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Adventure in the age of a pandemic

Adventures have been near-impossible as the coronavirus pandemic has paralysed the world.
Our calendars have been a sea of blank pages. Losing the ability to escape those four walls, blow off steam and truly enjoy life, is no small thing. UGH!

It’s been a long and difficult journey, but things are finally starting to look up. And, amongst all of this people have rallied. Businesses have learnt to adapt and innovate. Opportunities to grasp new skills have been taken. And, unlikely friendships have been born.

Two women sat in a car with backpack on the back seat

Amy Daniels and Holly Swallowe met whilst working for the NHS during Covid-19. During October 2020, one of the more difficult working periods, Holly purchased two octopi toys. Every day at work, to lift spirits, they would send pictures of the two characters in various scenarios.

Unbeknown to them, Octopus (blue) and Octopie (pink), would be soon embarking on a twelve-month adventure with Amy and Holly to complete all 35 Go Ape Treetop Challenges.

Go Ape sign with pink and blue octupus soft toys on top

Here’s their story…

Firstly, tell us a bit about yourselves. How did you both meet?

“We met in August 2020 during our job shared in the Covid- 19 testing programme for the NHS. We both enjoy being outdoors and find that it helps us both with our mental and physical wellbeing. During the pandemic we found that we were extremely limited in fulfilling those needs due to Government restrictions and an intensive workload.

Holly bought the two toy reversible Octopus in October 2020 and we used them as an outlet and distraction from work, sending each other daily pictures of them in funny situations to lift each other’s spirits at a time when the world felt like a very dark and uncertain place. Over time they became an important part of us and so we take them with us on our adventures and document them on our journey.”

What prompted you to visit Go Ape Woburn back in April 2021?

“We had both finished working in the Covid-19 testing programme and were taking a break before starting in the Covid- 19 vaccination programme. Amy previously worked at Go Ape Cockfosters and asked Holly if she wanted to go and try a course. Woburn seemed like a good choice because it was situated in a safari park (Holly loves zoos!) so it gave us a location we could spend a whole day at."

Who came up with the idea to conquer all 35 locations? Why Go Ape? And why a year?

“We were a few days into our 10-day trip to the Peak District and Scotland. Energetic after visiting Grizedale/Whinlatter and had eaten far too much sugar! We were talking about how many courses we would do by the end of the trip (13) and shared a lightbulb moment at the same time while driving to Edinburgh.

We have a habit of challenging each other because we see the potential we have. We’re also both quite strong headed and once we put our minds to something, there’s no going back. We chose Go Ape because we love it and wanted to continue experiencing all that it had to offer. We chose a year because it was a nice round number and it felt like a stretching goal.”



Two women with Go Ape completion certificates next to Go Ape carved sculpture



What’s been your favourite memory/story along the way?

“An ongoing joke between us is that Holly has T-Rex arms and that’s why she finds climbing the cargo nets on the Tarzan swings a struggle. At Go Ape Forest of Dean we took on the Treetop Challenge with our friend, Jane. When Holly was climbing the cargo net and mere inches from the top, Jane started making dinosaur noises resulting in a burst of laughter from the three of us and Holly lost her grip. It resulted in her being unable to climb it again and had to be hoisted onto the platform by the staff underneath."

What are your top three Go Ape locations and why?
Man on Go Ape crossing at Go Ape Bracknell


"The location of our first Go Ape double in a day - we had completed Wendover in the morning. We were tired and wondering if we had gone a step too far in attempting a double and Bracknell inspired us to do more of them over the course of our 1-year challenge. The location was glorious (beautiful purple flowers had sprung), the course and staff were fantastic, and it was the combination of everything we loved about Go Ape." 


"The location of our Grand Finale. The scenery, the course (the site 4 & 5 zips are spectacular), the lovely staff. Everything was just perfect."


Matfen & Dalkeith

"Joint between Matfen - with its personalised bridges and obstacles that were local to Newcastle and a fun axe throwing session, and Dalkeith Edinburgh. The course really opened our eyes to the extensive offering of the continuous belay sites and it had lovely atmosphere."

You’ve travelled the length and breadth of the UK. Any memorable challenges on the road? Any sticky moments you’ve had to overcome. Any funny travel stories?

“Holly’s questionable navigational skills were a challenge. We ended up on a 10-mile detour en route to Thetford, found ourselves reversing up some very narrow Scottish lanes, and went around the same roundabout three times near Dalby.

It was difficult at times to maintain our energy levels. During our 10-day Scotland trip we completed 7 different Treetop Challenges plus 3 extra Go Ape activities while driving over 1500 miles. Ensuring we looked after ourselves physically and mentally was a challenge.

Our funniest moment was when we decided to camp in Scotland near Aberfoyle. We were completely unprepared (trying to start a BBQ in the heavy rain!), and embraced our inner children by making shadow puppet stories on the tent walls. The owner of the site offered us rooms in his hotel as he was concerned about the two city girls attempting to camp, but we stuck it out for two nights in the tents and had a brilliant (but very wet) time.

Any advice you’d give to others based on your experience?

Holly: “This is a great example of positive peer pressure! If it wasn’t for Amy convincing me to go to the first Go Ape at Woburn in April 2021, the rest of the challenge would never have happened and we would have missed out on a year of positive experiences.”

Amy: “Try it, don’t over think it, and get out of your comfort zone. You’ll find it incredibly rewarding.”

Has this experience inspired you to try any new adventures? What’s the next big challenge?

Our 1-year challenge has inspired us to try new adventures in our everyday lives. Inspiring us to start new jobs in new cities and push ourselves to reach our potential in other areas.


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