Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Go Ape! at Margam County Park

My column for the March 2013 issue of Swansea Life magazine.


Go Ape! at Margam County Park

On location: 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. Located in Port Talbot, along the eastern rim of Swansea Bay, 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. For sat-nav users the full address and postcode is: Margam Country Park, Margam, Port Talbot, SA13 2TJ. More information about all of the activities at Margam Park can be found at www.margamcountrypark.co.uk, or you can phone 01639 881635.
Opening hours: Margam Park is open daily between 10am and 4.30pm. 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 www.goape.co.uk/days-out/margam.
Crowd scene: Mostly teens and 20- and 30-somethings, many of them students. But there are also some dad's and mum's with their children tackleling the the Go Ape course. There's plenty to keep the rest of the family busy at Margam, if they don't want to swing from the tree tops. 
Back story: 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 the Roman 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. 
Noteworthy: 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.
Show business: Today Margam Castle has become a popular filming location for TV shows. Last July 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.
Minimum requirements: At Go Ape as long as you can climb a rope ladder you will be fine. But there are some restrictions. Participants must be at least 10  years old and 1.4 metres tall and no more than 20.5 stone.
Parental guidance: Under 18s who want to Go Ape must be supervised by a participating adult. An adult can supervise either two children, where one or both of them are under 16, or up to five 16 to 17 year olds.
Tickets: 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. 
Food and drink: Margam Park's Discovery Centre Cafe serve a range of hot drinks and cakes, but a lot of visitors opt to bring picnic lunches to Margam when the weather is good.
Photography: Cameras are welcome, and the tree tops at Go Ape offer fantastic views of Margam Park and Swansea Bay to photograph.
Disabled access: Disabled parking is available within both the Orangery and castle car parking areas and wheelchair access to the facilities is possible from these areas. Margam also have wheelchairs and an electric tramper buggy available for those with disability problems.
Events: Throughout the year, Margam Park hosts various events from Living History Weekends to Clown Festivals and Charity Walks.
Facilities: In the Visitor Centre in the Castle Courtyard there is a gift shop, park office, toilets and baby changing facilities.
Staff: The staff at Go Ape are friendly and happy to give you all the encouragemnt and help you'll need to stay safe on the course.
Pros: After completing the Go Ape course, you are awarded a certificate to show you are now part of the tribe.
Cons: Swinging from the tree tops is fun, but landings can be a bit muddy if you haven't had much practice on the zip wire swings.
Top tip: Wear suitable footwear with good grip and something you don't mind getting a bit grubby in. Also the rope ladders can be a bit hard on the hands, so bring gloves if you have them. 
Richard Thomas is the author of Sci-Fi Worlds - Doctor Who, Doomwatch, Battlestar Galactica And Other Cult TV Shows available from Amazon and all good book retailers. Visit www.richardthomas.eu.

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