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MOVERS & SHAKERS

The snakes and ladders of society A chronicle of drama, scandal and success in London, Paris, New York and elsewhere

Bird on a wire

Sarah Tucker tries out Britain’s scariest new attraction

 

80mph, approximately a mile long, 700 foot above a mountain lake, under clear blue skies in Snowdonia: Today, I became Wonder Woman for 55 seconds.

 

A view with a loo... The view that those who try out the world's (current) longest zip wire experience
A view with a loo… The view that those who try out the world’s (current) longest zip wire experience
A bird on a wire
A bird on a wire
A map of Zip World
A map of Zip World

 

It took me about twenty minutes to get into the gear unlike Lynda Carter who would have just spun around very quickly in a phone box and appeared all suited and booted like a red dominatrix with a whip in hand.

 

I wore a large red all-in-one boiler suit, was weighed and like everyone else had my weight was written on my wrist. At least it wasn’t my age. If we were considered under weight, we were weighted down with what looked like iron bells on our backs although I’m told these are going to be replaced next week by funkier and more fitting weights. I didn’t care. As long as they got me across they could have strapped a fridge to me as long as I didn’t get stuck halfway.

 

One of the guys shot across so fast (120mph) that he literally backfired and ended up half way back along the wire, to be gamely rescued by a lady named Jane, all five foot three of her. It took 20 minutes and you don’t want to have to go through that either. Another girl put her arms out birdlike and slowed herself down so had to be unceremoniously pulled in by holding onto an outstretched ladder. But these are all early days yet and just teething problems, the small group of journalists being the willing guinea pigs.

 

The zip wire, near Betws-y-Coed, is currently the longest in the world (the one in South Africa at the moment doesn’t work). Still in its very early stages, they hope to build a café at the top so people can have something to drink before they zoom down, although I don’t think alcohol is a good idea or a full stomach for that matter. It’s not the going down that creates the nerves, as with skydiving, it’s the waiting around and the watching others doing it. You will always want to be next.

 

The security procedures are reassuringly anal. They must have said “Are you ready to go?” to the people waiting for me at the other end (they were specks on the horizon) about five times in my case because one of the radios didn’t work so they tried new ones. It reminded me of that scene in Contact where Jodie Foster has the same issue before she entered some parallel universe. I was wondering if, half way down, I would enter into some parallel universe and there would be a different life awaiting me on the other side although I admit I do love this one.

 

After five, four, three, two one, I zoomed down head first – quickly picking up speed, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 and think 90mph.  I was told not to put my arms out so flew down determined to be streamlined as possible. You practice on a baby zip before you go on big daddy or mummy or whatever nickname it’s going to be called.

 

The baby makes you realise how you should lie in the harness and that you can trust it completely. It also introduces you to the staff who are all local and specially recruited for their empathetic skills I was told. I admit they were brilliant – calm, informed, like baby porridge – just right.

 

Halfway down despite my bullet-like posture, I turned 90 degrees and continued to zoom down sideways. I don’t know how I did it and the organisers didn’t know either, but I did it, then magically self-corrected myself. I didn’t slow down and landed without needing to be pulled in, pulled back, slowed down and then held the hand that was offered me at the end by a very nice man called Nick Moriarty (wonderful name that) who designed the zip and other ‘rope courses’ around the world. What an interesting job. I didn’t scream but I prayed a lot at the start.

 

For adults it costs £50 and for children £40. It’s worth it for adults, but I do think they should put the price down a little for children. And they charge less for the locals, which is what they should do for Londoners at The Shard.

 

I then went gorge walking which I thought was walking along gorges through forests, spotting the few remaining baby lambs that have managed to survive the freezing conditions (there were a few lambs but usually, I am told, there are thousands). No. Gorge walking is canyoning but backwards.

 

Instead of walking down waterfalls and rivers, you walk up waterfalls and rivers. Going against the flow is as challenging literally as it is metaphorically. Wearing wetsuits, which leave nothing to the imagination, I started walking up the river with a guide called Vicky who was brilliant, gave clear concise instructions (such as “if you don’t lean forward there and instead lean backward, Sarah, you will roll backwards and fall onto the rocks”).

 

There was a bit called Elephant’s Bottom (nothing to do with me) which meant me and two others climbed up a rope on an almost vertical rock formation which had a waterfall flooding down it and then crawled on our hands and knees through a narrow opening at the top. It was quite an experience.

 

I stayed at Craig-y-Dderwen Riverside Hotel, where the food was excellent, the views amazing and there was a wedding going on. The zip and gorge walking are great activities to do for a hen or stag party.  Sober.

 

Zip World: http://www.zipworld.co.uk

 

Craig-y-Dderwen Riverside Hotel: http://www.snowdoniahotel.com

 

Sarah Tucker is an award winning travel journalist, novelist, producer and broadcaster. She has edited, produced and presented her own radio and TV series as well as presenting reports for BBC Holiday Programme and anchored I Want That House on ITV. She is the author of best selling novels The Playground Mafia (short listed for the Good Housekeeping book of the year 2007) The Battle for Big School, The Last Year of Being Single, and The Control Freak Chronicles.

 

For more information about Sarah Tucker, go to: http://www.sarahtucker.info

 

Buy The Playground Mafia on Amazon at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Playground-Mafia-Sarah-Tucker/dp/0099498456/ref=sr_1_7/202-9265101-5575054?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1193856472&sr=1-7

 

Follow Sarah Tucker on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/madasatucker

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