I’m not going to lie, when an email hit my inbox from Go Ape, inviting Freddie and Sasha to try out their new ‘Nets Kingdom’ at their Black Park venue, my immediate thought was “oh, they’re too young” (at 5 and 6) to take part, having assumed that Go Ape was for slightly older children. On further inspection of said email though, I discovered that ‘Nets Kingdom’ is a brand new treetop attraction, but one for ages 3-13, and encompasses bouncing, crawling and clambering through an expansive network of tree top bounce nets, giant ball nets, walkways and slides.
All while 30 feet up in the leafy forest canopy!
Whilst I’m not the best with heights, and the closest I get to treetop escapades is plucking the fake palm tree out of my Tequila Sunrise, I knew that my two little dare devils would love the opportunity to burn off some steam. So with open minds we decided to make the 1.5 hour journey around the M25 so give it a go. The place was easy to find, and there was plenty of parking as Go Ape here is set in the beautiful country park that is Black Park. Just remember to bring change for the car park! After a quick toilet, ice cream and baby-feeding stop at the cafe next door to Go Ape, we checked in for our allocated time slot (you get 2 hours per session) and were given wrist bands: blue for children taking part (and adults if this applies, you are very welcome to go on with your children if you pay to do this), and green for ‘supervisors’ (Adam and I). We then trotted over to the Nets Kingdom area, where we signed in and the children were given a safety talk by a member of staff before they were allowed to enter. (A tip here: unless roasting I recommend that your children wear long-sleeved tops and joggers, as it makes climbing the nets and sliding much more comfortable, although we did see children with shorts on. We changed our two on arrival).
On arrival, Nets Kingdom is IMPRESSIVE- such a big area and everything is SO HIGH. I must admit that I was a little worried that F&S would be too scared to go up by themselves onto the big nets and walkways, and after seeing some older, bigger, boisterous children in our pep talk, I was concerned that our two would be daunted by the whole experience.
Well, thankfully, I couldn’t have been more wrong! Within the safety talk, the staff asked the bigger kids to watch out for the smaller ones and everyone seemed to adhere to this which was fantastic. The number of children per session also appears to be limited, so even in the school summer holidays there weren’t a crazy number of kids. The place is so big anyway that there is plenty of room to move around. Nets Kingdom is a definite upgrade from the mania and ‘Lord of the Flies’ mentality of our local soft play places!
After a wobbly and slightly nervous climb up to the first netted platform, Freddie and Sasha soon got the hang of being up in the trees, and were running around like anything, even making a few friends to play games with whilst we were there.
The big balls for running into and rolling to one another were a big hit, as were the different-sized red slides that looked more scary than they actually were (the material of the slides slows people down despite the terrifying looking drop!). By halfway through our session, both F&S had mastered both slides, and were both so proud of doing so. I can safely say that somewhere like this is a big confidence booster for children, and they really get a ‘high’ from mastering something that outwardly, looks quite scary.
From an adult perspective, whilst it’s obviously mainly about the children, Nets Kingdom is a BRILLIANT place to go and be what I call ‘an active spectator’. And by that I mean there are big picnic tables with shadey umbrellas, where you can sit and eat your picnic, or drink a coffee (there is a coffee/food hut within the actual place- hurrah!), all whilst being able to view your child up high from pretty much wherever they are. They can come and find you easily, and having somewhere to sit down just made the whole experience so much more relaxed and enjoyable. From the point of view of someone with a new baby, it meant I could feed Arlo easily, and also lie him down on a blanket on the table so he could have a good kick rather than be stuck in the pushchair for several hours.
The whole experience was stress-free!
One of the main things that makes Nets Kingdom great, aside from how fab the area is designed, is the staff. Every single member of staff we came across was super-friendly and great with the kids, and were really on the ball when it came to safety. For example, when I wanted to leave the area to use the toilet by the nearby cafe, they checked whether another adult was still supervising the children. And when an older boy went down the big red slide too soon after another child (and had obviously done the same previously), the member of staff who saw him asked kindly-yet-firmly to speak to the adult who was in charge of him. We also saw maintenance staff going round at regular intervals and checking the equipment. All of which left me feeling that Nets Kingdom is a tightly-run ship, and that our two young children were safe and in good hands.
After 2 hours our session was up, and to be honest that length of time is just right for kids our age- they got their fill but were still left wanting more.
Freddie has already asked when we can come again, and Adam and I both agreed that it was definitely worth the drive.
Nets Kingdom, we will be back!
*We were given tickets for Nets Kingdom in exchange for an honest review, all thoughts and opinions my own.