Kids can sometime drive us up a tree. I discovered on a recent trip to Cumbria that Treetop Nets at Lake Windermere is a great chance to return the favour.
This activity centre features actual nets strung up in the trees with walkways, tunnels and slides to play in. When fellow family traveller Kirstie from Family Adventure Project heard I was making the trek up to the area from London with two girls, Treetop Nets was one of her suggestions, as a variation on the high ropes experience, which we love but have done a number of times at various locations. Here, you are running around without guidelines, in the nets, which nets are bouncy, but space-walk buoyancy rather than trampoline-boingy.
I visited with my daughter and a friend of hers on a weekend trip to Cumbria. We were staying at the gorgeous Swan Hotel & Spa at Newby Bridge (see pictures and my full review here) and explored the area around Lake Windermere.
Treetop Nets is located in the Lake District Visitor Centre in Brockhole. A “visitor centre” can conjure the image of a basic hut with a few maps, a nice geriatric volunteer and a tea hut. Not so here.
This is an all-singing, all-dancing visitor centre: Besides the Treetop Nets, there’s a high-ropes Treetop Trek adventure, a well-stocked café with ample seating serving hot soups, sandwiches and drinks (including herbal tea, yay!), an adventure playground and nature trail. You can hire canoes and kayaks, do archery, play mini-golf, ride ponies, wander the gardens or peruse the exhibition in the Visitor Centre.
Basically you race round, clamber into a vertical tunnel and climb down, and zoom down net “slides” in a durable plastic bag. In a way it’s hard to describe the kind of fun you get up to at Treetop Nets — it’s basically freeform jumping, running, climbing and horsing around but high in the trees.
We drove up from Newby Bridge, which was a quick easy hop. There is a car park with paid parking. One of the coolest things about this visitor centre is you don’t only have the option of arriving by car; you can take a Windermere Lake Cruise boat and combine an hour in the treetops with some time on the water. A word to the wise if you do park in the lot, be careful of the speed bumps: My daughter’s takeaway cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows ended up all over her jeans and soaking into the seat thanks to her mother’s speedy approach to the exit.
There is also a location at Ripon, Yorkshire.
There’s an area specifically for younger children; if your child is under age 6 you need 1 participating adult for every 2 children. On our visit there were no younger children taking part, so our group — which included tweens, teens and adults — had run of the place. The grown-ups were shrieking and laughing just as hard, maybe harder, than the under-18s.
The rules for supervision vary according to children’s ages. Parents of children ages 7 to 11 can supervise from the ground onsite but are encouraged to take part. The parents of children aged 12 or over have to attend the safety briefing with their children but can retire to the cafe while the kids play, as long as they remain on-site at Brockhole.
The more people involved, the better. It’s all about goofing off, being silly and frequently falling over in comic ways. “Sumo wrestling with the gym balls was really fun,” my own personal teen says. Pay attention in the safety briefing — it’s not just “don’t break your arm” advice; they provide helpful tips for the best way to go through the course, such as leveraging yourself down the vertical tunnel and going down the slides. A word to the wise: The “caterpillar” slide was an experience, but having to “wriggle out” at the bottom was less fun than expected. I had to drag the girls out by their feet.
Booking is recommended.
Definitely wear a waterproof outfit — both trousers and top — if the weather is anything but bone dry. It had rained the night before we arrived and the nets themselves had absorbed enough water to leave them soaked. A spare set of clothes in the car were welcome.
The nets are sewn by French ex-fisherman (those guys!) and used to help scientists study the Amazon rainforest, according to the Guardian.
The cafe, as described, is a great option on the premises. We preferred to drive back into Bowness, where we had ambled back to the Old Pump House Coffee Shop and warmed ourselves with delicious soup and hot drinks.
Windermere, Lake District, LA23 1LJ
The Old Pump House Coffee Shop
Glebe Rd, Bowness-on-Windermere, Windermere LA23 3HE