Traditionally, my eldest has always been a bit of a cautious child. She would be the one at the playground who’d need me to hold her hand when she tackled the climbing frame, while the other kids threw themselves around without fear. So that’s why my heart swelled with pride when she faced her fears and completed not one, but all three of the courses on the new Tree Top Junior high ropes at Go Ape in Haldon Forest.
It’s years since I last did a Go Ape session (the last one was back in 2008 as part of a fun radio feature on the show I was working on at the time) so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought maybe the Junior course would be lower and assumed (rightly) that it would be easier than the adult course. But the ropes are just as high as the adult course (kids over the age of ten can do that one too), strung amid the tree tops of a beautiful forest near Exeter.
Children of any age can do the Junior course, as long as they’re at least a metre tall. Effie (age three) was just tall enough to join in the fun, although we were all unsure if she’d bottle it at the last minute once she got up to the top and realised how high we were. She didn’t. Another heart swell moment.
Apparently Effie is one of the youngest kids to do the course (she did route 1 – the easiest one, twice, while Freya moved onto the second and third level routes) which ends in a huge zip wire. It’s not an exaggeration to say I nearly cried with pride when I saw her little body zipping fearlessly away from me. My pride was even stronger because she was the first one of all of us to take on the zip wire!
We got so much out of our session (you get an hour on the course which is long enough to do all three routes). It was a fantastic way to build confidence and feel a huge sense of achievement – for the kids AND adults! – as well as a great family bonding activity.
As you can see from the pictures, everyone on the course is harnessed in and there’s a full safety briefing before you’re allowed anywhere near the high ropes. There’s also a mini course lower down, to give you a taste of what’s to come in the tree tops and to get used to moving around in a harness. But even with the harness on and the knowledge that you’re completely safe and can’t fall, when you look down it can still be an intimidating feeling. Simon is scared of heights so, arguably, he did the best of all of us to take on the route without backing out!
The thing I loved about it the most was seeing all of us get a bit scared at some point and just plough on, encouraging each other in a beautifully boosting way. We all walked away from that course a little prouder – with ourselves and each other.
Thanks to Go Ape for inviting us along to try out the new course at Haldon Forest. All photos, words and opinions remain my own. The Tree Top Junior Course costs £18 per person and is open to all ages, providing you’re at least a metre tall. Find out more on the Go Ape website. For more information about how I work with brands check out my Work With Me page.