Category Archives: Meet our Tribe

Q & A With Go Ape Veteran: Jamie Marshall

Go-Ape-Big-Banana-Relay-2014

Jamie Marshall, site manager at Sherwood, is a bona fide veteran at Go Ape, having worked here since day one (a staggering 12 years ago! #WeFeelOld). This month, we talk to him about how the confines of brick walls just aren’t for him, and how he recently sent an inflatable banana attached to a monkey into space (yes – really)…

What made you join the Go Ape family?

Prior to Go Ape I was a techie, working in a design and development job within factories. But working indoors just didn’t work for me! I’d always been involved in outdoor activities; from the age of five or six my Dad would take me out climbing and sailing, and I got the bug. In my spare time I was an activity instructor at Nottingham City Council. Really, I did this to keep me sane and happy, even though it wasn’t bringing in any money! I was paying the bills with my main job, but I really didn’t enjoy it. So when I found out they were building Go Ape sites I immediately got in touch – it meant I could have the best of both worlds!

Did you experience Go Ape for yourself before taking the job?

Because it was just being built, it wasn’t possible. However, I had done plenty of rock climbing and so wasn’t afraid of heights, and I loved the whole concept.

What do you love most about working for Go Ape?

It has to be the variety of customers. From school children and families to hen and stag parties, no two days (or customers) are the same. There’s no such thing as a “regular day” at Go Ape – and it certainly keeps us on our toes! It’s so satisfying seeing them master the high ropes and seeing the smiles on their faces. I also love working within this amazing forest and all the fresh air I get. Although summer days can be very long, the benefits of working here always outweigh the negatives by about a million times.

I’m also a big fan of the company’s ethos – this is probably part of the reason I’ve been here for so long. They believe we should work hard and play hard and “live life adventurously”; and they really do practise what they preach. I really love and respect the values of Go Ape and their optimistic and adventurous attitude.

Finally, tell us a story that will put a smile on our faces?

Our ‘Big Banana Relay’ has recently come to an end – Go Ape raised £60,000 for the Teenage Cancer Trust by transporting an inflatable banana across the country to 28 forest locations. We decided to take it one step further here at Sherwood and it certainly put a smile on my face… we sent our inflatable yellow friend up to space using a massive helium weather balloon! The pictures were incredible, right from the edge of the earth’s atmosphere. That banana has certainly captured Go Ape’s spirit and really knows how to live life adventurously!

Meet Our Tribe: Site Manager, Jonny Cox

Highest Go Ape Obstacles

Jonny Cox is the (relatively) new site manager at Go Ape Bedgebury Forest, but he’s no stranger to the company, having worked at Go Ape Alice Holt since the age of 20. Here, we talk to Jonny about what it’s like to be a role model, and why he has developed a new-found love for conifers…

What made you join the Go Ape family?

I’ve always been an “outdoorsy” sort of person; a 9-5 office job just isn’t for me! At the age of 18, I worked for an outdoor activity company specialising in kayaking, white-water rafting, rock climbing etc. A couple of years later I saw the advert for an instructor position at Go Ape Alice Holt, and I jumped at the chance. In terms of outdoor pursuit companies, I knew they were at the top of their league. The couple of years I was there worked perfectly, as I would do a season at Go Ape, then a ski season (where I was Resort Manager for 14 luxury chalets) and then back to Go Ape, and so on.

Did you experience Go Ape for yourself before taking the job?

Believe it or not, I didn’t! I had climbed a lot of rocks, but never trees! It seemed like a natural role to take on though, as a lot of the company values are similar to ones I had already worked with, in terms of focusing on the customer journey and customer development. After I came back from one of my ski seasons, I helped open up the Crawley site; setting up the course from scratch gave me a real insight into how it operates.

What do you like about working for Go Ape?

I love that the job allows me to work with a variety of people – not just one specific age group. From young children to pensioners, and everything in between, we cater for all generations. I meet so many different characters on a daily basis, and no two days are ever the same.

A lot of Go Ape employees say this, but as a site manager I love how the company trusts your judgement and gives you independence, but they also support you at the same time. They’re always in the wings should you need to turn to them.

While it’s quite a lot of pressure, it’s a good feeling to be a role model. It’s great to see your staff develop over the time that they’re here, especially students or those who have just come out of college. They absorb so much and I enjoy teaching them the ropes (literally and metaphorically!). I was in their shoes once, not so long ago.

What makes your Go Ape site unique?

I love the beauty of Bedgebury Forest, and the vastness of it. There’s 2,000 square acres of forest, as well as the National Pinetum, which spreads over 320 acres. It also has the most complete collection of conifers, and they’re such amazing trees – especially when you see so many over one site. There’s also a 23-kilometre trail which has been built specifically for cycling. So the forest really does offer the whole package. But, of course, I think Go Ape is the best part of it!

Q&A With A Member Of The Go Ape Team: Claire Potter

ClairePotter

This time, we’ve got Claire Potter, Site Manager of Cannock Chase Go Ape, in the hot seat. Read on to find out why not getting a US visa was the best thing that ever happened to her, and why she has become an expert at throwing pine cones…

What made you join the Go Ape family?

