Events - Abseiling (Go Ape)
In August 2005, Nick got in touch with us about putting together a birthday treat 'day out' for our mate Stu; he had the idea of Going Ape.
Go Ape is described as "an aerial assault course of extreme rope bridges, Tarzan swings and zip slides" and promised to be a whole lot of fun.
There are a number of courses across the UK, but we decided to visit the one based at Moors Valley Country Park, on the edge of the New Forest, just off the A338. The Moors Valley site also offers a number of other activities including a treetop sky walk, adventure playground and miniature steam railway for the little ones, excellent cycle paths and a nice lake, which makes a great picnic spot.
It's been awhile since I've done any abseiling and this looked like a good way to get back on track; and so, on a sunny Saturday in September, we piled in a couple of cars and headed down to the park to give this a go.
There is no entrance fee into the park, although you do have to pay for parking, which costs around £4 for about 4 hours - a good idea, since it encourages people to carpool. There isn't much kit required - all you really need is a good stout pair of boots with decent grip and ankle support. You also need to wear clothes you don't mind getting grubby and a pair of fingerless cycling gloves are also a good idea. As a final precaution, you are encouraged to remove any dangly jewellery and cover / tape over any exposed body piercings.
Our party was split into two separate blocks; one group of 4 going ape around 1pm and the second group heading out an hour later. We fronted up the £18 quid fee, read the official warning sheet, signed the waivers and stepped into our harnesses. Our instructor gave us a run down on the harness, which included two safety lines and a pulley; he showed us the correct procedures for hooking up onto the cables and then stepped us through a basic "training-wheels" obstacle, run at ground level so we could get a feel for the harness and so that he could check we were all following the safety procedures correctly.
After the quick intro, we headed straight into the first obstacle. Each of the six obstacles included an initial ascent (normally up a cargo net or rope ladder) to a platform. Then we had to negotiate a range of walkway obstacles between trees before hooking up onto a zip slide to descend to ground level again.
Each obstacle was more difficult than it's predecessor and on the whole, they tended to rise in height. Crossings ranged from crawl nets and wooden tunnels, to a series of horse bridles on ropes (there is NO way to cross THAT one in style).
Each obstacle also had a "Chicken run" - an easy walkway which allowed participants to bypass an obstacle that they were not confident about handling (I didn't see anyone take the chicken run, but they were certainly useful as a good position to take photos from).
The course was very well designed; different obstacles presented different challenges to different people. We watched people of all ages and varying degrees of physical fitness, co-ordination and balance, negotiate their way through the course.
Each obstacle had notes offering hints and tips on how best to negotiate the obstacle and also giving the obstacle a difficulty rating (blue for easy, red for challenging and black for difficult). Below us, a number of park visitors watched bemused as we fumbled our way past.
It took about 3 hours to work our way through the entire course at a reasonably sedate pace and when we finally slid to a halt at the end of the last zip slide, we were all wearing big smiles. Definately worth a visit and certainly the best £18 I've spent in a long time. If you get a chance to try this, you've GOT to give it a go.
More photos available: Visit the Go Ape Photo Gallery
Video clip also available: Check it out