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!