Wednesday, 21 August 2013

"Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all"

Luckily Steve knew that Helen Keller quote was one of my mantras before he married me, so it came as no surprise to him when I suggested we round off celebrations for our 10th wedding anniversary by dangling from ropes high above the ground courtesy of the Calvert Trust in Kielder.

The Calvert Trust are well known for the fantastic work they do with people with a whole range of disabilities, though I think "disability" is the wrong word to use in this context.  At the Calvert Trust they are far more focused on what people can do, rather than what they can't and their superb facilities at Kielder Forest are open to absolutely everyone.

I was particularly impressed by their inventiveness.  Whilst they have an extensive range of equipment, some of their guests require kit that simply isn't available from main stream suppliers so they get their guests and their suppliers together to devise a solution; whether that be a bespoke seat for those who require a little more support on the King Swing or an entire section of purpose built climbing wall.  In short the Calvert Trust remove all of your physical excuses for not having a go leaving you with just your mind to battle.

We had one mission on our visit: whatever they suggest, say "yes".  So during the course of our day we said "yes" to a climbing wall, a zip wire, laser clay shooting, high ropes, a leap of faith, balancing on a high pole and the exhilarating if slightly stomach churning King Swing.  We also said "yes" to superb sausage and mash and a second helping of finest rice pudding known to man.  All of their food is sourced locally and cooked fresh on site so if you stay with them for an adventure week pack something with an elasticated waist.

Pete Coulson was our guide for the day and we were in very capable hands.  First stop was the climbing wall where he started us off gently enough but then soon had us tackling the trickier stuff.  They don't let anyone off lightly here and are determined to push you to challenge all of your limits, as I discovered when I faltered near the top of one of the trickier climbs.  "I'm done" I shouted down. "Oh no you're not" said Pete "Take a rest and then have another go."  I'm very glad I did; the sense of achievement is so much greater when you've really had to push yourself.

With aching arms and huge grins we left the climbing wall for a quick zip along the zip wire before trying our hands at laser clay shooting.

The guns are the real deal but have been modified to fire only infra red beams so no clay pigeons were harmed in the making of this blog.  To be fair my aim was so bad that even if they'd been fully loaded with live ammo the "pigeons" would still have gotten off very lightly, though the passing cyclists may have had to duck for cover.  Thankfully Steve managed a decent enough score, his years of practice on Halo obviously paying off.

Following a sumptuous lunch of home made soup and chicken pie it was out on the high ropes course.  We'd seen it as we arrived the previous evening but I swear the poles had grown another few metres overnight.  This is a fantastic activity to push you to your physical and mental limits; you are so well strapped in that no possible harm can come to you, but 40feet up in the air it really doesn't feel that way.  We scrambled across cargo nets, balanced on high wires, swung across the swings and wobbled along poles before dropping to the ground via the free fall parachute descender.

But was that enough for us?  Oh no!  We then decided the "Leap of Faith" was the thing to try.  The "Leap of Faith" involves climbing to the top of a very tall, very wobbly pole and then leaping off to catch a trapeze bar.  Obviously we looked a little too smug with the success of our first attempt so Pete moved the bar further away.  In full view of a car load of spectators I missed but thanks to all the safety ropes I suffered nothing more than a bruised ego - fueling my determination to go back and have another go.

To round the day off we were taken to the King Swing.  Whilst we'd been on the high ropes we'd watched a group of people in wheelchairs get strapped into a special harness and winched to a height of around 30ft where they then dropped like a stone as they pulled the release cord before swinging to a halt.  The whole thing looks harmless enough as you watch from the sidelines but is a lot more terrifying once you've been winched high in the air and the only way out is down.  Well, that's my excuse for screaming in the video anyway...

Utterly exhausted, both physically & mentally we headed back to the car.  The day had been spectacular beyond our expectations and truly epic in every sense of the word.  If you're looking for high adventure then I would strongly recommend paying them a visit.  They have a range of drop in days coming up where you can just stop by and have a go for only £10 per person per activity.  Check out this link for more information.

Finally I would just like to thank Pete for being our guide for the day and everyone else at the Calvert Trust for the magnificent work they do and for giving us a day we will never forget.

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