One of our favourite places to head during the warmer weather is the Lake District, and so this weekend we took advantage of the sunny weather and headed up to Grizedale Forest.
Grizedale sits between Hawkshead and Coniston, and about a 30 minute drive off Junction 36 of the M6.
The forest park here is beautiful and has some fabulous, family-friendly walks with lots of woodland and open green spaces for games and picnics. There’s also a fine visitor centre, cafe, and adventure playground along with bike hire, and various outdoor activities.
The purpose of our visit was to try the Go Ape Junior adventure course here, with Flea and her cousins Harry (9) and Annie (12).
Go Ape Junior is designed for kids aged 7-10, and gives them a taste of adventure with lots of support, and not too many scary elements.
So, how does it work?
First up, you pay £17 per child, and that covers 1 hour on the course – depending on how busy the attraction is, this should be plenty of time to complete the whole course anywhere from 2 to 5 times.
You need to arrive 20 minutes before your booked time (you can book online to ensure you get the day and time you want) and you’ll be given some safety instructions, and be fitted with a super-glamorous harness attached to a metal trolley. The trolley (and thus, your harness) is attached to a thick cable that runs the entire length of the course, meaning you can’t fall off, and you can’t go the wrong way. You’re always attached, so little ones are very secure, and completely safe.
The junior course is made up of a series of obstacles between trees, at two levels. The lower level is pretty simple and has a guide rail running around, so it’s almost impossible to fall off, or even wobble too much. This is ideal for younger children and anyone older who might be feeling a bit nervous. At the end of the level, there’s one final, big zipwire down to the ground, before you go back to the beginning and go again. Once you’ve completed the lower course you can either go again, or go a bit higher and do the upper course, which doesn’t have the guide lines and is a bit more challenging.
How challenging the course will be really depends on your child – but I would certainly recommend getting stuck in and harnessed up yourself if at all possible.
First, it’s ridiculously fun although you’ll spend a lot of time ducking to avoid hitting yourself in the head or walking into cables. Second, if your child gets scared, it’s not much use trying to talk them out of it when you’re 30 feet below them on the ground. We saw lots of tearful, frightened children who had simply frozen to the spot and having a grown-up there to take there hand and support them through the scary bit makes all the difference.
If you’re worried about how hard the course is for adults, then don’t – so long as you can climb a ladder, you’ll be able to complete the course without breaking a sweat, and it’s open to anyone, big or small, short or tall. Besides, who wouldn’t want to get strapped up like a turkey in front of a lot of young kids? *cough*
Flea is – of course – counting down the days until her 10th birthday when she’ll be able to do the full Go Ape course, which is open to kids aged 10 and over, assuming they are more than 140cm tall.
We found the staff were great, especially at supporting some of the more nervous children, but on a busy school holiday it was very busy and there were waits, because children on the course (those without adults, mostly) tended to get stuck, or couldn’t get their trolleys past corners and so on. It’s not a big problem, and we had a blast regardless of the odd wait, but if you can go on a quieter day, I would.
After you’ve finished, the grounds make a perfect place for a picnic, and then we headed off to Windermere for ice cream, and spent a lovely hour at Fell Foot, which has a fab waterside location at the foot of Lake Windermere. There was a climbing wall for the kids, so we made the most of that before driving home.
All in all, it made for an excellent day out as the three snoozing children we took home will confirm! Here’s a quick video of our day: