Staff Go Ape in celebration of adventure firm turning 18
The forest-based adventure company Go Ape, which has sites across the region, is celebrating its 18th birthday.
Founded in 2002 by wife and husband team Rebecca and Tristram Mayhew, the high wire adventure business has branched out from its first site in High Lodge, Thetford Forest to over 50 locations in Britain and America.
Rebecca Mayhew, chairwoman, said: “Like the rest of Britain Go Ape has had to fight through a very tough year. Our family is 1,000 strong, and after we took the decision to close on the 20th of March due to the government lockdown, we had many sleepless nights worrying whether we would be able to reopen. Go Ape does feel like a fourth child to us, and so many of the amazing individuals who have chosen to work with us feel like family.
"It is wonderful therefore to have come through the other side and feel that we have been able to reopen and put some joy and adventure back into peoples lives once more. Today is about celebrating not just the relief and triumph we are feeling about this summer, but the 18 years we have dedicated as a company to creating adventures and encouraging everybody to live life adventurously. For many of us it has not been a job, more a vocation.“
Go Ape has grown rapidly from the small mainly ex-military team in its first year.
Tristram Mayhew, whose first career was a tank commander in the British Army, said: “It’s been a huge adventure. Who knew when Rebecca and I risked all we had to set up Go Ape, an adventure concept never tried before in the UK, that it would have grown so much and lasted so long.
"Our initial plan was to grow to 25 sites in 10 years. My training was ‘fortune favours the bold’ so we decided to push hard and see how much we could achieve. We now have 34 locations across Britain and are in 16 states in America. It’s been a huge team effort, driven by a shared passion for adventure, and shared values.
"What we have been most proud of is being able to create so many worthwhile jobs and careers, which don’t usually grow on trees. We also get a huge boost out of hearing how Go Ape started some peoples love of adventure. We have had thousands of emails telling us what other adventures customers have been inspired to have after taking their first steps at Go Ape.”
Go Ape had to close on March 20 in response to the government lockdown. It reopened on July 4 and since then has welcomed nearly half a million customers back to the forest, despite managing capacity as part of its Covid-19 measures.
“The public have given us huge support," said Will Galbraith, Go Ape Operations Director since 2002, and a former army captain in the Scots Dragoon guards.
“Go Ape is one of the few things that you can do that feels normal. It is designed to be socially distanced, and everyone feels uplifted and rejuvenated spending time in nature. You don’t need to wear masks and compared to much of ‘normal life’ it is literally a breath of fresh air.”
Recently Go Ape also welcomed their 10 millionth customer. Tristram and Rebecca surprised Chris Birdlowe, from Peterborough who was at Go Ape Thetford to celebrate his birthday.
He said: “We were treated like royalty and made to feel really honoured. We were greeted at the end of our Treetop Challenge and surprised with a huge certificate to mark being the 10 millionth customer. I was then taken to a special “Go Ape Wheel of Fortune” game, which was set up for me to win some fantastic prizes which just added to the fun of the day. We have nothing but praise for Go Ape, we will definitely be back, maybe try and visit all 34 locations."