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.