MANY people like to have a touch of adventure on their holiday but a break with PGL Holidays pushes up the ante a few notches.
Come rain or shine you will be canoeing or climbing or waiting to leap off small platforms 30 feet off the ground or jumping into the void held aloft by a rope. All in all, if you want a James Bond-style action holiday, this is the one for you.
PGL Holidays offers Family Active breaks and holidays at nine UK adventure centres, as well as at five sites in France, and the number of repeat visitors on our stay at Boreatton Park near Shrewsbury in Shropshire testified to the addictive thrill of doing scary but strangely challenging things in cold water or with ropes.
Little did I think that when I parked the car on the Monday that I wouldn’t actually see it again till the Friday. For one thing there would be no time for a jolly jaunt into the stunning borderlands between England and Wales and, secondly, there was really no need to leave the park.
We were presented with our week’s itinery which was basically breakfast, two activities, lunch, two more activities, dinner, evening activity for each day. No room for dawdling there.
On the first full day, after our 8am breakfast, we were hurried off to the giant swing which didn’t look too daunting from a distance of several hundred metres but was extremely daunting when standing next to it. Sitting on a swing was something I sort of mastered as a toddler but when that swing is pulled higher and higher and higher and then released to swing through a huge arc of nothingness it takes on a different complexion. Thankfully for me, because I didn’t want to appear the wuss, my daughter wanted the swing trajectory significantly reduced but when the tie rope was released the dizzying freefall feeling was a surprisingly exhilarating rush. I didn’t even moan when she wanted it to fall from even higher on the second go.
Then it was time for activity number two – shooting. We gathered in a hut and were handed our weapons and ammo. But it was much safer than that makes it sound. The instructor gave us a lesson in firing the rifles safely and then we were set free to get trigger happy. A bit of an old hand at this firing guns lark, I like to think, I excelled even my own wild expectations with a perfect bullseye right through the centre of the target. I still have the target at home.
Then it was off for lunch. The canteen had the air of a school dinner hall, and indeed was bursting with loud youngsters, and the school motif followed through to the food too. Nothing fancy, just plain and wholesome and full of the carbs needed to power us through the exertions ahead.
And so it went on with a varied programme of activities, some more of a challenge than others. The high wire, for instance, saw we intrepid adventurers climbing to the top of a very tall pole, stand on a flat board the size of a tray and then leaping off... to grab a sort of circus trapeze device. The kids in the group were braver than me, let’s say no more.
But the challenges continued through the week. There was raft building, for instance, where the incentive for getting the construction right was that you had to sail out on the lake on it afterwards. A team-building exercise, two groups built two rafts and then went out on the water to battle each other and get as wet as possible, encouraged by the group leaders who were clearly keen to lose some pent up frustration through U-boat type attacks on both teams. It was a good job the participants had waterproofs on!
The high wire saw people walking along ropes at a height of 40 feet during what turned out to be biggest rainstorm for a very long time. There were safety harnesses, I should add, but it took a lot of nerve to walk along a tightrope in high winds and beating rain. My daughter was much braver than me and tackled it to push herself and felt damned good about completing it when it was over. Which is probably the point of all these activities - to see just what you can achieve, and then do a bit more.
My two favourite activities were the zip wire and the abseiling. When I say a zip wire, I don’t mean one of those modest ones you get at a park; this was big. You leapt out from a high tower and descended at a satisfyingly Ferrari-speed pace through woodland, over a river, the air rushing passed your face and probably feeling something like a big ungainly goose coming in to land. I leapt off with a Dr Who-inspired “Geronimo!” but was told afterwards that everyone just thought I was screaming with fear. Fantastic fun though – and an activity that I tried out a number of times, undeterred even by the fact that my wife somehow ended up hanging upside down at the end. But that’s women zip wirers for you!
The abseiling was another rush. It’s a bit of a battle to lean out over the void in order to start the descent; it sort of fights against every instinct of survival you have. It was a case of taking little steps at a time down the wall, feeding little bits of rope through the climbing gear. At least that was the case on the first descent; by the fourth I was taking big leaps and considering applying for the SAS.
There were less scary activities ofcourse, such as archery, an assault course and fencing, which inspired me so much I’m even thinking of continuing with it.
To say there was lots to do would be an understatement, but it really was a packed week. The PGL staff couldn’t have been more helpful and risky as some of the activities sound, safety was always a priority with harnesses and other relevant equipment available. The accommodation was basic but perfectly adequate and the food, while not in contention for any Michelin stars, filled the spot with big helpings and a fair amount of variety. Some of the evening activities were a little hit and miss, but most people were quite tired by the end of the day anyway.
My daughter is already badgering me to go back and I am tempted. That zip wire is just calling me...
PGL is the UK’s leading provider of school trips and children’s adventure holidays. It began in 1957.
A PGL Family Active UK mini-break or weekend - for four people, maximum two adults – is available at nine locations across the UK and centre/activity details can be found by visiting http://www.pgl.co.uk/PglWeb/families/default or calling 0844 371 0101.
For 2012, PGL Holidays is offering a four-night stay at the Boreatton Park adventure centre for a total of £723 for two adults and one child, inclusive of full-board accommodation and all activities.
PGL has centres across the UK and in France, and offers a range of holiday break options. As well as family holidays, there are options for schools and groups.
Boreatton Park is set in 250 acres of grounds and offers a wide range of activities. It is PGL’s largest centre.