As we live just down the road from Dalby Forest we are frequent visitors there. On every visit, I stop and watch the folk whizzing down the zip lines of Go Ape. Although I’ve not got a brilliant head for heights I’ve often wanted to try their treetop adventures with the children. We visited during the summer holidays as part of our summer of microadventures.
Go Ape is the UK’s number one forest adventure that everyone seems to be talking about. They have dozens of sites around the UK offering activities such as treetop adventures, forest Segways and nets courses. They cater to adults and children alike so this can be a proper family day out.
Go Ape kindly invited us to try their treetop adventure at Dalby Forest recently. While Delilah and Verity tackled the Tree Top Junior course, Lydia, Grace and I took on the Tree Top Adventure. Here’s how our day went…
When it rains in Yorkshire
While stood in a North Yorkshire forest on the August bank holiday weekend in the pouring rain it was hard not to think back a few weeks to when the country was in the grip of a heatwave. It seemed such a long time ago. But a little rain (it was A LOT of rain) doesn’t stop us Yorkshire folk from cracking on. So, it wasn’t going to stop us doing Go Ape. I’m not sure what weather circumstances would be required for them to close the courses, but this rain wasn’t one of them.
We were booked in for an 11:30 am start in the Tree Top Adventure and 30 minutes later on the Tree Top Junior. We were cutting it fine for time when we arrived at Dalby Forest. Luckily we managed to park right outside the Go Ape centre and arrived at exactly 11:30.
When you check in at Go Ape you are given an A4 laminated sheet of information to read. Basically, this is telling you that you are about to take part in a high-risk activity and you must adhere to all the safety requirements. I then had to sign the disclaimer for the three of us. Under 16s must be with an adult that signs to say they take full responsibility for their safety.
After checking in we were whisked down to the first briefing area. This is where an instructor explains all the safety aspect of Go Ape. They then fit you into your harness and go on the further explain the double line feature. Essentially this is two safety lines with a carabiner on each attached to your harness (a red and blue), meaning that at any one time you are always attached to the safety lines in the trees.
Further to the carabiners, there is also the “runner”. I’m not clear on the proper technical term but this is the part that hooks onto the wires that carry you between the trees and onto the zip wires. This is held in place with the blue safety line and then the red one is put on the cable itself as a backup.
Once all the equipment is explained you are get guided through all the features you will encounter up in the trees on a mini mock-up on the ground.
More safety training
The folks at Go Ape don’t leave anything to chance (seriously, that’s a good thing). That’s why when you have finished your first safety briefing and practice, you move to another area and go through it all again. There is another practice course, this time a little higher off the ground, that finishes with a mini zip wire. Everyone has to go through this before being allowed to progress.
As a parent taking two under 16s on the Tree Top Adventure it was made very clear to me that they must always be ahead of me. I must always check their safety lines prior to any cross or zip wire. Also, I was to always be no more that one crossing behind them. With the “only 3 people on a platform” rule, this did cause a few jams as you will find out later.
Onto the Tree Top Adventure
The Tree Top Adventure is split into 6 sites. Site 1 was in actual fact the second training area I have just described.
Each site at Go Ape Dalby Forest, with the exception of site 5, starts with a ladder climb. The ladder climbs, along with Tarzan swings, utilise a green carabiner on your harness. Along with the red and blue safety lines, this makes 3 points of contact with the safety system on these sections.
Once you are at the top of the ladder you are on a wooden platform that encircled the tree trunk. This is where the nerves kick in a little as you are then required to systematically detach yourself from one safety line to another. When you are on a “green” line the rule is that the green is first on and last off.
After the ladder accent, the system is simple; attach to tree safety line, attach to crossing cable, make the crossing across whatever obstacle is in front of you, detach from crossing line, attach the tree safety line, repeat. The golden rule: ALWAYS STAY ATTACHED!
Tarzan swing fun
Site 2 is quite a short section. Clearly, given the numerous Go Ape staff on the ground observing, this is, in fact, the third training section. You are warned that you can be given yellow or even red cards if they spot you breaking rules. A red means you are removed from the course.
I was still at the foot of the ladder, with Lydia and Grace on the first platform when one of the staff told everyone to stop. Site 2 ends with a Tarzan swing into a cargo net. You then have to climb the net to a platform before a zip line finish to the ground. One poor participant had somehow got entangled in the cargo net and couldn’t move. This was the first of two incident I witnessed that proved just how professional and calm the staff are in times of crisis. Using ropes attached to the Tarzan swing then managed to free her without them having to climb up.
Jumping off a platform 10 meters or so off the ground doesn’t come naturally to me. The girls both sat on the platform edge and pushed off. I decided to show off and just leapt off! Smack! That cargo net didn’t half approach quickly!
The zip lines
Each site section ends with a zip line descent back to the ground. There’s nothing quite like a zip line through a forest canopy. It’s an exhilarating experience for sure.
Check out my YouTube vlog of the day to see my view of the zip lines descents from my GoPro camera.
I can’t tell you how many times I was checking the safety lines before allowing the girls the jump off, let alone before I would step off the platform. At the highest point, some of these zip lines were 30 meters off the ground!
A tiring experience
After landing on one zip wire it was a quite an uphill climb to the start of the next site. It was during this climb that I began to realise how tiring this activity could actually be. You don’t realise it when you are up in the trees as you are so focused on the safety lines and where you are going. Being physically fit enough to complete the course is your call. Unfortunately, one gentleman ran out of energy as he neared the end.
