Wednesday I took the kids and the little boy I coach over to Bedgebury for the day. This is a Forestry Commission site of around 2200 acres and it is pretty amazing, we will definitely be visiting again.
Our purpose for going there yesterday was for the kids to try out the Go Ape Tree Top Junior Adventure which is sited within the forest. I've heard of Go Ape before but being a totally non-sporty type I've ever investigated as the idea of being up in the air with a harness as a very large lady is not appealing. I'm sure I've asked my children before as well and they have all been very non-committal.
I think a couple of years of Cub Scouting must have made my (near 10 year old) girls more adventurous as this time when I asked they jumped at the challenge and I knew that the little boy I coach would love it as he is like a monkey, climbing every tree he sees. I then asked my 13 year old if he wanted to go with the smaller kids and I fully expected him to laugh at me as he never really wants to spend time with his sisters but he too jumped at the chance, telling me that Go Ape is ace (despite him never having tried it before).
At ages 9 and 13 the kids were the right age to go on the Tree Top Junior Adventure without me and that was good as I had no intention of getting up there but I was reassured to read that I could do both the full Tree Top Adventure and the Junior one too as long as I weighed less than 20.5 stone and I'm pleased to report I do!
Arrival for Go Ape
Go Ape is about a 5/10 minute walk from the Visitor Centre, which is just by the car park, so make sure you plan in enough time to walk up there. Aim to arrive at the Go Ape hut ten minutes before your booked time so that you can all read through the safety information and the adult can fill out the paperwork. At this point the Go Ape staff member checked the kids understanding of how many people can be on a platform and crossing at a time.
You then head over to the start of the Tree Top Junior, a couple of minutes away and meet one of the instructors who will harness you up. We met Charlotte at first and she had a wonderful manner with the kids, super friendly, confident and reassuring. She got all four kids into their harnesses and answered their questions and then they headed over with Tom to be shown how to connect the trolley for their harness onto the wire rope. He talked them through where to put their hands, how to guide it and what not to do. They then had to walk a short length whilst connected to show him they could handle their trolley well-enough and stay safe.
Enjoying the Adventure
There are two loops to the course, the first is the less challenging of the two and the kids are encouraged to do this two times before moving onto loop 2, which is longer and has more to it. At the end of each of the loops is the zip wire and before the kids are allowed to ride this for the first time they have a safety briefing from the instructor who is based by it.
Miss M was the least confident of my kids at the start of the day. Once we arrived and she spotted that the course was 6 metres off the ground she started to get the wobbles but I reassured her enough that she got up there and slowly started to make her way round the course. Once she reached the zip wire she started to mouth to me that she didn't want to do it and the instructor was fabulous and coached her off the end and of course once she had done it once she had that amazing sense of accomplishment and you just couldn't stop her.
It was fabulous to see each of the kids getting more and more confident as they went round the course. In no time at all they had all done loop one twice and were moving on to loop two, which is longer and has more complex and free moving parts. It was useful to see a couple of kids playing around and swinging by their harness as it helped me to know that is one of the kids lost their footing they would be absolutely fine.
It was also useful to see a couple of children at different points get scared and either not be able to move or not being willing to go on the zip wire. You really got to see the patience and the skill of the instructors then as they coached the kids and helped them to be able to finish the course without any hurrying or bad feeling.
My kids loved that the instructors would set them challenges if they were finding the course too easy. One of them went round backwards, another did it without using their hands and the last challenge was to do the loop with their eyes closed. They all sounded a little scary to me but the kids were fine and of course the harnesses were keeping them safe too.
Eight people can book every 15 minutes and one of the instructors told me there isn't an official cap on the numbers on the course at any one time but they have about 60 harnesses and you get an hour on the course, so that puts a natural cap on numbers. We had booked for 1pm in the school holidays and understandably it was busy but not so much that it dampened the kids fun. I think if we went next time I'd book for later in the day as it was much quieter when we passed by at about 4pm.
Within the hour the kids can complete the course as many times as they like and I thought it was really good that the kids were given a bit of extra time as they got stuck behind other children on a couple of occasions who were scared and therefore slowed up all the kids up.
Once the kids finished they were given a certificate and sticker for taking part, which is a nice little extra.
There are 31 sites across the UK where you can enjoy Go Ape, you can find your local one here.
Tree Top Junior - Suitable for all ages, you must be at least 1 metre in high, children of age 6 years or more can go on the course alone with an adult supervising on the ground. Children under 6 must have an adult on the course with them.
£18 per child or adult participating
Tree Top - Suitable for those 10 years and older, you must be at least 1.4 metres in height, and adult must be on the course supervising any children ages 10-15 years.
£25 for a child aged 10 - 15 years and £33 for 16 years plus
Facilities at Bedgebury
There is tons of parking at Bedgebury and there is a cost to park for the day. This is done as a one-off fee rather than for the time you are on-site. It is £12 to park a car on a weekend or school holiday and £10 at other times.
There is a cafe on site with loads of indoor and outdoor seating, it serves hot and cold food, ice creams, cold drinks and coffees and has a good selection. I spent £9.35 on a coffee, coke and 3 ice creams and this felt quite a reasonable price. You are welcome to use any of the outdoor seating and some of the indoor seating for your own pic-nics too, which I thought was really fair. I also liked the fact there is a drinking water tap to refill your bottles.
The toilets were clean and well maintained and there were plenty of dog bowls around with water if you've bought your dog with you. To be honest, it was a bit of a dog owners paradise and my little Miss M was in her element chatting away tot he owners as she petted their dogs.
The information office was staffed by some very friendly people and there is plenty of literature you can pick up if you want more information on Bedgebury. My girls also really loved all the little gifts and it was nice that they could pick things up for £1 or £1.50 and not have to spent too much.
I'm linking this post up with Fiona at Coombe Mill for #CountryKids.
Disclosure: The kids received free entry to Go Ape for the purpose of this review. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.
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