What to do on the rainiest of days during the rainiest of rainiest summer holidays in living memory? Most mums, especially the sensible ones, would stay indoors, break open the craft box, and have a cosy afternoon in. Me? I take on the challenge of Go Ape! Who wouldn’t, right? Apart from all those sensible people obviously.
Go Ape! is something we’ve done in the past. The older girls and I did the Junior course at Dalby Forest a couple of years ago. This time the twins, now six years old, were old enough to take part, and the oldest (now ‘the teen’) was ready for the big one. She decided I would be the one to accompany her. Gee, thanks.
Read our review of Go Ape! Junior from 2014
It was damp when we arrived at Dalby Forest but not yet full on raining. The forecast was for heavy rain later in the day so we checked in to the desk and got ourselves on the earlier time slot. Funnily enough, Go Ape! wasn’t as busy as during previous visits, so finding an alternative time slot wasn’t a problem at all. The staff were very accommodating.
The younger ones went with Dad to the Junior course, while the teen and I made our way to the ‘big’ adventure. And the rain came. And it didn’t stop.
I was wetter than an otter’s pocket by the time we’d put our harnesses on. And got even wetter than that during the training session.
The training session is learning how to use the ropes and harnesses while on the relative safety of the ground. It was still wet but no-one was going to be slipping off anywhere, so all good. Once we’d done the practice wire a few times and got the hang of it, we moved on to the miniature zip wire where I got the joy of unceremoniously demonstrating to the rest of the group how not to land at the bottom of one. It was little more than a precursor of what was to come.
Once the instructor was happy we knew what we were doing (and we had the option to bail out now and get our money back if we wanted) then we were sent off on the course.
The course at Go Ape! Dalby Forest
The course is six or seven stages and you can quit any time between stages. Each stage consists of a few tree-top obstacles such as rickety rope bridges and ends in a zip wire. The course demands a degree of physical fitness. And that’s where I’m not exactly excelling at the moment. Or in bravery.
Halfway up the very wet and slippery ladder at the very first stage I had an epiphany – What on earth was I doing? Whhhhhhhhhy?
I could have been in a spa somewhere. Or at home on the sofa catching up on the soaps. Or in a pub with a roaring fire and a glass of something sparkly. But no. Here I was – up a tree in North Yorkshire getting very wet with a harness around my bottom facing the prospect of going very fast down a zip wire with nothing to land on apart from an ever-increasingly wet pile of bark. Fantastic.
Once I’d climbed the ladder (and my arms were hurting already), I found that our first obstacle was to swing into a net and then climb it. For the teen, this was great fun. For a 40 – year old mother of four whose idea of serious exercise is to speed shop around ALDI, it wasn’t very fun at all. I seriously thought I was going to fall off and plummet to the floor. Actually, I couldn’t because of all the harnesses and stuff. But the fear was very real. And my arms hurt some more.
Over the first lot of rope bridges and the zip wire at the end wasn’t so bad. I didn’t scream too loudly. And I could always take consolation from the fact that if I had wet my pants, no-one could have noticed. The zip wire was ok. It was the landing that was the problem. You’re supposed to start running when you’re near the bottom. If you’re facing the right way that is. I never ever did. I was always the wrong way around. And my soggy bottom was getting increasingly soggier.
By the fifth zip wire, a pattern was starting to form
The teen was LOVING IT! I did think between every stage I should have just bailed and left her to it. But we pushed on. I didn’t want to be the one who didn’t complete the course. Besides, there would be a certificate with my name on at the end. A certificate!
This is how easy it should be, right? What I’d give to be a fearless teen again
What I loved (sarcasm) was that at some stages, there was a choice of routes. The choice was sometimes between ‘difficult’ and ‘extreme’. Well, thanks for that! I chose the easiest option each time, which in this case was ‘difficult’. I hate to think what the extreme ones were like. Some of them I swear were nothing more than lengths of dental floss held up by paper clips. OK, maybe not, but as the difficult ones were scary enough, I was happy with the challenges that I chose.
Seven stages done and we finished on a very long zip wire which went over the top of the car park. Brilliant. At least if I fell to my death there was a good chance I’d take a Range Rover or a Ford Galaxy with me. Was I relieved to reach the end? Have you been paying attention?
I was very relieved to reach the end, and actually pretty proud of myself for a) not bailing out and b) doing it with a tiny bit of dignity intact. Maybe. What we were was very wet.
I heartily recommend Go Ape! if you’re a crazy fool and fancy a challenge. For all my protesting (and swearing under my breath on at least one occasion) I really did enjoy it. I’d do it again. Next time I’d order less rain though.
Tree Top Junior at Go Ape! Dalby Forest
While we were getting wet on the senior course, my little monkeys were getting that little bit less wet on the junior course. The junior course is a little lower down but still high enough to be challenging, and is perfect for 6 – 10 year olds.
There is a choice of two routes, both ending in a zip wire. We have done Tree Top Junior before, but it was the first time for the six-year old twins. They didn’t like it at first, but once they’d been round and seen it was indeed very scary but fun, they wanted to do it all over again.
The Tree Top Junior experience is timed and you get an hour to go round as many times as you wanted. Because it was a rainy day, Go Ape! was pretty quiet, so going around and around was a viable option. I think they went round about five or six times each. They LOVED it.
Visit time – Tree Top Junior is one hour from start to finish. Arrive before your slot to give yourself time to book in and get harnessed up.
Tree Top Adventure for over 10s is as long as it takes. If it’s quiet and you’re good at it, you can be done in less than an hour. We took two hours. On a busy day when you’re waiting for others to clear in front of you, it could be nearer three.
Toilets (and hand dryers etc) are in the visitor centre nearby
Car parking is available right next door to Go Ape! or nearby. You pay £8 per car to enter Dalby Forest, and you pay for this at the machine in the visitor centre
Pre-booking for Go Ape! is recommended for busier periods.
If you go on a wet day, take a full change of clothes. And I mean a full change. Everything. You don’t need to know details. You have been warned.
For more information or to book tickets please visit Go Ape!
Disclosure – we were guests of Go Ape! Opinion is our own. Graphic is affiliate.
Want to know which camera I used to take all these pics and videos that withstood the rain, being taken up several trees, and down the zip wires? It was the Nikon Coolpix S32