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Who says you can’t have adventures in your home country? Since getting back from our five month trip in South America at the end of July, I have to confess that England’s been looking a little boring to me – so after a couple of weeks catching up with all our family and friends, Sam and I escaped up north to the Lake District in search of a new adventure in our own backyard.
It’s not all beautiful scenery and countryside rambles up here. Deep in the heart of the national park – not too far from Windermere – the peace and quiet is broken by the sounds of shrieks piercing the silence of the Grizedale Forest. Those screams – mostly happy ones – are coming from the incredible Go Ape centre in the forest, where adults and children can explore a series of tree top trails of rope swings and bridges. And that’s exactly where we headed this weekend with two friends to try out the brand new Zip Trekking adventure from Go Ape!
The first of it’s kind in the UK, the Zip Trek at Go Ape is made up of around 3km of zip line zig-zagging downhill through the incredible landscape of Grizedale Forest. We arrived bright and early on Saturday morning and checked in at the front desk, where we were able to leave our bags in safety before heading outside to meet our instructors and the rest of the group. Our two instructors, Dan and Sam, were both so friendly and funny, they really made the day for us; the experience by itself is, of course, incredible, but having a good time with the guides really adds to the experience.
We kicked off with a twenty minute or so walk uphill and into the forest, and within a few minutes we were having a great laugh with Dan, who was really good fun. The walk was pretty hard work, since it was all uphill, but it wasn’t too long and once we met up with the road there were landrovers to take us the rest of the way. Our instructors made sure we all had a drink of water before we carried on, and then we were trundling up the rest of the hill with some amazing views across the national park and even as far as the coast (although I’m not sure I believed Dan when he said he could make out the Blackpool tower in the distance!).
I was so impressed with the thorough safety briefing and training, and with how professional and supportive both instructors were. A few people in the group were a little apprehensive about trying the zips, especially the higher ones, and the instructors did a great job of setting their minds at rest. We started with a short, and pretty low, training zip which allowed Sam and Dan to make sure we’d paid attention to their training and weren’t going to cause any accidents – not that we could have if we tried, since Dan always took the zips first and Sam always went last, so there was always an instructor keeping an eye on us from either end of the zip.
Training over with, and feeling thoroughly safe and at ease, we headed to the first of eight zips that would take us back down to the forest visitors centre. The zip wires are cleverly staggered using the geography of the land, so that the starting and landing platforms are never more than eight feet off the ground, making it much easier to take the initial leap. But, once you’re in the air you are very high up and it feels amazing! The zip wires are pretty long, too; the longest is about a quarter of a mile, so you pick up a lot of speed and can get up to 40mph on some of the lines. The feeling was incredible, with the staggeringly tall Douglas Firs whizzing past me at alarming speeds and my tiny shadow flitting over the ground far below me. So much fun, and so exhilarating; it was impossible to hold back a few ‘whoops’ as I hurtled through the forest!
All the zip lines are tandem, so that me, Sam, and our two friends Samantha and Ben could all go together and could alternate who we went against in order to have races. Since the boys were a fair bit heavier than us girls, we never really stood a chance of beating them – even with the helpful hint from Sam of curling ourselves up as small as possible to pick up speed. But, when I raced against Samantha, gripping my knees to my chest and whizzing along a crazy speed, I was the clear winner – which I’m going to assume has nothing to do with my weight, and everything to do with my excellent zip lining technique.
The instructors were full of some great tips; not just the curling up (which really did work), but also how to stop yourself spinning by sticking out an arm like a weather vane and letting the wind right you. We had a great time practising and refining the technique, going as fast as we possibly could, and taking in the incredible scenery around us… so that by the end of the two hour session I really felt like a natural. I was even landing upright at the end of each zip, rather than on my bum, and that was a good feeling!
Although the penultimate zip line was the fastest and longest one, it was the final one which we all enjoyed the most. I think it was a combination of feeling we’d mastered the art, along with the absolutely astounding view of the valley as we burst out of the forest and back down towards the visitors centre.
The whole course was incredibly fun and really exhilarating, and our adrenaline high lasted for a long time afterwards. It really was a fantastic day out, combining beautiful views of the Lake District with an extreme rush and the feeling of flying through the trees. Its a new way to see the forest, and it’s unforgettable!
A two hour zip trekking session at Go Ape Grizedale costs £45. Book your session through the Go Ape website.