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Go Ape (Northumberland)

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Address: Matfen Hall Hotel / Newcastle / NE20 0RH

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      05.08.2010 19:01
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      A great day out.. something a bit different!

      I'm not what you'd call a daredevil, nor do I particularly like heights. However, recently when my friend asked me to go to 'Go Ape' as part of her hen weekend, I thought I might as well give it a try.. afterall it's not something I would have decided to do myself and we only live once so why not make the most of it!

      So that's how I ended up at Go Ape a few weeks ago. My experience in three words: terrifying; exciting and exhilarating! I've never been so scared and excited at the same time!

      ~ So, just what is Go Ape? ~

      Go Ape is a high-wire forest adventure, located at various places across the UK. So basically it's an obstacle course in the trees! The one I went to was in the trees at Matfen Hall, Northumberland. The course here has 5 sites, the first of which is a training course. Each one gets more difficult and they all end with a zip-line (which get increasingly higher).

      Most of the obstacles are fairly easy to do (as long as you can climb a rope ladder) but it does use a lot of upper body strength and is made harder by the fact you are high up in a tree!

      ~Go Ape at Matfen Hall ~

      Matfen Hall is located in Northumberland, near Corbridge, about 14 miles outside of Newcastle. Go Ape is located in the grounds of Matfen Hall.

      * Highest point: Site 5 Zip Wire Platform 11m
      * Longest Zip Wire: Site 5 Zip Wire 160m
      * Longest crossing: Rail Tracks (site 3) 16m
      * Total length of crossings: 755m
      * Number of crossings: 38
      * Number of sections: 5

      ~ Our Experience ~

      Upon arrival at Go Ape, you have to sign a declaration to confirm that you understand you are about to take part in a high risk activity (which could be fatal if you don't follow safety instructions). At this point I was already getting quite nervous so reading that there was a risk of death scared me even more! I suppose it makes sense that when you are 30feet in the air, not using your harness correctly could lead to you falling out of a tree, risking serious (or fatal) injury but I didn't like reading this as soon as I got there! The information does go on to state that if you follow the safety procedures you greatly reduce the risk (I breathed a sign of relief at this point!)

      After signing to say we would undertake the safety talk and be responsible for ourselves, we got fitted with our safety harness. We then had a safety talk, which lasted about 30 minutes. The man leading the group was easy to listen to and made the safety talk as interesting as such an event can be. He talked us through the harness and made sure we all fully understood how to use it and what the risks were if we failed to use it correctly. Once you have finished the safety talk and completed the training course, you are no longer directly supervised. Safety wardens patrol the forest and you have a whistle for attracting attention should you need it (in an emergency only) so you are not completely alone.

      The safety harness is easy to use and as it has two clips, you are always attached to something; whether it's the platform or the actual course. Despite having the harness though I was still very scared!

      There were nine of us in our party, but only 8 of us went up into the trees, the ninth person just walked round beneath us to watch as she is frightened of heights. Once we got started we couldn't always all see each other depending on how the course was in the trees but there were a number of occasions we all came together and could shout across the branches to cheer each other on! We were always next to someone though and it was nice to have someone cheer you on when getting a bit nervous. I think if the girls I was with weren't as nice (I only knew 2 of them previous to the outing) I would have been so much more scared and not have enjoyed the experience so much. I think it helped seeing the people in front of me had completed each little bit and were still alive!

      The final site was by far the most challenging and fun. There was a choice of doing the extreme crossing or just the difficult one. If you'd asked me before I went up there I would have told you there would be no chance of me doing the extreme crossing (the extreme tarzan swing) but a few of the other girls cheered me on and I decided to try it.. it was amazing and terrifying! I was still shaking with excitement/fear for the remainder of the site until the final zip wire, but it was totally worth it!

      I landed on my bottom for all but one of the zip wire, as did most of the girls in my party but it was still great fun. The zip wires were what made doing each of the site crossings worthwhile for me.

      The crossings include a mixture of rope, wood and tunnels and they vary in their level of difficulty (and my perception of fear!) I got such a sense of achievement after I completed each crossing.

      ~ Things that I liked/Advantages ~

      * It's totally different to anything I've done before
      * The Staff were really friendly and helpful
      * We each got a certificate signed by the Chief Gorilla congratulating us on completing the course.. how else I am going to get anyone to believe that I actually climbed up trees and swung from them like Tarzan? (well.. maybe more like Jane!)
      * Great fun!
      * Great day out!
      * Made me realise I could do it!
      * Certificate
      * Sense of achievement

      ~ Things I didn't like/Disadvantages ~

      * When standing on the platform waiting for my turn to go onto the next obstacle the trees often started swaying in the breeze (even though it wasn't particularly windy) which scared me somewhat.. this scared me more than being so high up.
      * If you have a phobia of heights you probably wouldn't be able to do this.. I'm a little bit nervous of heights but I wouldn't describe it as a phobia and I was scared.
      * Expensive
      * My upper body ached for 4 days after!! :'(
      * It's only suitable for children over 10 years old

      ~ Opening Times 2010 ~

      Sat 13th - Sun 21st February (closed Tues 16th)
      Weekends from Sat 27th February - Sun 21st March
      Daily Sat 27th March - Sun 31st October (closed Tues & Weds during Term Time)
      Weekends throughout November

      ~ Prices ~

      Gorillas (18yrs+) £30.00
      Baboons (10-17yrs) £20.00

      Baboons must be supervised by a Gorilla (an adult over 18years of age)

      ~Overall ~

      Although it is expensive, I think it was worth the money as it is something completely different to anything I've ever done; it was exhilarating and such good fun. It also lasted about 4 hours in total.

      Go Ape is definitely something I would recommend for a different sort of day out! I didn't think I'd ever hear myself say it but I would quite like to go back. I think these sort of things are mind over matter and I know that I can do it (as I have done already) so if I go back maybe I would enjoy it even more (and be less scared too?!).

      Just remember to always stay attached and have fun! Oh.. and it might not be a great idea to look down...:)

      Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoy Going Ape. x

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