At 47,000 acres, Thetford Forest is Britain’s largest lowland pine forest that spreads across the border between neighbouring counties, Norfolk and Suffolk – slap bang in the middle of East Anglia. High Lodge is an activity-packed recreation site within Thetford Forest and is owned by Forestry Commission England.
Being a 50-minute drive from our house, it’s a place where we go for a whole day. There is plenty to do whether you want to be active, take it easy or a bit of both. Adrenaline seekers should head to Go Ape! Founded by Tris and Becs Mayhew back in 2002, High Lodge was its first location. On Day 43 of #100DaysNoTV, I took our family for a Go Ape adventure.
We were offered a complimentary visit, and as we love being outdoors and the boys are now tall enough for the Tree Top Junior experience, we were keen to accept. We watched a couple of videos in advance, and both boys were eager to go.
After parking at High Lodge, you head towards the main hub of the site where you’ll spot the Go Ape reception. Once checked in, you’re pointed in the direction of the starting point to collect your harness and listen to a short safety brief. You have a whole hour in the trees and you’re free to go round the circuit as many times as you can manage during that time 🙂
I wouldn’t describe myself as someone with a head for heights, so there was some mental preparation in the days leading up to it… “It’s not that high; I can do this.” 🙂 As it turns out, little Ben seems to share his mummy’s preference for terra firma and after a mini panic at the top of the first tree, he and I stayed on the ground while Rob and Ollie continued their adventure.
I have to say the staff were fantastic – Ben was calmly brought down with no fuss and had we been paying customers we’d have received a full refund. Ben still loved his afternoon; there’s a wonderful play park right below the trees with a sand digger, climbing frame and obstacle course, so I could keep an eye on him and take photos of the boys above us too! 🙂
The course takes you from tree to tree with each crossing posing a different challenge. Your harness is attached the whole way around. If you lose your footing you’d certainly get that heart-in-mouth fright, but you’d be perfectly safe. (I didn’t see this happen, btw!) Once at the top of the first tree, everything is at a consistent height until the end where gravity takes over as you fly down the zip wire above the park.
Whenever I caught sight of their faces, they were grinning from ear to ear. I knew Rob would love it as he’s done the grown-up version in Bristol, but Ollie hadn’t been on anything quite like this before. He admitted to being nervous at the beginning, but he didn’t show it. After the awesome zip wire finale, he ran to the start to go round a second time!
So, how did the boys sum up their time in the trees?
Rob: “It’s a fun family introduction for those – big & small – looking for an exhilarating day out.”
Ollie: “It’s a bit scary and a lot of fun. I loved that Daddy was with me. I’d do it again!”
The Tree Top Junior experience is for anyone over 1m tall – there’s no minimum age. For taller adventurers from 10 years old, there is a much longer high ropes course at heights of up to 30m. Both are available at locations across the UK.
Despite only two of the four of us fully experiencing Go Ape, we all had a magical day at High Lodge in Thetford Forest. You have nature and wildlife all around you. That and the fresh air is good for your soul!
High Lodge has some great facilities: clean toilets are plentiful, there is food at the café and snacks in the ice-cream parlour, you can even hire a bike or a segway. The site is fully wheelchair accessible and they’ve put a lot of thought into the forest routes for anyone with mobility or health restrictions. It’s a destination for families, couples, cyclists, dog owners, runners, picnickers, walkers, amblers. Did I miss anyone?
How is your head for heights? Is Go Ape your idea of fun, or is it slightly terrifying? If you’ve been before, I’d love to know which location you went to and how you found it. 🙂
Bye for now!
Disclosure: We paid the site entry fee for High Lodge and bought refreshments with our own money; our Go Ape experience was complimentary. As ever, all views expressed are my own.