THE LAKE District is soon to become the first place in the UK, and one of only a handful worldwide, to boast an aerial adventure park made entirely of ropes and nets.
Think slides, tunnels, climbing frames, trampolines and bridges – all made of ropes and nets traditionally used in sailing – swinging between the trees up to nine metres high.
“It will be absolutely fantastic,” said owner Mike Turner, of Storth.
“Unlike traditional high ropes courses, the children will be completely surrounded in safety netting so won’t need a harness. They can explore the trees, get fit and run free in a totally safe environment,” he added.
The new attraction, named treetop nets, will span 1,200 square metres and sit in between the existing playground at Brockhole, near Windermere, and Mike’s existing high ropes course business, treetop trek.
“Lots of children have enjoyed treetop trek since it opened two years ago, but there are age limitations and supervision restrictions for the younger ones,” said Mike.
“I therefore wanted to find something that was half way between treetop trek and a playground, so I took my son to the first net park ever, in France.
“Then five, Vincent absolutely loved it and was constantly asking for one nearby – he really wanted to go on one for his birthday. I knew it was perfect for what I wanted so I spoke to the inventor, Cedric Chauvaud, and he agreed to bring it to the UK for the first time.”
Becoming the 16th true ‘net park’ to open in the world, treetop nets will be constructed by Cedric and his team of seven ex fishermen and sailors, who are the only people skilled to install such equipment.
One of the world’s best sailors and rope experts, Cedric came up with the concept around seven years ago.
He said: “It was a mix of things which made me think of doing it. I obviously knew a lot about the nets from working with them on the boats, and I had seen them used as safety nets in the circus.
“I then went to help researchers in the Amazon rainforest to gain access to the high canopy, so I designed a series of rope bridges and nets which allowed them to study the forest without causing damage. Once I saw it put together I thought what a great idea it would be replicate as a children’s playground. I trialled it on the I’lle de Groix, where I live, before building some more in France. ”
Cedric and his small team will now spend six weeks in the trees at the Brockhole site ready for the opening next month.
Mike said: “The work is incredibly specialised because everything is done by hand – there is no fast way to do it, no machinery. The nets arrive in huge boxes and then the workers use fishing needles to sew (or lash) them together to create the 3D shapes and elements, like the slides and bridges. It’s this ‘on the ground’ aspect of it, with the designing and measuring, which actually takes up most of the work.
“Once they’ve done this they lift them into the trees with ladders and attach them to cables. There is an amazing art to how it is all done.”
He added that treetop nets would be perfect for those who may find the normal ropes courses intimidating.
“Some children might be afraid of heights or have some fear, and the nets will be ideal for them. It will also be great for those whose parents may not be able to go on a course with them. “There will be a special area for the pre-schoolers who will need supervision, but generally the adult requirements are massively reduced.
“I’m just really excited to see it all put together now, and really proud to bring it to Brockhole. It’s a park I’ve visited since I was a child myself, and it’s a great family destination so it’s perfect that treetop nets will be here. Hopefully I can then take it out to other places around the UK.”
Treetop nets is suitable for children aged three upwards, and will open at Brockhole – The Lake District Visitor Centre, near Windermere, on July 19th.