Adrenaline junkies of all ages have been psyching themselves up to try out the new Clonakilty Park Adventure Centre located on the complex of the Quality Hotel, one of only a dozen in the country. Featuring aerial trekking high ropes, climbing walls and a power fan jump (with zip lining from July), this type of activity is usually not for the fainthearted but West Cork People’s Sheila Mullins decided to try and conquer her fears by following a group of boys and girls from Glandore National School, who were celebrating their graduation from sixth class, around what appears to be a death-defying course.
My face must be a picture as I gaze up at the lines of ropes 40 feet above me. “Loads of people get scared but we’ll be there to encourage you along and you’ll be fine,” instructor Danny McCarthy assures me as we gear up in safety harnesses and helmets. “It’s 100 per cent safe because we’ve gone for the highest quality equipment in the world. I wasn’t a massive fan of heights myself before we opened but now I’m fine – it’s like cognitive behavior therapy up there!”
Danny McCarthy is overseeing this new exciting venture and there is more to come, so make sure to watch this space! “We wanted to provide family entertainment for fine weather too, when maybe people don’t want to be indoors.” His enthusiasm is infectious and his assurance that this is doable for everyone spurs me on to at least give the lower level high ropes a try.
The aerial trekking ropes course, basically an obstacle course in the sky, has two levels, each 65m long with 13 challenging elements such as balancing on cables, leaping on swinging logs and clambering along vertical cargo nets. The first level is a mere 17ft off the ground – still utterly terrifying. Before I head up the tower I watch Glandore NS sixth class make their way around the course and see them grow in confidence; shouts of bravado are followed by some squeals of fear but also delight as they conquer each element. The Centre has 10 fully trained staff, with four here today for just eight participants, so there are eyes on every child to make sure they are safe and happy.
An instructor on the first floor of the tower checks my harness before I attach my safety rope to a lead wire and prepare to step out. It’s a full harness so there is zero chance of me falling out and it is impossible for the safety rope pulley to detach from the wire, so I’m feeling confident that I won’t fall to my death; whether I’ll have a heart attack is another matter!
My stomach is lurching and the ground is tilting as I take those first few steps but I remember being told it is all about balance so I take a few deep breaths and focus on finding my centre of gravity. Figuring out how to get through each obstacle takes up so much of my concentration that I haven’t much time to worry about the height thing and before I know it I’m actually starting to enjoy myself.
Obviously fear of impending death is still there because my hands are cramping from my vice-grip on the safety rope but Danny shouts up a reminder to relax and I find that I can loosen my grip a little.
By this time the Glandore kids are whizzing around the higher ropes above me – another set of obstacles but this time at 40ft in the air! Danny was right about the therapy aspect and by the time I reach the end of the first course I feel confident enough to take on the next set of challenges.
Another safety check on the next floor of the tower and I’m back out. I’ve now relaxed enough that I can also take in the views over the houses and treetops of Clonakilty, something I couldn’t have imagined doing at the start. Whatever your skill level, this course is designed to match it. If you are finding it too easy, don’t worry, the instructors have a range of extra challenges they can throw in to slow you down – not needed in my case obviously.
By now the kids have moved on to the power fan and I can see them stepping off a platform into a 65ft free-fall that uses a power fan to control the descent. They make it look so easy and are landing like fairies on the ground below before scampering back up for another go. “Sure why not,” I say to myself, feeling very daredevilish.
Never again. After a few false starts I just can’t take the “confident step out” suggested by instructor Mark. Instead, feeling the pressure of the eager queue waiting behind me, I more sort of “fall off” the platform before landing with the elegance of an elephant below. The audience of Glandore mothers, who comment that they thought I would be sick at one stage, confirm my assessment of my performance. As I write this I’m having flashbacks and my stomach lurches again!
Adrenalin junkies will absolutely love the power fan jump because I actually need to sit down for a few minutes till the effects of the adrenalin wear off and my legs become solid again. But, in for a penny in for a pound, before I go I decide to also give the climbing tower a bash for good measure. The tower has two climbing walls, one much steeper, which is harder to climb up but easier to come back down I’m told. I try the easier to climb and regret it at the top when I have to abseil back down but really, compared to the power fan, it’s a walk in the park!
Managing to get around a course I didn’t think I could ever do, leaves me with a real buzz for the rest of the evening. I think the Park Adventure Centre has helped to conquer some of my fears, or at least shown me that a little fear means a lot of fun. It’s a fantastic addition to West Cork and will certainly keep kids and adults entertained for hours in a healthy outdoor environment. I’m eager to try the zip line when it opens this month. The High Rope Course and Climbing Walls require a minimum height of 1.2 metres and you must weigh at least 20kg and no greater than 120kg to use the facility. You must also be over 10 years of age to use the Power Fan and Zip Line.
The High Rope Course Levels 1 and 2 costs €15. Add any one of the following for €5 : the Power Fan Jump, Climbing Tower or 100 metre Zip Line, or choose any five for €25. Children and adults are the same price.
Available times July 2016: Open everyday from 12 noon with available slots at 12pm, 3pm, 5pm & 7pm. Call into the Park Cinema or phone 023 88 34141 or 087 4526329 to make a booking or email on firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out their website www.clonadventurecentre.ie and Facebook Page, Clonakilty Park Adventure Centre, to keep up to date and for some giveaways!