Rope Runners was founded by Kevin and Jo Ellis, who discovered Parcours in France. They said: “We loved it, our kids loved it and we were hooked. In England, Parcours is called High Ropes Adventure so we decided to set one up near our home. Our philosophy is to encourage people to participate fully in the adventure.”
This philosophy certainly shines though on the site, and you are encouraged from the start to take responsibility and enjoy yourself.
A central area offers a cafe and equipment depot and here we were soon hooked up with guides Abigail and Adam. Our daughter Pippa (seven years old) and myself were strapped into and fitted for harnesses and helmets and soon looked the part.
First we had about ten minutes of training on ground, or just above ground level training courses. Roper Runners uses the Klipa safety system which is easy to master and takes away the risks that in the past have been associated with clip on/off climbing and roping systems. Basically we moved from one tree trunk to another, and also did a mock 'fall', letting the ropes and harness take our weight to show what could happen at a greater height.
Now we were just about ready to go and Abigail, who has been guiding at the site for four years, gave us the principles of the activity:
"You can go on whatever you like, just have fun.”
We looked up at the lower, medium and high courses in the trees and telegraph poles above and being new to willingly putting ourselves through this heights assault course we possibly let our feelings show in our faces because Abigail said: "It's got to be a little bit scary or it won't be exciting.”
Pippa was soon doing well and wanted to try the zip wire. This was definitely an adult zip-wire and not a child's one from a playground. But with a minimum age of 6 (other activities start from 8) children aged 6-7 participating on the ropes must just be supervised by an adult from the course or on the ground. And wearing the gear and after her basic course she was cleared to go on the zip wire which she loved, and to be honest gave a much better performance than her father:
"You have to run as the ground approaches so you don't land on your bottom,” she advised me as I wiped autumn leaves and mud off my rear end.
Next we tried the course, Pippa on the lower ones and I went for a mid-height course, about 15 feet off the ground. There are also higher courses. Using the Klipa routine you can move around on anything from netting to tyres suspended on ropes, tight-ropes and planks in the knowledge you can safely face any nerves you may have about the height factor.
An important point this and part of the exhilaration I certainly felt after my session at High Ropes, that sense of achievement which is well put in an article on their website, roperunners.co.uk
“First of all, showing somebody something they have never attempted before and are perhaps fearful of at the beginning of a day, who then overcomes the obstacle by the end of the day, can provide a fantastic boost to self-esteem. This heightened sense of self-confidence stays with a person long after they leave the high ropes course, so will also help them in work and social situations. Being taken out of your comfort zone also helps you to deal with difficult situations which present themselves in everyday life.”
In view of the philosophy of the above it comes as no surprise to hear that in addition Jo Ellis is a Neuro Linguistic Programming practitioner, licensed with the Society for NLP. As she says, again on the website: “We do not force you to face your fears, but instead share with you a range of strategies that you can use to keep your fears and phobias under control. We are not offering a miracle cure, but instead will teach you that you can control your emotions in such a way that you will be able to do the things that you want to.
And that about sums it up for me on what was a great session in the woods of Essex: highly recommended as an activity: fun, energetic, therapeutic and with a holistic, can-do approach that is refreshing. And now Pippa wants to go there for her birthday party in March with a small group of friends!