Woodhill Forest: Having a high old time

By Danielle Wright

Danielle Wright gets into the swing of things at a forest adventure park.

Young and old alike enjoy learning the ropes at Woodhill Forest. Photo / Supplied
Young and old alike enjoy learning the ropes at Woodhill Forest. Photo / Supplied

Sometimes I wonder what I would do with my time if I wasn't a mum. It's a wintry Sunday afternoon and, without kids, I could be sipping wine and eating a nice lunch beside a roaring fireplace at a country pub.

Instead, I'm leaping from log to log and running across balancing beam high wires in the tops of trees in the Woodhill Forest with my six-year-old son, Henry.

Having kids means you get a bit of childish fun from time to time.

After our safety briefing, we climb up a tree on to the first course, named Tree Huggin'. It doesn't look very high from the ground but I feel like it's high enough for me when I get to the top. Nervous for my son, I ask him if he needs some help.

"Nope!" he says as he wrestles with the large carabiner clips, determined to remember which one goes on the blue rope and which on the red. His face is beaming as he just manages to reach the ropes, cruising across the thin wires.

I have to resist the urge to help and, after the first loop, he even makes me wait two whole sections behind him at all times. It's nice to see his confidence and passion for climbing awakened and I'm surprised at how capable he is, so high off the ground.

Euan McKee, one of the park's managers, tells me not everyone is so confident: "We've had to rescue big guys frozen up there, grabbing the tree and just not wanting to go any further."

Sharing its space with the mountain bikers across the road, Tree Adventures is a forest adventure park offering 10 individual high-wire confidence courses including swinging logs, balance beams, flying foxes and tree surfing.

The concept originated in France, where there are now more than 500 forest adventure parks, with popularity increasing worldwide. One of the great things about them is that the trees are still able to grow naturally.

I follow Henry through a suspended tunnel, swinging high off the ground and am told I have to take the short cut while he takes the long way around the course, by himself.

We meet up again at the flying fox where, looking towards the mountain bikers, he tells me: "This is the funner thing to do. I want to come back here tomorrow."

With that, he's off down the flying fox from the tree tops as if he's one of Peter Pan's lost boys in Neverland, and soon we're heading back to the start of the course: apparently one (or even four) times around is not nearly enough.

Back at the base, McKee tells me about the night climbs, where participants wear headlamps: "It's quite a different feeling being out in the forest at night. It's quiet with no mountain bikers. It's also not as scary, because you can't see too far down."

He tells me about the animals in the forest and the deer he sees sometimes in the early morning or evening. There are also possums who make nests under the wooden platforms. We also spot a few cows on the hills.

"Outdoor adventure activities like canyoning are based on skill-level; beginners and advanced can't always do it together," says McKee of the park's appeal where everyone can join in.

"It's also just nice to have an excuse to hang out in a forest."

He's right. There is something nice about spending time in a forest and swinging from a high wire is as good an excuse as any - with or without kids to entertain.

TREE HUGGERS

Tree Adventures is on Boundary Rd in Woodhill Forest, Auckland. Ph 0800 TARZAN (09 827 926). Bookings essential.

Prices start at $16 per person for the Tree Huggin' course (for climbers aged 5 and over), ($14 for a group of four). Tarzan's Test is $40 per person. The minimum height for the first course is 1.1m.

Twilight climbs are available from October until March and night climbs from April-September. There are also eight picnic tables and a barbecue for hire.

- NZ Herald

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