I could see him ahead of us struggling at the end of a crossing. He seemed unable to pull himself upright. He did eventually make it to the next platform. As there were already three people on there we held tight where we were. It then became clear he was in some distress. He called down to a member of the Go Ape staff that he was tired and the strength had gone in the arms and legs.
The staff member was soon climbing up onto the course from the last entry point and passing us to get to the gentleman. What struck me was the calmness displayed. He spent time talking with the poor chap then eventually guided him back across two crossings to the last entry point ladder. My hat goes off the staff as they really are brilliant.
Go Ape Dalby Site 5
Site 5 is a bit different. After a walk to the entry gate, we realised there was no ladder at this one. It was simply one very long zip wire. This one actually seemed odd. All the other zip wires involved jumping, or stepping, off a platform tens of metres up a tree. But on this on,e you launch from a platform that appears to be just a meter off the ground. As you then set off down the wire the ground quickly falls away from you and you then realise how high up you are.
I did feel a little cheated by site 5 as it wasn’t really the same as the others. I soon got over it though!
A little about Go Ape Tree Top Junior
While I was monkeying around on the big course with the older girls, Delilah and Verity were on the Tree Top Junio course. Parents can go on this with them but they are free to tackle it along too. That’s what our girls did.
They too get a thorough safety briefing before being let loose on the course. But, the safety system is a bit different on the Tree Top Junior. They have a single connector that stays on all the way around the course. It’s a clever system the passes through “junctions” at the trees as well as hooking onto the zip wire at the end. It’s very safe and they can’t take it off.
There’s a Go Ape staff member at the zip wire attaching them to that too so safety is, of course, paramount.
There are two routes on the Tree Top Junior at Dalby Forest. One is much shorter and less challenging than the other. They got to go around as many times as they wanted within their time slot. So, once they landed on the zip line and un-hooked they got back to the start – pronto!
The end is in sight
From site 3 onwards the course split into two, one easier route than the other. They then merge back together before the zip wire end to that section. This can cause some traffic issues due to the 3 person per platform rule. Then this is made worse by my having to stay no more than 1 crossing from the girls. In the beginning, the group that we started with was all bunched together, but we thinned out a lot as time went on.
Towards the end of the final section, there is a huge Tarzan swing option, the alternative being some nets the traverse, in order to reach the final zip line. I tried to land more gracefully this time but I still hit the cargo net hard! So did Lydia and she hurt herself a little. My concern went away when she seemed to recover and climbed up normally.
I sent the girls down the final zip wire and waited for my turn. As Lydia landed way off in the distance the tree I was on shook quite a lot. This was the first I’d felt that and I have to admit it gave me a little wobble of nervousness. Then I could see a Go Ape staffer raking the landed zone wood chip so I had to wait. And I waited. And waited some more. I was there, on my own, on that platform for about 5 minutes. This final zip wire is quite exposed on one side and you can see out over the lower part of Dalby, the visitor’s centre and play area. It’s an awesome view. I spent my time getting suddenly nervous and re-checking all my equipment. Thankfully the landing zone cleared before my mind wandered too much!
A word about clothes
It can be hard enough to decide what to wear for a day out in Yorkshire during the summer without factoring in a treetop activity. I went with reasonably loose fitting walking pants for two reasons; one, they are light and allow movement, and two, they are quick drying. The girls went with a mixture of leggings and jeans.
To be honest you just need to be comfortable and able to move. Sturdy footwear is a must though, I wore my walking boots and the girls some tough trainers. There was a group of young ladies wearing very short shorts, nothing wrong with that but I bet they were cold! We even bought Go Ape gloves for each of us as £3.50 a pair as it was so cold in the rain. They are nice woolly gloves with rubber grips on and will be worn time and again I’m sure.
Well worth the cost
As with any activity like this, you are going to pay for it. I will admit that I’ve often looked at the prices and ruled it out as too expensive for us. But, now that we’ve done it I can see where that expense goes. The equipment is top notch, the staff are well trained and there’s plenty of them too. The insurance costs must be huge too!
To get the best prices you can save by booking early online for some sites (not Dalby). Turning up and paying on the day is the most expensive way to do Go Ape and I would avoid that. If you book by telephone you will also have to pay a £3 booking fee. My advice is to get on the Go Ape website and check out the pricing.
The Tree Top Adventure is open to participants aged 10 upwards and there are 2 prices bands; Gorillas (16+) and Baboons (10-15).
Tree Top Junior is open to children with a height of 1 meter and over. While the website seems to apply age banding right up to adults the fee is a flat fee for each.
This isn’t a cheap activity but with good reason. It’s something to plan ahead and save for as part of a great family day out. On completing the course you are given a certificate with a voucher code for 15% off your next booking at any of their sites.
What else to do in Dalby Forest
As well as the Go Ape treetop adventures they also offer forest segway safaris. Dalby also has much more to offer with two play areas for children; one at the low Dalby visitors centre and one up at Adderstone field. There a cafe in the visitor’s centre too if you want to leave the picnic at home. I will say it’s not a cheap experience in the cafe, we called in on this cold rainy day for 5 hot chocolates and a cup of tea to take away – it set me back over £18!!
Dalby has endless paths and cycles tracks for those that fancy that, and there’s even the bike barn to hire out bikes for the day.
Sadly on a rainy and cold Sunday, we opted to eat our picnic in the car before heading home to dry off and warm up! But we did so with big smiles on our faces after a brilliant time at Go Ape.
Thanks for reading.
Our Tree Top Adventure was kindly gifted by Go Ape. This does not alter my opinions and review of what was a fantastic day with them.