I’ve always said that I’d wanted to go to Go Ape. I’d always seen other people’s photos on Facebook, and thought to myself “Yeah, no problems, I’d rock at that”.
I literally didn’t even think of the height factor. What an idiot.
So with one of mine and Julien’s milestone anniversaries fast approaching (I shan’t say which one, due to our long and twisted road, surrounding what constitutes as a relationship over the past 3 years), I decided as ever that we should do something a little more interesting than the norm, and therefore thought a day at Go Ape would be the perfect day for us both.
With Go Pro’s strapped to our heads like the geeks that we are, we got off at Cockfosters tube, at the far end of both the Piccadilly Line, and God’s waiting room, and made our way to Trent Park.
A team of smiley, helpful staff greeted us, in a small, no expense spared little timber hut, on the edge of the forest. They took our valuables and got us immediately harnessed up, and practising our placement of safety clips, onto the safety lines.
We’d booked on to the midday slot, where we were starting at the same time as a group of around 10 others, mainly parents and children, and one other couple. Our safety guide, Rhys, helpfully gave us a quick run-through of ascending the trees, and the house rules in general, and then we were off.
So, if you are not familiar with Go Ape, it is a series of, I’d say, obstacle courses in the sky. You ascend to the tree top canopies via a rope ladder, which leads to a wooden platform around the tree. You go from one tree to the next, via a variety of means, whether it be a simple rope bridge, or a set of silver hoops hanging from chains, which you need to precariously place your feet in, going from one to the next. After you’ve completed each crossing, you eventually reach a zip wire, which brings you back down to the ground. From here, you go to the next circuit, of which, in Trent Park’s Go Ape, there are five (including a practice one, each increasing in height and difficulty, as you progress.
So after the practise one, we started the second course, and as soon as I was up at the top of the rope ladder, I was instantly wracked with nerves. If you’ve read any of my previous blogs, you will see I’m scared of just about everything and anything, but one of the more outstanding fears is that of falling from a height.
I made my way very timidly along the first few crossings, until I reached the Tarzan Swing. The Tarzan Swing is exactly like what you may imagine, in that you clip your safety hooks to a main piece of rope and literally just hold it and swing into a large hanging net about five metres in front of you. When you reach this, you grab a hold of it, and scale across to the safety of the adjacent tree. This was TERRIFYING. However, also super fun. As soon as I’d got to the net, I felt like I just wanted to do it all over again.
We chased through a couple more obstacles, until we got to the end of course two. Like with each course, the only way down was via the zip line. Julien went first and sped his way down to the bark chippings at the other end.
I was psyching myself up for my turn, and literally about to jump, when a small child behind me reminded me that I’d forgotten to attach one of the very important clips to the line. Thanking the 12 year old, I rearranged myself, and pushed myself off. Speeding through the air, high on the exhilaration of it all, I approached the landing area and forgot what I was told about stopping. So the landing, instead of being an elegant and smooth one like I’d wished, was in fact more about me screaming at Julien to get out the way, as I delved into a pile of bark chipping, which later I would discover, had found their way into my underwear with the sheer impact of my landing.
Dusting ourselves off, we got up and entered the third course. As we ascended, the 12-year-old child, his sister and his mother were hot on our heels. They were the most beautiful, middle class and perfectly behaved children, so naturally I had to keep apologising for my shouting of profanities as I consistently nearly fell from every obstacle possible, whilst two little angelic faces stared at me in shock and horror.
By this point I was getting braver, and felt nearly invisible. You may think it odd that I’d decided to visit Go Ape for something fun to do, with a relative fear of heights, however I am of the opinion that if I’m scared of something, I need to do it, or else I’ll lead one hell of a boring life. Bar spiders. I can stay being afraid of those.
After completing the course of obstacles, the way down was another zip wire; however this one had a skateboard running parallel beneath. The idea was to jump on to the skateboard and ride it half way down, rather like Marty McFly from the Back to the Future movies. I managed to instead straddle it in some weirdly unachievable way, and spin round a few times, before again, ending up in the bark chippings laughing to myself. Julien on the other hand, nailed it.
Onto the fourth course we went. At this point we were level pegging with a different family of three. We’d gone from one lovely mother, and her two polite children, to a bit of a gravelly voiced, chain-smoking mother, with her little girl, and incredibly annoying and boisterous son, called Jack. Jack; who proceeded to tell me I was a massive chicken, and that girls suck. Resisting the urge to push him from the trees, I politely let them go ahead, as they clearly wanted to take the course faster than I did.
Course four was a little more challenging, and higher up. This one involved crawling through a series of barrels, which were not connected to one another, and various obstacle course components that required more dexterity and balance. Again, the course ended with another big zip line, which with more swearing and profanities was a lot of fun.
And with that, it was time to take on the fifth and final course. Standing at the bottom of the rope ladder and looking upwards to the first platform, it was more than apparent that this course was considerably higher than the previous four. As I climbed up, I could see my hands physically shaking. We slowly used the first few crossings, and I just couldn’t shake the feeling of terrible uneasiness and fear that had somehow taken residence in my chest.
