Go Ape Whinlatter Forest in the Lake District August 2010
Visiting family with teenage daughter meant a break from the usual fell walking and a trip to Whinlatter Forest near Keswick to “Go Ape”. For the sensible and unitiated who have never done this sort of thing basically Go Ape is all about having fun on an aerial assault course with Tarzan swings, Zip Wires and crossing rope bridges, all about 40 odd feet above the ground. And yes you pay money to do this. Still you only live once and overall it was great fun and I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to do something a little different. Go Ape have sites all over the UK but we went to our “local” in Whinlatter Forest, near Keswick. Whinlatter is a great destination anyway, popular with cyclists, walkers as well as high wire adrenalin junkies. There is a great children’s play area, cafe and shop and best of all for us it’s all very dog friendly so Morgan could join us for the days fun and frolics.
Having booked online the night before (all very user friendly and easy – well done go ape!) we arrived just in time for our session to get kitted out with our safety harnesses. Obviously being “outsized” I was given an industrial sized one that had to be welded together but I was assured it would do the job. As is the way with these sort of things all our instructors looked about 12 but with the sort of scraggly facial hair one associates these days with lads who probably spend the winter on a snowboard. Still they were all very friendly and highly competent so one felt in safe hands. Having been told how to clip on and off and walked through a ground level and low level version we were all raring to get cracking. Be prepared though that the briefing takes up to 45 minutes!
The Course Itself
Basically the course is divided into 5 different sections, each essentially following the same pattern. Climb a ladder into a tree, clip on, walk precariously across several rope bridges/planks which wobble a lot/other aerial obstacles and then zip wire back to terra firma at the end. The level of difficulty of each obstacle varies although at each stage where there is a particularly nasty looking one, there is usually an “easier” alternative. I opted out of one which looked like a series of hoops on ropes and which frankly looked totally unappealing. Having said that the “easy option” alternative was not much fun either!
By far the most enjoyable bit are the Tarzan Swings and the Zip Wires. For the swings you basically hook onto a rope, jump into mid air and are hurled into a vertical cargo net, which you then clamber up back into a platform on a tree. Sounds fun and it is, although as you’ll see from the photo our instructor was a little nervous that I would break my net and so watched carefully on my first attempt. The Tarzan Swing on the last section is superb, with a rather air gulping initial drop meaning you pick up a fair amount of speed (especially if you’re my size) before crashing into the cargo net. Likewise the final zip wire is great fun and takes you over the car park to the finish line. By then of course you’ve done a few so are quite blase about launching yourself into mid air.
So all in all a great day out. Allow a good 3 hours to complete the course and be prepared on busy days to have to wait behind others on the course. Probably a good idea to get into the first group of the day or be prepared to jump around the course if you want a “go go go” experience but fine if like me you’re quite happy to hang around to get your breath back. Just don’t make the same mistake I did and think you can have a crafty tab in between stages – I was almost red carded by my scraggy faced instructor as apparently smoking in a harness is not allowed. Ho hum. Still even this failed to detract from what was a grand day out.
So if you’re coming to the Lakes and fancy a break from the fells and the water, then please Go Ape!