Monkey business for squad

A highlight of our 12-week fun fitness programme Spring Into Summer is the aerial assault course at Go Ape! In Thetford Forest. Features editor TRACEY SPARLING took the plunge with the squad of readers.

By Tracey Sparling

A highlight of our 12-week fun fitness programme Spring Into Summer is the aerial assault course at Go Ape! In Thetford Forest. Features editor TRACEY SPARLING took the plunge with the squad of readers.

HEART pounding, hands slipping on the wet rope, I counted to three… then leaped into nothing.

Sailing through the air towards a cargo net looming in front of me, I was amazed to have time to catch hold of the net and hang on - like a fly caught in a spider's web.

Then it was just a matter of catching my breath and hauling myself to the welcome solidity of a tiny wooden platform high in the trees.

Against all our natural instincts, the Spring Into Summer squad were throwing themselves off tarzan swings, zip slides and through the forest canopy at Go Ape! At High Lodge Forest Centre, Brandon.

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The rain fell, making the wood chip floor soggy but at least soft. We secured ourselves to safety wires, checked and double checked the karabiner connections before speeding down zip wires, to land with our legs whirling in a run - or an undignified shower of woodchips as our teammates collapsed in giggles at the sight.

In front of me, Brian Blacksell suffered a spectacular tumble when he slipped from the cargo net, and found himself hanging in mid air. Despite the mishap, he went on to complete the five-stage course with a huge smile on his face.

With a few rescue descents to dry land, by the staff who stayed with us throughout the adventure, the majority of the squad managed to make it round the course in a challenge which would try most.

It was testament to the squad's remarkable spirit that every single member who got on the coach that day, without knowing what activity they would be trying (until the weekly envelope was opened), gave the course a go.

For some the combination of a fear of heights and trusting your safety to a rope, proved too much, and they retired to the coffee shop after stages one and two.

A degree of strength and fitness was required as we needed to climb rope ladders, and balance across trapeze wires and rope bridges, on the new course layout which takes three hours to complete. Our instructor said it was good to see people confront the challenges and get so much from the experience.

“My arms feel like a gorilla's,” laughed Rob Willows, 36, from Pinmill Close, Ipswich.

“If I'm walking around on my knuckles tomorrow, at least I've got an excuse!”

He said the event had drawn the group in to several small teams, as people willed their friends over the harder challenges.

“That was really good,” said Ezenna Hoy, 34, from Sidegate Lane, Ipswich afterwards.

She added: “I don't think I've ever been this dirty before! The log swings were difficult as I had to really stretch, but the rewards were the zip slides which were great fun.

“Brian did really well to recover and carry on. Then Simon dropped his glasses and they landed over a branch so we had to get them out of the tree.”

We returned home on our coach hired from Gemini Travwl in Ipswich exhausted and elated, with our shoes covered in mud. However many stages they managed to complete, many had achieved far more than they ever thought possible.

Go Ape! Is a high wire forest adventure course through the tree canopy near Brandon. It is all about encouraging people to seek adventure and have fun in the forest. And what better way to do it than by tackling a high wire course up to 60 feet above the forest floor!

All the zip lines have been lengthened by about a third this year, and the longest one has increased from 110m to 140m.

To take part you must be aged over ten, over 4ft 7ins and under 20.5 stone.

Go Ape! Also caters for corporate days.

Parking costs £5 per car, and Go Ape!costs £20 for over 18s, £15 for 10-17 year olds. See www.goape.co.uk

Make a day of it by having a barbecue or picnic for lunch, and hiring mountain bikes from Bike Art where adult bikes cost from £5.95, and children's from £4.95. See www.bike-art.com.