When we went on holiday to Center Parcs Longleat Forest, there was one activity all of my kids wanted to do – Aerial Adventure. You know the sort of thing – wobbly wooden slats and pieces of rope strung between platforms on trees VERY high off the ground.
This isn’t purely a kids’ activity (although kids can do it from a very tiny 1.22m), there are plenty of adults and teenagers who do it too.
Before we knew it, we were there. The kids were kitted out in helmets and harnesses and they were ready to go. I looked up at the trees and the wobbly wooden bridges and bits of rope, and I shuddered. I don’t consider myself to be afraid of heights, but that really did look very high. I knew it was perfectly safe, but knew I wouldn’t want to be up there myself.
My younger son is not great with heights, he’s the one who didn’t quite make it to the top of Snowdon first time round (although I was very proud of him for making it second time round). He has a thing about bridges – he doesn’t like them. He doesn’t even like the solid, covered pedestrian bridge from the car park into the shopping centre in Cabot’s Circus in Bristol, so I really wasn’t sure how he’d cope with a few wobbly bits of wood high off the ground.
But before he started, he’d rationalised the situation. He’d made it to the top of Snowdon, so he could manage some ropes in some trees. I was still surprised when he volunteered to go first, though.
He took it slowly and steadily. I knew he’d need me with him for moral support, so I walked along with him, shouting encouragement and taking photos. He did look a little bit scared, but he made it over some seriously wobbly slats of wood, with no need for any help from the instructors.
My eldest took off like a rocket, just as I’d expected him to do. When it comes to being brave, there’s nothing he can’t do. He’s not the most physically able kid, yet he has endless stamina and bravery. He’s very resilient and nothing fazes him. He sets his mind to walk or climb (or trek along some ropes high in trees) and he gets on with it. Fast.
My daughter was setting off and I felt sorry that I couldn’t see her, but I knew she’d be fine. My husband was with her and I needed to stay with my younger son.
Then he said: ‘Mum, can you stop doing that?’.
Actually, he didn’t need me. Having me there was making him nervous because he could see me below him and he didn’t want to look down. He just needed to get on with it without me.
So I walked back to watch my daughter. She was taking it slowly, understandably as she’s smaller, but she didn’t look remotely scared. She was concentrating hard and she was smiling! She smiled for every photo I took, yet she was so high off the ground, it took my breath away. I looked at the obstacles, way up in the trees and so unsteady, looked at her having to really stretch between the slats on the bridge, and was in awe at what she was doing. She turned sideways to edge along a spider’s web of rope strung between two trees, she edged her way along a bridge made only of rope. And I was so proud of her, proud of all of them.
Before we knew it, she was at the end. Just the big zip wire across the width of the lake at Centre Parcs to do. This was the bit she’d been looking forward to most of all.
She let go and she was off! Whizzing through the air, this tiny little girl, high above a lake. And I wanted to shout to everyone: ‘That’s my daughter! That tiny dot of pink up there, that’s my girl!’.
She landed with her brothers and the three walked back to meet us, exhilarated, happy and proud of themselves. It had been a fantastic experience for them.
Aerial Adventure at Center Parcs costs £28 per person.