Activities for adrenaline junkies in Gloucestershire
- Credit: Archant
Gloucestershire might be seen as a sleepy county with rolling green hills and quaint Cotswold-stone villages, but there’s plenty to get your heart racing in this part of South West England. From the vertigo-inducing to the wonderfully weird, here’s our pick of the best activities for adrenaline junkies in Gloucestershire.
Cheese rolling, arguably the most famous of quirky traditions in the Cotswolds, sees challengers from far and wide tumble with enthusiastic abandon down the near-vertical Cooper’s Hill in an effort to catch the rolling 9lb Double Gloucester cheese. Past competitors have literally risked life and limb, with injuries ranging from grazed knees to broken bones occuring annually. Recent attempts to commercialise and reorganise the Cheese Roll, which dates back to at least the 19th Century, were fiercely resisted by the local community, who saw the proposals by the local council as meddling with tradition. The treacherous spectacle typically takes place on the late May bank holiday, but as it is an unofficial event, you should check online for more details. Anybody can join the races on the day, and a high turn-out of spectators and pretenders to the cheese rolling throne is usual, with upward of 5000 people attending in recent years.
There aren’t many opportunities to bungee in Gloucestershire, but the National Diving and Activity Centre on the border between Gloucestershire and Monmouthshire offers bungee jumps in collaboration with UK Bungee during certain times of the year. Take a 300ft jump off a crane suspended over a large body of water, whilst surrounded by a deep stone quarry. If you’re looking for inspiration, then how about 73-year-old daredevil Ray Woodcock who plunged 500ft during his record-breaking bungee at the very same site earlier in 2015?
Cirencester / Tewkesbury
Cotswold Water Park in Cirencester offers the ideal facilities and location for all manner of watersports, whether it be kayaking, wakeboarding, windsurfing, waterskiing - or anything else with water, frankly. The park consists of 150 lakes set over forty sq. miles, and attracts 500,000 visitors annually to its picturesque shores. There is also the smaller Croft Farm Waterpark in Tewkesbury, offering windsurfing, sailing, kayaking and canoeing.
Down Ampney nr. Cirencester
Fancy a white-knuckle ride around a racing track like a real rally driver? Gloucestershire Rally School run by Andy Gwynne offers the thrill of rally driving in various packages, including half and full day rally experiences, a junior rally experience, 1-on-1 tuition and even a couples rally challenge (the ultimate way to solve any domestic dispute).
Combining friendly competition with skill and tactics, paintballing is a sport that promises plenty of excitement (and a few bruises too). Go Ballistic is an international franchise that offers paintballing in various locations, and operates a site in Gloucester with 20-acres of rugged woodland terrain to battle over. Paintball Raiders, also based in Gloucester, has been welcoming adrenaline junkies to its site for 18 years, offering full days of paintballing with games like capture the flag providing additional objectives beyond point-and-shoot.
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Forest of Dean
GoApe is a franchise offering family-friendly forest adventures around the country, including near Mallards Pike in the Forest of Dean. The classic Go Ape experience is the 2–3 hour Tree Top Adventure; after a safety briefing, you fly down the zip-wires, leap off the Tarzan Swing and tackle the crossings, all whilst dizzyingly high-up in the trees!
Snow is a rarety round these parts, but Gloucester has been accommodating skiers and snowboarders for over forty years with its dry slope, now the longest in England and Wales. The Gloucester Ski & Snowboard Centre has a range of packages available for those both new and experienced, including group and one-on-one lessons, recreational sessions for old hands and options specifically for families and children. Prices vary depending on group size, level of experience and type of activity. Visit the website for more details.
Hot air ballooning provides panoramic views of your surroundings as you drift across the firmament, and whilst not as high octane as a flight in an aeroplane, you’re still suspended a few thousand feet in the air in a wicker basket. In Gloucestershire, there are a number of different companies offering ballooning at a range of locations. Since 1985, Ballooning in the Cotswolds has provided rides from launch sites in Cirencester, Stroud, Bourton-on-the-Water, Cheltenham and Gloucester, with the promise of at least an hour in the air and a glass of champagne to top the experience off. Similarly, Ballooning Network, the oldest established balloon ride company in the UK, offering flights from Gloucestershire Airport and Westonbirt Arboretum, as well as locations beyond Gloucestershire such as Bristol, Bath and South Wales.
If the thought of exploring an old abandoned psychiatric hospital partially reclaimed by the woods surrounding it gets your blood pumping, then urban exploration might just be for you. The hobby involves seeking out man-made structures, often ruins or buildings hidden from public view, for the sole purpose of exploration. Typically sites of interest for the urban explorer include abandoned factories, amusement parks, schools, hospitals, prisons and fallout shelters. Risks involved are obvious; buildings left to ruin are often structurally unsafe, so there’s a chance you’ll fall through the floor or be crushed by the ceiling. There are also legal considerations to entering property without permission. Gloucestershire has its fair share of spots for urban exploration, and there are online forums such as 28 Days Later providing details and photographs of local abandoned buildings.
Speaking of 28 Days Later, if you want to pretend you’re in a zombie apocalypse flick whilst raising money for a worthy cause, why not try Thriller Run in Cheltenham? Thriller Run is an annual 5km ‘zombie run’ in Gloucestershire, during which competitors clamber over obstacles and traverse bumpy terrain whilst pursued by the undead. The run raises funds for National Star which helps those with disabilities to live full and active lives. You can register for the run, or even volunteer as a zombie! Visit the website for more details about the next event.
Though zombie-free, Devil Mud Run features thirty-one obstacles and stretches over an 8km course, giving you the chance to run across rugged countryside and through woods, with plenty of mud and water thrown in! Whether you’re competing on your own or in a group, participants will need grit and determination to complete the course as both physical and mental strength, skill and stamina will be put to the test. Jump, climb, wade, crawl, slide, conquer hellish hills, stinking swamps and survive the Devil’s Playground!
Gloucester / Northleach
Prove that primate instinct is as sharp as ever by tackling a climbing wall. Gloucester’s Warehouse Climbing Centre caters for climbers young and old, experienced and amateur, with a varied range of walls (up to 11 metres), Bouldering Floor and a dedicated Kids’ Zone with friendly staff providing expert tuition and careful supervision. Alternatively, Far Peak Climbing in Northleach offers Indoor climbing and bouldering for all ages and abilities, as well as outdoor climbing on a 15m tower.
Sharpness to Maisemore
The Severn Bore forms in Sharpness, and moves across the River Severn, typically reaching as far as Maisemore in Gloucestershire. It was first surfed by ‘Mad’ Jack Churchill, an eccentric WWII veteran who went to war armed with a longbow, bagpipes and a broadsword. Since then, surfing the Severn Bore has become a popular sporting challenge, with surfers awaiting optimum conditions each month to take to the waters. In 2006, Steve King from Gloucestershire set a Guinness World Record, surfing the bore for a distance of 9.25 miles! Anybody can give it a go, but you should read the guidelines provided by the Gloucester Harbour Trustees beforehand. For more information, visit www.severn-bore.co.uk/surfing.html
Cheltenham / Cirencester
For a real thrill, take to the sky in an aeroplane or a helicopter. Taster lessons are offered by various aviation companies at Staverton Airport as well as Cotswold Airport, or you can purchase a lesson as a gift for another thrill seeker. At Staverton, there’s even the opportunity to enjoy an aerobatic flight in a vintage open-cockpit bi-plane thanks to Tiger Airways!