*Collaborative post (Ad, gifted)
As a parent it’s all too often you hear the phrase “The kids have got a better social life than me”. And boy don’t we know it. Bowling, trampolining, swimming, parties (and then more parties), play dates, sleepovers, clubs, PTA events… need I go on?
It’s pretty easy to plod along from one weekend to the next, managing life admin and home tasks between the kids busy social calendar. But when was the last time you got your mates together for a full on day of banter and play, just for fun? Just for you?
Go Ape at Leeds castle invited Dad Muddling Through and I down to give their treetop challenge a whirl, and despite the potential for it to be a bit of a date day, we roped in two other couples for a bit of a triple mate date if you like. We’ve got nine kids between us so boy do we deserve it.
And what could be better than hanging around in the canopy of trees having a laugh with your mates. Because before we were all Mums and Dads, we were just a group of friends, weren’t we?!
The British spring time didn’t let us down and the weather was glorious (if a little chilly in the shade of the trees so word up layer up!). After an uneventful drive to Leeds Castle we pitched up, read the safety instructions and signed our life away.
We needn’t have worried because the team ensured we were safely harnessed up and gave us a thorough safety and information briefing, along with a small trial run at floor level. And then… we were on our own. (Note however the staff are never far away and totally within yelling distance if needed).
At this point some of the team started to get the jitters in a ‘what have we gotten ourselves into’ panic. But, when you’ve headed up there, there is of course, only one way down.
The course is split into 5 distinct phases, each comprising a series of aerial walks, ladders, paths and zip wires connected by tree top platforms. At the highest point of 13 metres you are zip wiring high above the treetops and once you take that leap you’ll be having way too much fun to look down or worry – it’s the most exhilarating feeling!
If you’ve ever been put off because of safety concerns, be reassured that at Go Ape the system ensures you are always attached to the safety ropes, so if you wobble, you aren’t going anywhere. The fear is all about perception and as you go through the course it’s unbelievable how natural it becomes being way up high in the treetops. This is the perfect thrill seekers day out, but those who just want to challenge themselves can totally do this.
The course throws different twists and turns, heights, wobbles and routes back down! There are sections with an ‘easy option’ (or should that be easier option), and the most daredevil free jump is optional. I did it and I bloody loved it.
Of course the training and signage reminds you every step of the way how to safely attach and reattach from each station, and as we discovered, you can’t help but work as a team to get each other from start to finish.
The entire course takes in the region of 2-3 hours depending on number of people in your group, ability and traffic on the course. On a sunny Sunday afternoon we didn’t encounter any other group congestion and so were able to complete the course in our own good time without delay or rushing. It did in fact take us the full three hours, but like all fun times, it whizzed by way too quickly.
It’s amazing how pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone in an alien situation brings out the best in people. We discovered the most fearless females in our group as well as patient and considerate alpha males who coached the less confident members through. As always there were the class clowns and the day wouldn’t have been the same without some hilarious less than graceful take offs and landings, and pants full of mud (you’ll see).
However easy or hard you may find the treetop challenge, there is no denying that what this experience offers you is a total escape from the day to day worries and stresses of real life. Go Ape mindfulness! I guarantee you won’t be thinking about anything else than getting yourself and your team to the next platform at any given moment.
Laughter truly is the best tonic and with five fab friends we laughed long and hard for three whole hours. I can’t remember the last time I had so much carefree fun, without having to be responsible for anything other than remembering to always stay attached.
We had an all important debrief in a local pub after, accompanied with a pretty amazing bit of grub. It was the perfect end to a day that felt like we were all twenty two again.
So do you know what, team building isn’t just for work colleagues, and fun isn’t just for children.
With a five star MMT recommendation, grab your mates, sort a mutually convenient date (keep the faith, it can be done!) , beg steal or borrow a babysitter and start living life adventurously. Because when it comes to friendship, regardless of where you are in life, always, always stay attached.