This week I enjoyed an exhilarating challenge in Thetford Forest – a Segway adventure – and I’d love to share some photos of my day out with you. I’m hoping that this post will serve as inspiration for your own summer adventure and give you some tips for surviving a day out at High Lodge Forestry Commission during the school holidays. It’s an amazing location and there are plenty of fun and free activities to enjoy so please read on for my top tips!The location of High Lodge in the heart of Thetford Forest is truly magical. Not only are there plenty of woodland habitats to explore but there are also stunning clearings within the forest and an exciting ‘base camp’ at High Lodge where families can enjoy a great day out. This is where I kicked off my challenge on a sunny Friday morning.Considering it was the middle of the school holidays the destination didn’t feel at all over-crowded. I think this is down to the acres and acres of forest that can be explored and I expect that many families were therefore out of site during most of my visit. Even so, the picnic areas were never full, there was always a bench, seat or table available and the café was far from busy, even at lunchtime. That said, there were plenty of activities on offer for families to enjoy throughout the day at High Lodge – such as outdoor table tennis under the trees, a volleyball court and the best play-area I’ve ever seen! And that’s before you even start exploring the woods. Here are my tips and suggestions for a great day out during the school holidays:1. Take a picnic. There are SO many places you can enjoy your food at High Lodge with benches galore and a massive lawn to lay down your rugs and get out the sandwiches. If you fancy a cuppa while you’re there Tetley tea is around £1.60 per cup and ‘real’ coffee at £2.10. The rubbish facilities are fantastic. Okay, I know that’s not usually something to shout about but they recycle 90% of everything thrown away at High Lodge. I found that really impressive!
2. Bring your bikes. The forest is best explored by bike as you can travel further and go deeper into the forest than on foot. If you don’t have a bike to take, you can find the hire centre at High Lodge which is £9 for the first hour of adult bike hire and £4 for every hour after that, with bikes of all sizes available for children too.3. Go Ape. There is a Go Ape centre in Thetford Forest and the Tree-Top Adventure looked super-scary, until I realised that it was the junior course and there was an even more gruelling adult route. You can walk beneath the ‘apes’ and view the course from the ground if you want to see it before you take on the challenge. The Segway challenge that I took on was part of the Go Ape centre and involved lots of off-road Segway routes. That is, if you can even master getting ON the Segway in the first place!
4. Parking. Visiting High Lodge is totally free and you can use all the facilities and play on the sports equipment and playground without additional charge but the car park is paid at £2.20 per hour. If you plan to stay for more than 5 hours (and, believe me, you easily could!) a whole day parking ticket is £11.50. Be sure to bring footballs and Frisbees etc – I even saw a family playing cricket – and once you’re in the forest you can enjoy a kick-about on the grass after your picnic.5. Outdoor clothing. If you’re visiting in the height of summer you will probably be okay wearing shorts and a t-shirt – just don’t forget the sunscreen and insect repellent! But be aware that for most of the year the forest can be a little damp underfoot, so sturdy outdoor footwear is a must. If it has rained at all, you’ll be needing wellies to navigate the muddy paths – but that’s all part of the fun! Checkout GearWeAre.com to find the right type of outdoor clothing to suit all weathers in the great outdoors.
6. Paid activities. There are also plenty of other fun activities that you can pay for while you’re at High Lodge, including a climbing tower that leads to an inflatable ‘death slide’ for £3 and pony rides. My favourite was an archery lesson which cost £4 for 10 arrows, or 7 arrows for £3. I saw everyone from tiny children to grown men firing arrows at the targets (and bear!), each getting a few minutes tuition from the team and being awarded with an “I’m a archer” sticker at the end of the activity.
The Segway challenge is something that I thought I’d never do but I was totally inspired to take up the challenge after reading about the all-female team in the world’s toughest ocean race – the Volvo Ocean Race – who undertook a six-month training programme and challenged themselves physically and mentally during the race. I actually watched a film of Team SCA’s gruelling challenge and wanted to feel empowered by taking on an SCA challenge myself.
Team SCA’s sponsor, the leading global company behind household brands such as TENA, Bodyform, Velvet, Cushelle and Plenty champions and supports women’s empowerment by giving them access to and education about hygiene products and solutions across the world while supporting forests and sustainability. On the morning of my Segway adventure I pulled on my Team SCA polo shirt and instantly felt confident, sporty and considerably more brave than before! I couldn’t wait to get to the forest and hop on that Segway.When arrived at the Go Ape centre my enthusiasm dropped a little when I read through the ‘small print’ before signing to take part in the challenge; yes, people do get hurt on Segways and yes, I had to sign to say that I’d take that risk. However, as soon as I met the instructor and was fitted with a helmet I started to feel more optimistic again that I wouldn’t get injured; apparently it’s only through mishandling or ‘overconfidence’ that riders tend to fall off, and I was sure that wouldn’t be a problem for me. In fact, I was a little under-confident to start with and had a very faltering start while getting onto the Segway. It just doesn’t seem right that it can stay upright by itself – very weird. That, couple with the fact that I don’t have the best balance ever (I’m one of those people who fall over while standing still) resulted in a first attempt that was rather wobbly. I didn’t fall off though!
As the other riders and I went round the practice track at the slowest of speeds I began to understand how to control the Segway and soon it was time to head into the forest, led by the instructor. This was the first time that I’d experienced any speed on the Segway and it felt too fast at first but I soon got into the swing of it, until it was time to stop – that was the hard part! We all came to a halt in a forest clearing and were let loose on the off-road tracks. There were 5 routes to take, each with varying levels of speed and obstacles so I worked my way up from the easiest, where I quickly gained confidence in my riding ability.
It actually felt like I was gliding through the forest and I happily sped along the track and fir-trees whizzing past me on either side. It felt so fast and really risky yet in reality I was probably only travelling at less than 10mph! By the time I tackled the bumpy, obstacle-filled, steep, winding ‘extreme course’ I was pushing my Segway faster and making tighter turns than ever. The forest was filled with my whoops and woohoos as I jumped over hills and swerved around gravel bends at super-fast (still under 10mph) speed. I was having the time of my life and I didn’t want it to end.
After enjoying the freedom of the off-road courses for about half an hour, the instructor led us on a long route around the forest but first he disabled the ‘training mode’ on the Segways to make them more responsive. Oh my goodness. I thought I was going fast before, but now? I was flying! I challenge anyone to ride a Segway at full-speed and not to get off saying ‘I want one!’ It was amazing. I was so sad when the adventure came to an end and I felt all heavy (like getting out of a swimming pool) after stepping off the Segway. Walking is so boring after travelling by Segway and my lip went out in a full-on sulking pout when I had to leave ‘my’ Segway behind.
So, as I think you can gather, I really enjoyed my Segway experience. I’m so pleased that I took on the challenge and tried something that I was a little scared to do because I ended up loving every minute of it. What a great start to the summer holidays and something that I’ll definitely be repeating in the future. Now, where can I find an ‘extreme Segway’ course..?