Turning double-digits is a once in a lifetime experience and one that Eldest Gin Child wasn’t going to let pass by uncelebrated. The entire house has been on countdown pretty much since 3 days after she turned 9, so it was no suprise that she wanted to go up a level for her party.
She’s very sporty and bouncy with a love of climbing so Go Ape was the perfect choice. There are many round the country but our closest is Bedgebury Pinetum. Telling Ruby that she was going to Go Ape felt like handing Disney World tickets to a toddler. There was whooping, jumping, general fist pumping and dabbing for a good week after the news was broken. Best friends were chosen, un-chosen, re-chosen and invited. Little sister was pacified with a friend to accompany us and Toddler Gin was assured that he could play too. When the morning came, it was hard to tell who was going to burst first: her with excitement or me with the stress of making packed lunches for 9 children. The cars were packed and we wound our way through the streets of Lewisham and off to Bedgebury Pinetum, the ever-greener landscape reassuring us that we were heading in the right direction. My car – stuffed to the roof with over-excited pre-teens and their various containers of slime – was practically carried to the woods by the rush of excitement, hysteria and shrieking. Again, it felt a bit like I was at Disney World – but on a very loud ride!
Upon arrival – and after many wees and a picnic – we headed into the trees for our first sight of the ropes course – and it didn’t disappoint. All previous bravado was replaced with little voices asking about harnesses and how high it was and what would happen if they fell off; even Daddy Gin was looking slightly peaky! We were presented with instructions, which I dutifully read out loud to the giggling gang of kids. We were then sent on our merry way into the woods to find adventure (and shade – it was over 30 degrees!). The ropes course was amazing. High enough to feel scary once you’re up there, but low enough for the spectators to see the fear and excitement in their eyes, it presented the perfect balance of bravery and security. Everyone ran to put their harnesses on and I tested the effectiveness of my pelvic floor exercises whilst Daddy Gin wrestled his way into his.
Then it was time to go up. Everyone dashed to the bottom of the stairs and then slowly shuffled backwards as the instructor started clipping kids onto their safety rope; I’ve never seen such effective ‘I’m-so-brave-and-cool-but-I-don’t-mind-if-you-go-infront-of-me-but-not-because-I’m-scared’ acting! Eventually, they were all heading skywards and I was able to relax in the play area next to the ropes course with Toddler Gin. Having something there for the younger / less brave ones to do made my parenting life SO much easier. He refused to even put the harness on and the staff were super supportive and even refunded his entry price which was greatly appreciated.
The kids absolutely LOVED the climbing, with the real highlight being the child-sized death slide. The friendly and supportive staff were always on hard to encourage those not brave / stupid enough to throw themselves off the top of the bridge and down the slide on their own. One especially lovely instructor let my nervous 7yo daughter sit on her lap and travel down in tandem, which absolutely made her day. There was more than enough there to keep my merry band of tearaways occupied and laughing for the whole length of the party. In fact, they had to be dragged off the course when their time was up.
Luckily, there is a fabulous sandpit adventure playground at Bedgebury Pinetum which is brilliantly located right next to Go Ape. I then lost the kids for another 3 hours (whoops…I’ll just have to sit here and drink pop and sunbathe for a bit…..) as they ran around and did a little bit more shrieking (sorry everyone else). We were due to leave immediately after Go Ape had finished but Bedgebury Pinetum is such a perfect venue we were able to make a whole day of it. In fact, the kids would’ve very happily slept there if we’d let them. We eventually got home over 2 hours late to a queue of worried parents; all the photos I had taken had drained my phone battery and I couldn’t drag the kids away!
A combination of huge woodlands, two playgrounds, loads of wooden climbing equipment, cycle friendly paths, a great cafe, lovely pond and ample parking make Bedgebury Pinetum and Go Ape the perfect combination for party goers and day trippers alike. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend both to everyone.
Venue: Bedgebury Pinetum, Lady Oak Lane, Goudhurst TN17 2SL (approx 90 mins drive from Lewisham)
MGF was given a discounted party rate in exchange for this review. All opinions are true and honest.
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