We came to another Tarzan Swing. This one was at least double the distance of the original Tarzan Swing we had used on the second course. I opted to go first, and connected all my carabiners to the Tarzan rope. I stood there for a couple of minutes, hyping myself up some more to jump. I could hear more kids scrambling up trees behind me, and suddenly felt such an immense pressure to jump and stop holding them all up. At this point, the fear just completely over took me, and infested itself within me, deep. I couldn’t move and was frozen, and started crying like a big old wimp. Julien had to un-attach and then reattach me to the safety lines. I look back at that now, and kick myself, however I’d just told myself I was terrified so badly of jumping; looking down and seeing tree tops, beneath the tree that I was already in, and listening to little shit kid, Jack, rampaging behind me like Taz the Tasmanian Devil, no doubt on his second go round course five.
Thank The Lord, there was an alternative route, which in all honesty was probably not a lot easier than the Tarzan Swing option, however we took that one none the less.
At this point I was shaking a great deal, and had lost all nerve and bravery that I was able to summon before. They say not to look down when you’re scared of heights, however it doesn’t help that you HAVE to look down in order to know where you’re placing your footing.
Regardless, I “wussed” my way round, as Julien kindly told me afterwards, and made it to the end, where we climbed an even taller tree, and got on the final zip line. This was the biggest and the longest, and certainly the most fun. I didn’t want it to end, screaming with joy the whole way down.
And with that, Go Ape was finished. We had a great time, and for around £30 a head I feel like it’s reasonably priced for what you get. You’re not limited to doing each course once, and you are allowed to revisit them as many times as you wish within your day. Our time went so quickly; we’d started at midday and weren’t finished until around 16.00, however it felt like a lot less time.
It’s very energetic when you’re there, even without realising. For example, when you scale the large hanging net, it takes a lot of upper body strength to keep yourself pulled taught and close to the net, without dropping. When you reach the end of the entire course, you may not feel tired, but when you take a moment to sit, you realise actually, you have been very active and it is tiresome.
Feeling suitably sleepy and happy with a fun filled day, we walked back to Cockfosters Underground, to get the train back to civilisation, not before posing for a childish photo.
We returned to Battersea, where we had a lay down, and scrubbed up, before on to the more traditional part of celebrating our anniversary…dinner.
I’d chosen a restaurant on Drury Lane, London, called Sarastro. I’d been before with family, and it’s this beautiful little restaurant situated in the heart of the West End. The restaurant therefore has a strong theatre theme, with puppets and masks planted all around. They also have these beautiful isolated balconies looking over the rest of the linear restaurant, which are apparently very difficult to get in to, as they are extremely popular.
When making the reservation, I’d mentioned it was a very special occasion, which it was, and requested we sit in one of these balconies. Sure enough, when we arrived at the restaurant, we were greeted very warmly, with open arms and big smiles, and taken to our private balcony.
We were seated in the quaintest little private box; obviously mean to recreate that of a box at a theatre. The waiters climbed stairs to show us menus and to take our orders whilst we looked down to the main thoroughfare of the restaurant, where an extraordinarily charismatic four string quartet played for us, and had all the patrons in a mix of fits of laughter and sheer admiration for talent.
After half an hour, the quartet band was finished, and on came two opera singers. These ladies were remarkably talented, and we were all in awe of this, however we couldn’t help but honestly think it was a bit strong for background entertainment whilst dining. This lasted another half an hour, and as I say, they were much appreciated and admired for their talents.
Both the quartet band and the opera singers, during their respective times performing, made an effort to circulate through the restaurant, and up the stairs to sing / play personally to each of the tables, which was a really lovely touch, and got everyone involved.
Sarastro have this theme every Monday, also including a set menu. It was around £30 per person for a starter and a main.
The starter was simply amazing; a selection of small Mediterranean dishes, from freshly made hummus to cured meats, olives and beautifully calorific fried cheese shapes.
We reluctantly reminded each other that we’d also ordered a main course each, so must try and restrain from eating everything o the table. I’d ordered a duck comfit, whilst Julien had ordered a lamb shank. I hate to say it, but Julien won this time round with his ordering. His meal was absolutely amazing; the meat just fell from the bone so easily, and was served with these beautiful Dauphinoise potatoes. Mine was nice; none the less, and by the time we’d scooped our plate loads into our mouths, we were certainly not wanting desert – something which is almost unheard of with myself and Julien.
All around our little balcony area, lovers had carved their names, and quotes into the walls, as almost a tradition. After a couple of glasses of wine, we thought we’d jump on the bandwagon also. Unfortunately, the couple of glasses of wine that enabled me to make the decision to carve our names, also enabled me to spell Julien’s name wrong, which wasn’t the most romantic thing in the world. However; I guess it sticks with our theme of unconventional romance.
We were all set to leave, and had asked for the bill, when a waiter approached us with a slice of cake, with a candle sticking out, singing “Happy Birthday”. We went along with it, laughing at their assumption of “special occasion’ translating to birthday, and not anniversary. So I guess we did have desert after all.
And with that, we left, took a stroll along Waterloo Bridge, and back to the station.
We were shattered. We’d had the perfect anniversary. Flinging from trees, getting wood chippings in our underwear and getting all grubby, coming home and dressing up all fancy for a lovely meal out, and now home to bed.
That night we slept for around 11 hours. It doesn’t get better than that.