It’s called Zip World, and for good reason. But beyond the zip wires and drops, there is an educational offer that blends fun and adventure with geography, history and science.

There are seven Zip World sites: five in Wales, and two in the north-west of England, with an ambition to open more. Four are located within a reasonable distance of each other in North Wales, which is where I spent my day visiting three of them at Llechwedd, Betws-y-Coed and Penryhn Quarry.

Starting off at Llechwedd

The site at Llechwedd perhaps offers the most for school trips and embraces the area’s slate mining heritage. There is a huge wow factor underground and as I took the steep train ride into the mine, my thoughts turned to the excitement that must be felt (and heard) when pupils travel 500 feet down to see where slate was produced by local men and children.

An activity booklet asks school groups to think about the positive and negative impacts of quarrying, as well as what Zip World itself has brought to the area.

There is much to think about, such as the laws of motion and kinetic energy and inside the mine there are hand-carved chambers, wonderful lighting – and some serious bouncing.

With six trampoline nets built into an area twice the size of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Bounce Below goes way beyond any bounce centre I have been to. Blowing off some steam will not be a problem – and even this activity links to gravity and friction. Within the mine there is also an assault course which must be seen to be believed, and even adventure golf.

Back above ground you can use a classroom (always handy) and find some big zip wire fun. It is Zip World after all. Llechwedd is a quite stunning setting, offering a school trip experience that will live long in the memory.

On to Betws-y-Coed

A short drive and I arrived at Betws-y-Coed which could not have been more different. The site is within a beautiful woodland setting that boasts treetop nets and adventure courses high in the trees.

Rob on Fforest Coaster at Zip World Betws-y-Coed

I plummeted 100 feet on a drop experience – aptly called Plummet, and sped down one kilometre of track on the ‘toboggan-style’ Fforest Coaster which, despite reaching speeds of up to 25mph, creates hardly any noise other than the laughs and screams from those riding.

The whole site blends well into its natural environment, with the Zip World team keen to emphasise a commitment to the local area, being mindful of ecology and sustainability. This is no theme park.

Treetop Nets at Zip World Betws-y-Coed

The big one at Penryhn Quarry

The vast expanse of Penryhn Quarry hit me right between the eyes. It is difficult to put into words the scale of the star attraction, a 1.5km zip wire called Velocity that is billed as the fastest in the world. It’s a statement I wouldn’t argue with; there were no cobwebs left when I reached the bottom.

At Penryhn you will also find Quarry Karts, the Aero Explorer and smaller dual zipline, plus a quarry tour.

Zip World is very focussed on what it can provide schools and holds the Learning Outside the Classroom Quality Badge for all of its adventures and sites across North Wales. The LOtC Badge is the only national award that assesses the quality of risk management and educational provision.

The passion and dedication from the staff I met and spoke to was evident. Not only do they want to create great experiences for schools, but are just as keen to promote and embrace the local landscapes of, not only the current sites, but future projects too.

The breadth of what Zip World is and offers surprised me. The name does elicit big zip lines, and it definitely delivers this. But there is much more to take away from a school trip, including bringing gravity and geography to life, and learning about the area’s rich heritage and ecology.

There is the opportunity for collaboration, creativity and communication. And do not forget the bouncing.

Source link