Leaping the trees in Woodhill
If you are okay with heights, then climbing around in the canopy of very tall, mature pine trees in Woodhill Forest could be absolutely exhilarating.
My companion at Tree Adventures, 11-year-old Tiggy Tattersfield-Collins, took off running and didn't look back for two hours. Leaping across swinging logs, she was silhouetted like a slender starfish against the lacy foliage 14m high. Light as a dandelion seed, she was a joy to watch.
At the end of nine courses, she couldn't wait to come back and do it all again - suspended tunnels, Japanese steps, U-ropes, criss-crosses, long boards, swinging plateaus, hanging Xs, Tarzan swing and tree surfing - with each course ending with a whizzing flying fox. "You were like this big giant, seeing all over the place," she said afterwards. "You got really nervous but you just kept on going and then once you got to the end you were really proud of yourself.
"The flying fox was the best thing out of everything."
The courses get higher (from 3m to 14m) and increasingly not for the faint-hearted. Obstacles such as the giant hanging nets and monkey bars get more technical and push you to the next level.
I came with no expectations: I was fine up a ladder on the roof. But after course number two I was happier on the ground. So if you're not sure, start with the first few courses.
About 200 people went through on a recent sunny Saturday, and most of them would have had an amazing time.
Even watching was uplifting, standing on soft pine needles in the dappled light and undergrowth, listening to calls and seeing tiny figures leaping through the canopy all over the site. The whole place was alive but with a contained, quiet energy.
We started with two young boys Tiggy's age, who powered ahead, then joined two smiling young women in their late teens still easy in their movements but taking it much slower. People in their 20s were adventurous or confronting fear and being encouraged by companions. Older people tended to watch.
I found myself thinking, "Okay, now I know I will never be a Territorial, or go to Outward Bound." But then this could be like a mini-Outward Bound that challenges you and provides some physical adventure. I got a sense that this sort of experience was part of being human and a physical/spiritual balance which is lacking in our lives today.
But you don't have to get all philosophical - Tree Adventures is an outrageous amount of plain good fun. As long as you stay clipped on, if you did fall, as our instructor said, the worst injury you'd get would be a nasty wedgie from the harness.
Staff stand and watch constantly. One told me the experience is better if your instructor goes over some tips first on the practice course, so adults and first-timers should take advantage of that.
I saw one young teen freeze on what, from below, looked a fairly easy zig-zag. But it's like going up a diving board: it looks a whole lot higher once you're up there. An instructor spent a long time, gently and quietly talking and ended up clipping her on to the lines and sending her across flying fox-style instead.
Staff will scale safety ropes and, if they have to, clip on to a climber and bring them down. I saw an instructor move up the highest course to free a tangled rope. He moved so fast and with such agility I swear he could have been visiting evolutionary relatives.
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