Test your nerve on the high ropes
I’m not going to lie. I didn’t climb up 9 metres (that’s higher than two double-decker buses on top of each other) to walk the high ropes at the thrilling, off-the-ground Vivary Park Adventure Centre in Taunton. I didn’t even venture 5 metres up to the so-called ‘low’ ropes. I did make it over to the log cabin cafe verandah, though, while the Muddies did – well someone had to take the pix, didn’t they? It was a grey weekend when we visited, so no blue skies, sorry.
Not sure why they want to keep this place a secret because it’s good – no, it’s more than good, it’s brilliant – but you really have to want to find it; blink and you’ll miss the small brown sign on the road near the Town Hall pointing the way through the backstreets of central Taunton to get there. You can park right alongside the giant frame but take change, it’s not free.
There are five different courses or activities: low ropes, high ropes, power fan descender, climbing wall and totem pole. The Muddies couldn’t wait to get togged up with harnesses and safety helmets and climb up to the top of a tall wooden tower to start the course.
Everyone’s carabinered onto a rail running around the top of the courses you’ll be glad to hear – so even if you fall off, you can’t fall down. Each group has an instructor explaining what to do, making sure people set off at the right time to avoid jams, and to help if necessary.
The 5-metre high low ropes course is a series of nine different challenges – narrow planks suspended by ropes, a long wooden suspended by chains, etc – which look incredibly nerve-wracking (‘Mum, these are the low ropes!). You can even try it blindfolded.
The power fan descender allows you to free fall off safely off a 9 metre-high platform (fully harnessed of course) – backwards, if you dare (the Muddies dared; I dared not look). It was too dark to get a decent pic, sorry.
The high ropes course is also 9 metres high, with tightropes, a scramble net, zip wire –
– and these little beauties:
You can race each other up one of the nine routes up the 9 metre-high climbing wall.
If you feel the urge, you can climb to the top of a wobbly-looking totem pole, balance on one leg and jump off the top *gulp* before being gently lowered to the ground.
Spectators can grab a coffee at the ski chalet-style log cabin cafe, with seating inside and outside on a verandah overlooking the high ropes. It’s basic: the usual drinks, snacks, sandwiches, kids’ lunch boxes; a sign said there was wifi (but no one knew the key).
The Muddies loved it. They found it scary but thrillingly scary rather than petrified scary because they knew they couldn’t come to any harm. It was fun, exciting and gave them a great sense of achievement – and they can’t wait to go back. Anyone over the age of 5 with the nerve to get up there can have a go. You can do as little or as much as you like but you do have to decide beforehand. Prices range from £6 for the Aerial Challenge (the 5-metre lower ropes course with 9 different challenges) up to £20 for the Ultimate Adventure (everything and takes about 2 hours). There’s also family ticket at £40 for 2 adults and 2 kids which includes the low and high ropes, power fan descender and climbing wall.
Weekdays open for pre-booked groups only; weekends and Somerset school holidays, open from 10am-3.30pm (or later, check website for specific dates). Fons George, Vivary Park, Taunton TA1 3JT. Tel 01823 217117 toneleisure.co.uk/vivary-adventure-centre/