughly eight people were given a safety induction, here we were told what to do in certain scenarios and how to make sure our safety harnesses and equipment worked.
The small group was good as the instructor could answer any questions we had, I was full of questions and queries but I kept quite so I didn't look stupid, but by the end of the induction I was completely at ease as many of the question I would have asked were covered.
For extra reassurance there are safety instructors located through out the course, so if you need help there is always someone there to help.
The prices at Go ape are very reasonable as you are fully entertained for well over three hours, which does not sound like a long time but by the end of the course it feels like you have been up there much longer, To be honest after three hours you will be glad to get your feet back on solid ground.
There are two price brackets for the Go ape experience.
The first is for the Gorillas (adults over 18 years old) costs 25.00 and for Baboons (youngsters between 10-17 years old) it costs 20.00.
During school holidays and bank holidays Go ape enforce a peak time charge and this is 2.50 per person, so during busy periods this will be added to normal entrance prices.
These prices include a full safety induction, safety equipment such as helmets, Harnesses and gloves and over a mile of adventure that will take hours to complete.
There are terms and conditions when booking your experience, youngsters under 17 years old need to be accompanied by a full paying adult, as this is an obstacle course where you are left to you own devices and Go ape will not take responsibility for teenagers.
Children under 10 are not permitted to take part, but there is an adventure play ground to entertain them and this is free of charge.
People can only take part if they are over 4.7 foot in height and weight less that 20.5 stone or 130KG.
BOOKING THE EXPERIENCE
To take in the experience you do need to book in advance, as it can be very busy and it is doubtful that you will be catered for if you just turn up.
You can book online at www.goape.co.uk and pay using any debit are visa card or you can contact Go ape on 0845 643 9215 to make or confirm bookings.
You do not pay the full balance when booking, it will cost 1.50 via the telephone and 1.00 will be debited from you card when booking online, the balance to due on the day you Go ape. I didn't know this as my husband told me it was paid for so I wouldn't back out, I could have killed him when he paid up on the day.
WERE IS GO APE
The Go ape attraction is situated in Thetford forest and can be reached easily by taking the A134 from Bury and then follow the B1106 to Thetford forest.
It is a national park so it is very well sign posted from all directions within its vicinity.
OTHER GO APE UK LOCATIONS
This type are attraction has been going for over eight years and has proved to be very popular, so popular that it has now opened another sixteen sites where you can take part it the Go ape experience. All sites are slightly different so you will notice a difference if you have been to a different Go ape location.
The other locations include Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, Stirlingshire, The Look Out, Swinley Forest, Bracknell, Mallards Pike, Forest Of Dean, Dalby Forest, North Yorkshire, Grizledale Forest, The Lake District, Leeds Castle, Kent, Bedgebury Forest, Kent, Sherwood Pines Forest Park, Nottinghamshire, Alice Holt Woodland Park, Farnham Surrey, Delamere Forest, Chester, Poole's Cavern, Buxton, Peak District, Whinlatter Forest Park, North Lake District, Haldon Forest Park, Exeter Devon, Moors Valley Country Park, Ringwood, Wendover Woods, Aylesbury Bucks and lastly this location High Lodge Forest Centre, Thetford Forest, Suffolk
All of the adventure is roughly 100 feet above the forest floor, so if you are afraid of heights this may be an issue. I was personally scared stiff but I was harnessed to the equipment so I knew I wouldn't fall. If did take me a few leaps of faith but after I few breath taking moments I started to gain confidence and I really stated to enjoy the whole experience, wandering what I was so worried about in the first place.
I was completely happy with the safety measures they had in place this eased my mind, not completely as I was still having doubts, but I have no question that Go ape maintain the equipment and course to avoid any accidents.
The first few high wires were very frightening, but I have to say I am so glad I persevered after tackling the first few obstacles I gained confidence and I really started to throw myself into it.
I am so glad that I gave this a go, if I ever have the chance I would defiantly do it again. Once I knew that I wouldn't fall out of the trees I really enjoyed myself.
I would recommend this to any thrill seeker, but I do advise that you don't buy your loved one a day trip here, I don't think it would go down to well as you get really dirty and the height can be an issue.