I have always been involved in the leisure industry and had done many ski seasons in America. However, when my visa was delayed I was gutted that I wouldn’t be able to continue working in the States. It was one of those ‘sliding doors’ moments really – if my visa had have gone through I would be working on the other side of the pond right now. But as it happened, I started looking for jobs in the UK. I was pretty disheartened to begin with as nothing really appealed, but as soon as I saw the Deputy Manager role for Go Ape Cannock Chase advertised, I knew I had to go for it. I spent days and days writing my application, and was given the position back in 2009. I was made site manager the following year.

Did you experience Go Ape for yourself before taking the job?

I actually didn’t! I did tons of research online, and I even got my friend to take me to a climbing wall a few days before the interview so I would know what it felt like to put a harness on. I thought I knew what it would feel like to zip wire through the trees, just from what I had read, but no words can describe the feeling of when you’re actually up there yourself. I was really thrown in the deep end when I started and was straight up in the treetops, setting up the courses. It was the best way.

What do you love about working for Go Ape?

Everything! Being site manager, I am given the freedom and flexibility to run the site as I see best, and this is something I really appreciate. But at the same time, I always know there’s someone at the end of the phone, someone who’s got my back, if I need help or advice. I also love the rewarding aspect; it’s definitely the sort of role where the more you put in, the more you get back. I feel proud on a daily basis; whether it’s witnessing the smile on a customer’s face, seeing successful results from a marketing campaign, watching a new instructor master something for the first time or – and this is probably my favourite – being given amazing feedback. There’s nothing more heart-warming than reading that you’ve helped someone conquer their fear of heights, for example.

What makes your site unique?

It’s great that we are a three-activity site as this means we offer something for everyone. I also think being slap bang in the middle of the country (we’re near Birmingham and the M6) means we are the perfect destination for groups of people wanting to get together somewhere central and convenient. We’re really popular with stag and hen dos, but we see plenty of corporate events, school and college groups too. Families also love the fact they can come and have a go at everything as we’ve got the Tree Top Junior and Segways, too.

Finally, tell us a story that will put a smile on our faces…

Not long ago, there was a lady who came to our course who was both deaf and blind. We spent days planning how we were going to go about it; how would we communicate with her when she was way up in the trees? What if we suddenly need her to stop? Much to her amusement, we developed a plan of throwing pine cones at her! That was the code: if she felt a pine cone touch her, she must stop immediately! She had the time of her life and absolutely loved it, and it was a challenging but fun and rewarding experience for us, too.

Meet our Tribe: Area Manager, James Winter.

Forest Segway

So, we’ve heard of these things called Segways and we’ve heard they’re really rather fun. But what makes Go Ape’s Segway Experience so unique? We spoke to James Winter – Area Manager and responsible for all things Segways – to gather some more information about what an hour on one of these all-terrain, two-wheeled, electric machines is really like.

James has been part of the Segway team since day one, so he knows a thing or two about them. The beauty of Segways is that they appeal to everyone – from families and corporate days out to hen/stag dos and birthday parties. At an hour long, it’s a less intense session than the Tree Top Adventure, but many choose to do one followed by the other.

Unlike the Tree Top Adventure, which involves training followed by a few hours finding your own way around the forest without an instructor, the Segway experience is slightly more structured. A Segway instructor will lead you around the forest – but this is no bad thing. James says they’ll often get to know you well during your experience, and will adjust and tailor each session to suit you. They know exactly which areas are best to take you, depending on weather conditions and on the ability of the group.

First up, you’ll have your helmet fitted. This is followed by a training session, during which your Segway will be in ‘training mode’, set at 7.5mph. Around half way through your Segway experience, and when everyone in your group is happy and the conditions are right, the speed setting is changed, meaning you can travel at up to 10.5mph.

If you’ve never stepped on a Segway before, you might be worried about balance and co-ordination. But you certainly don’t need to be an expert unicyclist to master the art of the Segway. In fact, it couldn’t be easier; simply step on to it and enjoy the unique experience of this “clever piece of kit”. It magically keeps itself upright, allowing you to move effortlessly and glide through the forest at your own pace. However, James stresses the importance of paying attention for the duration of the session. The Segway Experience is certainly not without its risks; it is still possible to hurt yourself and fall off if you’re not concentrating. So make sure you stay switched on and “keep your wits about you”, James warns.

Another great thing about Segways is that you get to see parts of the forest you may not necessarily venture out to if you were just going for a walk. It takes you away from the main trail, allowing you to see areas you’ve never seen before, even if you have been “coming to the woods to walk your dog for years”.

So can anyone go on a Segway? Not quite. Just like the Tree Top Adventure, you have to be over ten years old. You also have to be over seven and a half stone and under 19.5 stone – this is so the Segway gyroscopes can keep their balance.

The Segway Experience is an all-weather activity, so it’s equally as exhilarating come rain or shine. Just make sure you wrap up warm in the winter, James says, as you’re standing still so don’t generate a huge amount of body heat.

Once you’ve tried the unique Segway Experience, you’re likely to want to feel the sensation again. This is why James sees the same familiar groups coming back regularly. Segways are available at ten of the Go Ape locations, so find the one closest to you and get a taste for living life adventurously.

 

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