Monkeying around in the trees
THE first thing that comes to mind when someone says ‘treetop adventure’, aside from fear, is Tarzan, which is swiftly followed by images of a half naked man swinging on vines through the trees to the sound of elephants trumpeting in the distance.
But since 2001 adventure company Go Ape has been running its own tree top adventures in forests and parks throughout England. An obstacle course in the sky, the company has recently expanded into both the junior markets and America, with plans to launch a new ‘Go Ape City Park Adventure’ in Battersea Park, London.
Last year the company recorded record visitor numbers of more than 820,000 to all of its UK sites, and with two Go Ape sites right here in Buckinghamshire, at Wendover Woods and Black Park, Tony Mitchell says extreme sports are more popular than ever.
Mr Mitchell has been site manager of the Black Park site since July last year and since then has seen it grow. He was previously site manager at Wendover Woods and his enthusiasm for the sport is infectious.
Asked why the sport did so well last year, he said: “I think finally people have started to feel better about the economy. We had quite a few corporate bookings for the first time in a few years.”
He added: “Extreme sports are definitely on the increase. Biking is on the increase too. People are becoming more active, people want to be doing something. It is down to the media, the Olympics coverage of sports, computer games. People are taking that and they want to give it a go.”
The figures tell us people in Buckinghamshire are taking to the sport too. Mr Mitchell tells me the Black Park Go Ape was one of only five sites in the country that stayed open throughout winter, and because the Chilterns is right here on our doorstep, people are able to take advantage of the fantastic scenery as they climb.
“It has become a destination, not just an activity. Children can go on the junior course, and we also have bikes, Segways, you can have a picnic in the park. People can stay for the whole day.”
Last year the Black Park site opened a Tree Top Junior course, which Mr Mitchell said is one of the reasons he has witnessed a growth from 28th in the country to one which is “competing with the other sites in the country”. The junior course means that children as young as three can participate, and with no upper age limit, even grandparents can try it out – the oldest adventurer was 85 years young.