Recently it was a friend's hen party and we were unsure of what to do, and how to celebrate it. A group of us got together and came up with suggestions. These were the usual night out in Blackpool, weekend in London, a four day drinking session in Benidorm, limousine for the night but we wanted to do something that would suit everyone.
Many of our friends are short of money and have commitments, so the trips away were a no go. Then on a trip to the local supermarket one of my friends picked up a flyer for Go Ape.
This was it everyone agreed to the go ape adventure and then a night out in our town, this way it saved money for those who were short of money and those who couldn't leave children. The problem was solved and the bride to be was over the moon.
WHAT IS GO APE.
Go ape first opened to the public 2002, in the thetford forest. Since this date sixteen other Go ape attractions have opened around the UK.
Go ape in the newly award winning high wire adventure obstacle course. That spans the Thretford forest, with high wires, Death ropes, rope ladders, rope bridges, Tarzan swings and even zip slides.
So if you fancy some high flying, Tarzan swinging adventure set over a one mile radius then this is the place.
All of these activities at all set high in the forests tree tops. So if you are afraid for heights I would not recommend you try this, even I struggled with the height issue and I am not usually scared.
When you arrive at Go ape you will be given a full induction on you safety gear and how to navigate the course safely, each group is issued with their own go ape host who is fully trained so you can ask any questions you have either before you start the course or during the course.
The whole course is split into six sections and varies from easy to very difficult, so this is a great place that even the kids can enjoy.
Go ape is popular for people of all ages, but there are certain restrictions that need to be accounted for.
The minimum age is 10 years old, with minimum height of 4 foot 7 inches and there is also a weight limit of 130kg, 20.5 stones.
If you a wondering about the high wires and how you are attached then don't, you will have your own harness and full induction on the safety procedures, so you can not fall out of the tree tops.
Instructors are located on certain areas of the course so if you are ever in doubt, you can just ask one of the many fully train personnel.
The Go Ape is located in the Thetford forest and can be reached from the A11 then the A14 onto the A134 from bury, continue through Thetford and then follow the B1106 to the thetford high lodge forest centre.
The prices are for three hours continuous adventure.
Gorillas (over 18 years old) 25.00
Baboons ( 10-17 years old) 20.00, but they must be accompanied by a paying adult.
Children under 10 are unable to go on the Go ape adventure, but they can still stand and watch, there is even a play area for the younger kids, this is free of charge.
As the Go Ape is very popular it is essential that you per-book to avoid disappointment.
You can book online at www.goape.co.uk or you can telephone 0845 643 9086.
A 1.00 booking fee will be charged to a debit of credit card, upon booking and the full amount will need to be paid in full on the day.
Although opening times may vary, it is usually 14th March until 31st October, every day of the week. Plus weather permitting November weekends.
I do advise that you check online at www.goape.co.uk to confirm as the weather is a major factor, and certain parts of the obstacle course will close during bad weather.
The forestry commission car park has a small charge of 3.50 for the full day.
It has limitations and the car will need to be gone when the park closes, otherwise you will have a very expensive clamping charge. And an uncomfortable night's sleep in the car.
OTHER GO APE UK LOCATIONS
If you like the sound of this go ape adventure, then you may have a location near to you here are the sixteen go ape attractions that are currently open to the public.
1) Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, Stirlingshire
2) Dalby Forest, North Yorkshire
3) Sherwood Pines Forest Park, Nottinghamshire
4) Leeds Castle, Kent
5) Bedgebury Forest, Kent
6) The Look Out, Swinley Forest, Bracknell
7) Alice Holt Woodland Park, Farnham Surrey
8) Wendover Woods, Aylesbury Bucks
9) Moors Valley Country Park, Ringwood
10) Haldon Forest Park, Exeter Devon
11) Mallards Pike, Forest Of Dean
12) Delamere Forest, Chester
13) Poole's Cavern, Buxton, Peak District
14) Grizledale Forest, The Lake District
15) Whinlatter Forest Park, North Lake District
16) High Lodge Forest Centre, Thetford Forest, Suffolk
At first I had reservations about this as I am not exactly fit, but I managed fine. Yes there is a certain degree of strength and fitness needed, but if you can climb a ladder you will be fine.
Upon arrival you get all of you safety instructions and codes, which allow you to enter the sections of the adventure course, through a turn stile.
I liked the way the whole adventure is split into sections, there are six sections in total the first section being the easiest just consisting of ropes and bridges. Then as the sections more along they get harder, so level six is the most extreme with the high wires and tree top ropes.
We took a picnic and beer package, but only three people drove so they couldn't drink. After the 3 hour adventure we all sat in the sunshine and ate the picnic with a few drinks on top.
It was a lovely day and even the bride's mother joined in she really enjoyed it, I just wish we had taken a camera to capture the day, that was my only downside.
This is a great adventure that can entertain the whole family even those who are not taking part, can watch all the excitement from below.
12 of us booked in advance for this, not sure what I was letting myself in for. Now realise that if I had seen it all, I would never have done it !! You just follow the course at your own pace, you have no idea what is ahead. The teenagers all rompled ahead on thier own. You do not need to be very fit. There are a few options where you can opt for an easier bit anyway. The tarzan rope is thrilling, I cannot believe I did it all. Suffering slightly today with aches to upper arms but it was worth it !! Daughter was aged 8 but taller than most 10 yr olds, not allowed under 10. Was not happy so stayed with our nominated photographer (dad), but I would not have enjoyed it as much if I had to look after her up in the trees too. Once in a lifetime for me but great for teens, excellent value for money. Cafe at the end was brilliant. All home cooking, definitely not a greasy spoon. Good quality food, worth the appetite. We had great weather too. Great idea for a special occasion.
As the Summer Holidays are now well underway, we are always looking for new things to do with the children. A friend advised me of an exciting day out in the heart of Thetford Forest, which will appeal to older children and adults alike, so we decided to give Go Ape! a try. If you have fancied swinging through the trees like Tarzan, then you will enjoy Go Ape! Originally a French idea, Go Ape! now has four sites in England, and the Thetford one opened to the public in 2002. The activity is spread out on six sites throughout the forest, over approximately a mile, and consists of aerial slides, death ropes, rope bridges and rope ladders, of differing and varying degrees of difficulty. Go Ape! can be reached by the A11, A14 then A134 from Bury St. Edmunds. Pass through Thetford itself, and then take the B1106 road to High Lodge Forest Centre. Booking MUST be made in advance, as the activity is very popular. This can be done by telephoning 0870 444 5562. As the line is open 24 hours per day, it is easy to do and a credit card number will be taken, although the card will not be charged until the day of your visit. The site is open from April to October seven days a week, but it is advisable to check on the website for opening times. If you do not arrive for your allotted time, a £10 fee will be charged to the card. We visited on a Wednesday afternoon, after booking on the Monday evening, but places were limited, and we had to take the only available slot left, which was at 3pm in the afternoon. The activity can be enjoyed by children over the age of ten and over 4? 7? tall, although any child under the age of 18 must be accompanied on the course by an adult, who can be responsible for up to three under 16 year olds at one time. On arrival, payment is made and prices are as follows:- Adults or over 18?s - £14.50, Children between 10 and 16 - £9.50. However, there is a £3.50 car parking charge at High Lodge, but after visiting Go Ape! there
are many other activities within the park. After payment, an instructor will harness competitors. The harness is attached to the middle of the body, going underneath the crotch area, to which three straps having hooks at the ends are attached, in order for the person to attach themselves to items around the course. The instructor will accompany groups to the first area, where a lesson will be given on the important safety aspects of the site, such as always being attached to the safety system by two hooks. After each person has demonstrated their safety on the system, they will be allowed to travel the course at their own pace, but instructors patrol the course, in case there are any problems. The course is certified by ROSPA, although a disclaimer must be signed by the adult, stating acceptance that accidents may occur. At the beginning of each part of the course, entrance is gained via a wooden stockade structure. A code is given to all persons taking part, during their safety training, and this is needed to unlock the doors to each event. Only people wearing safety equipment are allowed to enter the stockade at any time. The first part of the course, was a simple rope ladder, graded green, which depicts the easiest level of difficulty. Each activity is colour coded, green being easiest, then blue, red and black. Once the rope ladder was negotiated, a log bridge had to be crossed. As wires are above the head on EVERY activity, to which the hooks are clipped on the harness, there is no danger of falling, and everyone enjoyed, hanging from the ropes, with their feet off the structures! At every section, access to the structure was gained via some sort of ladder, and the descent was made using one of the zip slides, after travelling through the various obstacles on the structure, all of which are separated by platforms, on which only two people must stand at any one time. Everyone was instructed NEVER to hold onto the zip wires with
