On Sunday morning against my better judgement, and despite a lifelong fear of heights we headed to Glentress Forest near Peebles in the Scottish Borders to Go Ape with a Tree Top Adventure.
You may be wondering what Going Ape entails so I’ll enlighten you. Go Ape is an adrenaline inducing tree top assault course which consists of climbing high into the trees, attaching yourself to various zip wires then hurling yourself off tiny wooden platforms with gay abandon.
The Teen joined us to observe our tree top shenanigans and laugh at our efforts/capture unflattering photos of us – turns out her luck was in on both fronts. The Wee White Dug came too as he fancies himself as a bit of an adventurer and there’s no show without Punch.
If I was apprehensive before I arrived my apprehension increased tenfold on arrival. We were greeted with a whole host of safety notices. We then had to read through a long list of warnings and sign a disclaimer. They also oddly wanted a note of our ages! Probably to engrave on complimentary tombstones after we plummeted back down to Earth like Icarus I thought. Mr G my very reluctant Go Ape companion grumbled about this not being his ‘type of thing’. If he told me once, he told me a hundred times that he really didn’t want to Go Ape – not even a little bit!
Before we were let loose in the tree tops we were taken through a bewildering and comprehensive set of safety instructions by the lovely and very patient Kayleigh. My head spun – there was a lot to remember. We both demonstrated just enough understanding of the numerous carribenas now attached to us via a harness to progress to the Go Ape Tree Top Adventure proper.
I hoped I’d remember everything when it mattered. Hold my head to one side as I zipped down a wire like a bat out of hell. Point my toes downwards as I flew through the air. Grip the blue line to zip wire and grip all the lines to Tarzan swing. Don’t touch the zip wire when moving. Run into a landing if facing forwards or if backwards dig my heels into the ground to slow myself down. Don’t grab the cargo net on the first swing of the Tarzan rope and most importantly of all ALWAYS STAY ATTACHED. That final rule wasn’t one I was going to forget in a hurry.
As we headed uphill, through the forest to reach the course I felt sick and shaky. My head was spinning with all the things I needed to remember.
To make matters worse the dreaded Scottish midgie had just turned up mob handed. Luckily I had the new favoured tool in my anti-midge arsenal to hand. My Deet free, Trek Sensitive by Pyramid. Pyramid Travel Products are a Scottish Borders based Company who are experts in warding off nasty biting beasties. At least I wouldn’t have to add midgies to my list of woes for the day.
All too soon we arrived at the first section of the course. There are five sections in total and each one gets progressively higher. All end in a zip wire. We let our fellow tribe mates go first so we could observe their technique and decide if we should make a run for it or not. We babbled nervously and incessantly about everything and nothing, neither listening to the other.
Up our fellow tribe mates climbed into the trees and off they traversed along a narrow wire with ease.
I apprehensively climbed up the ladder to the first platform, secured my carribenas and set off along the narrow wire wobbling uncontrollably. I crossed a net bridge then very tentatively tip toed my way across what can only be described as a very shoogly bridge – clinging on for dear life and pep talking myself every inch of the way over. The first section ended in a zip wire. I loved it, even though I landed backward and bottom first into a big, soggy pile of bark.
Section two was quite obviously higher, longer and more complex than section one. I shook as I climbed up to the platform. This time my arms joined the party, not happy to see my legs having all the fun, they decided to play along by shaking uncontrollably too. I looked like a bizarre Elvis impersonator.
My uncontrollable jittering made the shoogly bridge a huge challenge. My arms and legs continued to do their own thing making hanging on like grim death a real struggle. I started to curse my appetite for adventure. I surveyed my surroundings from the tree tops and could see no obvious escape route other than by completing the section and zip-wiring back down to the ground.
Before that joy came a Tarzan swing. I grabbed hold and launched myself off the platform towards a cargo net. Don’t grab it on the first swing I remembered. I gave it three swings for good measure then grabbed hold. I looked around bewildered. I couldn’t for the life of me work out where I needed to go next. A fellow tribe mate ahead shouted encouragement down from the platform I now needed to reach, which was up and over to my left. I tried to move but couldn’t. I felt panic set in – I was slipping into crag fast mode. I knew I had to snap out of it and pronto.
When crag fast hits an overwhealming urge not to move another inch takes complete hold of you. You see no preferred option up or down and no means of escape. You’ll stay frozen to the spot immobilised by an irrational fear.
Thankfully Kayleigh our instructor from earlier was on hand below and quickly spotted my plight. She winched me up another carribena to attach myself to then dragged me across the net towards the platform, taking the strain and giving me the confidence and ability to move again. I thanked her profusely once safely on that tiny wee tree top platform. I felt so elated that If I’d had room to dance up there I would have. I attached myself to the final obstacle between me and terra firma – a zip wire. I whizzed gleeful back down to the forest floor, landing on my feet and breaking smugly into a run.
I’d promised myself up there in the full grip of crag fast that if I ever made it back down to Earth I’d call it a day content at having challenged my fear of heights head on by completing a couple of sections.
With hindsight do I regret not finishing the full course? Absolutely. I loved the zip wires and would have liked to do them all. In time I could overcome my fear of the shoogly bridges having done a couple now. It’s no longer an unknown fear. It’d be easier and more familiar second time around. Will I go back? Absolutely. Life is for living to the full and fears are there to be challenged.
Back on solid ground I was greeted by a delighted wee dug and a grumpy teen who claimed she was hungry, bored and now wanted to Go Ape!
I felt like legging it straight to section three and hurling myself up the ladder but decided to weather the woe is me teenage grump. Apparenty it looked like we’d been having so much fun that she’d decided (despite also having a fear of heights, and refusing point blank to join us in the trees on this occasion) that she now wanted to have a tree top adventure of her own. My promise to bring her back appeased her mood somewhat.
And what of Mr G my reluctant tribe mate? Well he took to the trees like King Louis himself. He absolutely LOVED the experience.
He rushed around the remaining sections like an excited 5 year old. When we greeted him as he finished the course after whizzing down a humungous double zip wire – through tall trees, downhill and across a small lake he was high as a kite and babbling away ten to the dozen. The Teen and I heard every little detail of his tree top adventure.
My reluctant tribe mate was now a fully fledged Silverback Gorilla. If ever they decide to remake those old 1970s Milk Tray ads he’ll be first in line at the auditions – box of chocolates under one arm and a selection of carribenas under the other.
When he was presented with his completion certificate he puffed with pride. There was even talk of having it laminated!
Despite my limited success in the trees, Go Ape’s Tree Top Adventure is a fun day out for ages 10 and above and better still it only requires a moderate level of fitness, making it an accessible activity for groups of mixed age and ability. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a little adventure in their life. It’s an ideal way to tire out children and bored teens, share a bonding experience with team mates or even celebrate a milestone birthday adventurously.
You’ll also find Go Ape centres at the stunning Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, Aberfoyle and at Crathes Castle in Aberdeenshire.
Go on take that first step and live life adventurously – you never know, you may even enjoy it.
Although I was invited to try out the Tree Top Adventure at Go Ape, Peebles free of charge, due to my love of the great outdoors all opinions and musings are my own and are an accurate reflection of my visit.