Saturday, 14 July 2012

Go ape in the park

Below is my “Big Day Out” column from the Saturday, July 14, 2012, Swansea edition of the South Wales Evening Post.


Go ape in the park
A big day out!
RICHARD THOMAS heads to Go Ape Tree Top Adventure at Margam Park in Port Talbot.
WHY? At Go Ape thrill seekers can enjoy up to three hours in the tree tops tackling zip wires, Tarzan swings, rope ladders and hire-wire crossings, but you don't have to be adrenalin addict to have fun in Margam Park. Steeped in history, wildlife and natural beauty, there’s something for everyone inside the park. The 850 acre estate boasts a magnificent 18th century orangery, an impressive and picturesque Tudor-Gothic style Victorian mansion house, a 12th century chapter house, ornamental gardens and one of the best deer herds in Wales. Children will enjoy the narrow gauge railway, adventure playground, farm trail and Fairytale Land.
WHAT’S THE BUZZ? Go Ape is the UK's number one Tree Top Adventure. At the course in Margam participants are first given a saftey talk and fitted with a harnesss by the friendly instructors. This is followed by a demonstation and practice run on solid ground to get to grips with how to use the climbing equitment correctly. There's no rush, and the staff are happy to answer any questions and give you all the encouragement you need before climbing up the first rope ladder into the tree tops to begin the adventure. The course is divided into five parts, each a bit higher and more challenging than the last. Once you get into the swing of it, it's great fun and after you complete the course your given a certficate to show that you've joined the Go Ape Tribe.
ANY HISTORY? The history of Margam can be traced back to the Bronze and Iron Age, and it is even believed that the park’s deer herd was first introduced by the Romans some time after their conquest of Britain in the 1st century CE. Adjacent to the Go Ape Tree Tops Adventure site is Margam Abbey built in 1147 and the magnificent Margam Castle, a Gothic-Tudor mansion house commissioned by Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot in 1830. Today Margam Castle has become a popular filming location for TV shows. On July 6 when I visited the park, the production team for the new drama series the Da Vinci's Demons written by David S Goyer, who also penned the scripts for Batman Begins and Blade, were busy setting up camp at the castle.
LOOK OUT FOR? The tree tops at Go Ape offer fantastic views of some of the other places you can visit inside Margam Park after you've completed your tree top adventure. Borrow an mp3 player free of charge from the kiosk and you'll be able to eavesdrop on voices from the past when you visit eight different spots inside the park. Written by David Hughes and recorded by local actors, these echoes from the past offer a fascinating insight into the lives of people who have worked, visited or lived on the estate over the centuries.
WHAT TO TAKE? Entry to Margam Park is free but there is a parking charge of £3.90. The Go Ape! Tree Top Adventure trail costs £20 for 10-17 year olds and £30 for the over 18s. To go on the course you must be at least 1.4 metres tall and no more than 20.5 stone. Wear suitable footwear with good grip and something you don't mind getting a bit gruby in, and bring gloves if you have them. Cameras are welcome.
WHEN TO GO? Until 4 September Margam Park will be open daily between 10am and 8pm. Go Ape! is closed Tuesday and Thursday, the rest of the week the Tree Top Adventure is available for bookings at 10.30am, 12.30pm and 2.30pm. To make a booking go to
TELL ME MORE: For sat-nav users the postcode is SA13 2TJ. More information about all of the activities at Margam Park can be found at, or you can phone 01639 881635.
Vist Richard Thomas's website at