their hands, instead their harnesses should be clutched for dear life. After the first zip wire, it was apparent that when the floor was hit, preferably in an upright position, provided that you ran with the pull, you would remain on your feet, rather than falling ungainly on to your rear. It should be noted that if you are afraid of heights, it would not be wise to attempt the course, as ALL activities take place on very high structures. Throughout the course, were a number of rope or wooden bridges, which had to be crossed, in order to reach the next part of the course. The bridges varied from solid wooden structures, to ropes, with pieces of wood, distributed crookedly and unevenly along their length, which of course made crossing more difficult. There were even rope ladders laid horizontally over parts of the structure, which had to be crossed, which were very wobbly and difficult to negotiate! The rope ladders also varied in difficulty. The hardest to navigate were the large mesh of ropes, rather like a blanket, but the children soon realised that these type were easier to negotiate, if they held on the middle rather than the side. At one point in the course, a ladder had to be climbed, which lead to a small hut type enclosure, from which a rope was swung on, across a part of the course, which in turn, slammed competitors into a spider?s web type rope creation. At this point of the course, excited whoops and shouts could be heard throughout the forest, and everyone seemed to enjoy this aspect! Once the spider?s web was landed upon, persons taking part then had to climb up and across it to reach the platform from which they would be able to complete the next part of the course. One of the hardest points of the course was on site 5, where competitors were greeted with a row of stirrups hanging from ropes, over which they had to negotiate, in order to reach the next obstacle. Progress at this part was very slow indeed, bu
t at the points which were difficult, there was always an easier option available, such as attaching yourself to a line, and pulling yourself across, if you did not feel able to complete the harder sections. Moving tunnels were another challenging part to the course. Two cylindrical shaped wooden structures were hung from the top of the structure by large ropes, and competitors had to negotiate these, flat on their stomachs. It looked easy enough, but once inside the tunnels, they of course swung, making it very difficult to move along, plus there was a large gap between the two, through which you had to cross! Jack and Amber both liked the moving logs on the course. These were large logs attached to the top of the frame, which then had to be walked over, while the person was clipped to the rope running along the top. Of course, these moved a lot, making crossing quite difficult, due to the continual swaying. However, as stated before, there is no danger of falling, as there were always two clips attached to the frame, so that if the footing is missed, you will literally hang and sway in mid air, until you can find your feet again. At a lot of points in the course, the only means of access was to negotiate the cables with hands and feet. Surprisingly enough, the single cable was much easier to walk across, than the double cable. People tended to shuffle on the double, even though there was a cable for each foot, yet on the single, many of the people present showed a flair for tightrope walking! The best part of Go Ape! were the death slides, or zip slides, which I have only ever seen on the television before. The slides are constructed from a thick wire cable, onto which the harness is attached. The cable starts from a high point on the structure, and stretches across a distance, gradually sloping downwards to the forest floor. At the end of each slide, are deep bark chippings, which make the landing soft (in theory!) The
slide was the last part of each event, and increased in length as the activity went on. The course took an amazing three hours to successfully complete, which I believe represented great value for money. We will definitely visit again, as not only was Go Ape! different to anything we had ever tried before, it was a great family day out. Just a few points to remember, if you are going to rush off and book up. If you have any piercings, they should either be removed or covered up. Long hair should be tied back, and sensible clothing worn, including trainers or boots, as no sandals or open toed shoes are allowed. Of course you will get dirty whilst taking part in the event, so ensure that you war old clothing. Obviously, if you are averse to physical exercise, this activity is not going to appeal at all, and you do need to have some degree of energy and dexterity, in order to complete the course. If anybody does book, I would be interested to know if they find their visit to be as entertaining as ours. As I stated earlier, there are three other sites in the country, which are situated in Grizedale in the Lake District, Sherwood Forest, and in the Moors Valley in Dorset. Pictures of the day can be found at http://f1.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/perfect_peach_2001/lst?.dir=/Go+Ape!&.view=t I apologise for the darkness on some of them, but as you can imagine, a forest does not allow much light to penetrate through the trees. www.forestry.gov.uk www.goape.ccc Booking Line 0870 444 5562 firstname.lastname@example.org