Who’d have thought you could have so much fun attached to some wires with metal hooks swinging amongst the trees? Well you can, and I did at Go Ape Alice Holt on the Hampshire/Surrey border. The course is celebrating it’s tenth year and I was invited along to give it a go! Now I had done Go Ape once before, but it was about eight years ago and I had forgotten almost everything about it, other than it was exhilarating and a bit of a challenge! So I arrived with an open mind and a willing friend to keep me company, Donna. She’d never done it before and I’m not sure she knew what she was letting herself in for, but it’s definitely ticked her ‘do something crazy’ off her Bucket List!
We arrived at our allotted time of four pm, which was perfect as it was a little cooler weather wise and not at all busy (it was a Monday in term time just FYI) and it was just us and another couple booked in that slot. After we’d read the expectations, rules and waiver we signed them then trotted off to get our harnesses fitted. You’re fitted with a harness that attaches round your waist and a loop for both legs, you step into it and it is checked over by an instructor. They then teach you how to attach and detach your pulley and safety hooks to each bit of apparatus (or tree, if you will) and check that you have understood it whilst you’re still on firm ground. You’re then taken over to the 1st course where there is a short ladder, bridge and zip slide. The aim with zip slides is to hit the ground running to avoid sliding ungracefully to the end with a load of bark down your pants. By the end of the day I was a pro at not landing on my behind, Donna not so much!
Once the instructor is confident you are knowledgeable about how to clip yourself to each apparatus and move about the course they’ll let you know how to get help (there’s a whistle attached to your harness) if you need it and then, rather scarily you’re on your own! we let the other couple go ahead as they had done it before,plus I didn’t think they’d appreciate being capture on video, or being stuck behind us whilst we go our bearings forty feet up! There are full instructions for each new challenge, and it shocked us both how easily we fell into the rhythm of attaching, detaching and making our way across treacherous rope walkways! Of course, you are always attached and there is absolutely NO DANGER AT ALL of falling provided you’ve connected yourself properly, and trust me the fear of death makes sure that you do! If you do lose your footing you will literally just dangle, and be in arms reach of the supporting wire to get yourself back on track.
The course gets more challenging as it goes on, and I tell you now: my upper body strength needs some work! I have arms that are about as a strong as a piece of freshly cooked spaghetti, and climbing up, across and off the net after the Tarzan Swing was the hardest part of the day for me. We both commented though on how after a particularly hard bit there would be an easy bit up next to let you get your breath back and recover slightly. There were also a few points in the course that had two options, one being harder than the other, which is great for people with different abilities or levels of wussiness! The course took us about 2 and a half hours to complete, we didn’t feel rushed to finish at all but we were the last ones there, the young couple having shot ahead of us never to be seen again, we just heard the wooshing of their zip wires every so often!
Some tips and things to consider for anyone planning on visiting:
- Wear gloves! You will get sore fingers from all the clipping, unclipping and holding on to ropes for dear life whilst supporting your own body weight!
- Also wear long trousers, if you don’t perfect the zip slide landing you’ll get bark scratches on your legs (sorry Donna!)
- You can take a phone/camera/GoPro up with you but they must be attached to you at all times. I bought a Go Ape lanyard for £2.50 to attach my phone to for some instagram stories and I wore a GoPro on chest harness.
- There is a water container at the start of each section for when you need a drink, but once you’ve started the course there will be no going to the loo/eating.
- There is a height limit of 4’7 minimum for the Tree Top Adventure course, and a max weight limit of 20.5 Stone. The minimum age is ten years though there is a junior course as an alternative.
- Plan a treat for afterwards, you’ll deserve it!
I’ve put together a video to show you exactly what it’s like up there, but I really do urge everyone to try it at least once in their life! I want to go again, and Sam is desperate to do it too! You can find all the Go Ape locations online and also follow them on Facebook for updates and new course announcements.