Fearlessness is tested at heart thumping park tree top course

JPCO 260713 Crawley Observer reporter Nikki Cutler on the new Go Ape course at Tilgate Park in Crawley. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCO 260713 Crawley Observer reporter Nikki Cutler on the new Go Ape course at Tilgate Park in Crawley. Photo by Derek Martin

The summer holidays are in full swing and as parents search for days out reporter Nikki Cutler checked out a new adrenaline fuelled adventure course in Tilgate Park.

Every time I informed a colleague I was doing this feature I had received one of three responses: “don’t break anything”, “you’re brave” and “rather you than me”.

So when I arrived I was impressed by the crowds of people who were daring to discover the Go Ape tree top assault course which opened three weeks ago.

I was happy to be put in a group with six lads from Dover who were all intent on taking on the most ‘extreme’ option in every section of the course.

As we were harnessed up and given the health and safety talk the lads’ eyes kept darting in the direction of the youngest member of the group, Rich.

He had foolishly admitted he was scared of heights before embarking on their two hour journey which his friends had used to fill his mind with horror stories.

I, on the other hand, was feeling pretty cocky.

I have always enjoyed the thrill of scaling new heights- whether it be through mountain climbing, skiing or hot air ballooning.

But as we practiced the important safe harness clasp procedure my feelings changed.

My arrogance quickly sunk into concern as I managed to forget the procedure nearly every time and I was suddenly all too aware that I was in control of my own safety.

We were lead into the ‘jungle’.

Concern was briefly surpassed by vanity as I was the first to take on the training course - less than 10 feet off the ground - and my attention was on the photographer asking me to pose for photos.

Then came section two.

I competitively scuttled up the rope ladder in an attempt not to look like the ‘girly one’ of the all-male group.

Next came the first rope swing where I would need to put my trust (and life) in the three clasps I had managed to repeatedly confuse.

The photographer requesting ‘big smiles’ was ignored.

I gave the clasps around 36 safety tugs - three might have sufficed - and leapt.

I was hooked.

We screamed and laughed our way through the jungle on zip wires, ladders, bridges and ropes.

Even Rich managed to forget some of his fears and enjoy the experience at the same time as providing entertainment for the rest of the group (he did not laugh when his friends bounced him up and down as he attempted to crawl through a tunnel suspended 60 feet high in the air).

The experience left me feeling energised with adrenaline and I can’t wait to return with a group of friends - especially someone looking to face their acrophobia.