Extreme thrills and adventure to be found in Norfolk

Monkey about at Go Ape! in Thetford. Monkey about at Go Ape! in Thetford.

Friday, August 17, 2012
10:18 AM

If you’re looking for adrenaline-fuelled fun, Norfolk is the place to be. SIMON PARKIN and KATE SCOTTER take a look at some of the jaw dropping, heart-pumping and sheer exhilarating activities on offer.

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HOT AIR BALLOONING

Paper balloons allowed the first humans to ascend into the skies of the their own volition. In the intervening 200 years man has flown to the moon and back, yet today’s hot air balloons still rely on the same basic science to go up, up and away — namely the principle that hot air rises. The beauty of ballooning is the stillness and silence (between the hot air blasts at least) with which you can take in the spectacular views over the Norfolk countryside. The charm and frustration is that you never know when the conditions will allow you to leave earth or once you have where you will land. It pays to have a bottle of fizz on hand to placate the farmer. Broadland Balloons (01603 495004, www.broadlandballoons.co.uk) has two 16-man and one four-man balloons. Flights set off from Bluebell Road and last for about an hour. Prices start from £125.

■ Extreme rating: 2/10

BUNGEE JUMPING

Many decades ago on Pentecost Island in the Pacific, a woman tried to escape her violent husband by climbing the tallest banyan tree. When he climbed after her she leapt with only a vine tried around her ankle to save her fall. And that, so legend has it, is how an activity beloved of adrenaline junkies the world over was born. There is very little out there to match the pure adrenaline rush of a bungee jump, as leaping from a 160ft platform with just a giant elastic band around your ankles is as thrilling as it is daunting. Extreme sport experts Element (www.excelement.co.uk) offer training and jumps from a base near Cambridge for £49. They welcome charity jumpers too.

■ Extreme rating: 8/10

POWER KITING

As someone who once took a very unwelcome dunk into a very cold Yorkshire reservoir when an experiment with an early power kite went a little too high for comfort, I’m pleased to say today’s generation of kits have moved on since those early Flexifoils.

■ Extreme rating: 3/10

KITE SURFING

Once you’ve experienced power kiting the next step is to take to the waves. High speeds and big air promises plenty of thrills and spills. Higher-octane, adrenaline-pumping fun can be had further along the coast at Hunstanton which is fast becoming a hub for kite-surfing. The team behind the LostBoys Kitesurfing school (www.lostboyskitesurfing.com) says: “We’ve got the water, the wind and the kit. All you need is the desire to have some serious fun kite-surfing.” They offer taster days, beginner sessions and even a trick academy. It is set to replace windsurfing at the next Olympics, so start now, and who know you could be competing come Rio 2016.

■ Extreme rating: 7/10

HIGH WIRES

What could be a better way to test your head for heights than to monkey around in the treetops and sling yourself down some of the longest zip-wires in the country.

High-wire forest adventure company Go Ape! (0845 6439215, www.goape.co.uk) has been welcoming those wanting to experience vertigo-inspired thrills to Thetford Forest for several years. The original it still the best though with 40 treetop crossings, some 26 metres long and more than 12 metres off the ground, and a 140 metre zip wire. Adult admission is £30, supervised 10-17-year-olds £20. Participants must be over 4ft 7in tall and under 20.5 stone. Extreeme Adventure (www.extreemeadventure.co.uk) in part of Weasenham Woods, just off the A1065 between Fakenham and Swaffham, also offers a high ropes course is built in some of the tallest trees in the region and features a 3G swing, an 80ft fan descender jump and a 1,000ft zip wire, both respectively thought to be Britain’s highest and longest. More tree-top fun can be had at the Hill Top Centre (www.hilltopoutdoorcentre.co.uk) in Sheringham.

■ Extreme rating: 6/10

CLIMBING WALL

Norfolk isn’t exactly noted for its mountains or cliffs so the indoor climbing wall is the closest wannabe mountaineers can get to the real thing in this part of the world.The UEA Sportspark (01603 592398, www.sportspark.co.uk) has Norfolk’s largest and most exciting climbing wall that is challenging for beginners and experienced climbers alike.

It has a mixture of free-form contour panels, rising 11 metres and including various tricky overhanging, vertical and slab sections. There is also a beginners and abseiling area. They run taster, introductory and improver classes throughout the year. There is also a Saturday morning Junior Climbing Club, aimed at children aged 10-16.

■ Extreme rating: 4/10

PARAMOTORING

They’re not quite the jetpack as envisaged by sci-fi writers of the 1950s and 60s but these propeller-driven paragliding contraptions are the closest you’re likely to get in the skies above Norfolk. Paramotors are essentially a flying chair with a 180cc two-stroke engine and propeller attached to your back. Add a paraglide-style flexi-wing above you to keep you floating in the air and you have just about, at about £4,500, the cheapest way into personal powered flight available this side of a James Bond. You also get fantastic views.

Norfolk even has its own school Norfolk Paramotors (0777 6416460), based near King’s Lynn, where experienced instructor Karl will train you from complete beginner to fully competent paramotor pilot. Prices £125 per day. Tandem flights above Norfolk £60.

■ Extreme rating: 7/10

DRIVE A TANK

Take command of a 13-ton battle tank at the Muckleburgh Collection (01263 588210, www.muckleburgh.co.uk). The military museum at Weybourne, near Holt, has 25 working tanks and with expert instruction at their side, people have the chance to drive an Abbot self-propelled gun.

■ Extreme rating: 3/10

SKYDIVING

You’ll never get a better view even if it doesn’t last long as you hurtle towards Norfolk terra firma at 120mph. The feeling of freefall is fantastic — ask anyone who has tried it. A mixture of adrenaline and excitement that once experienced it is never forgotten. When the plane door opens at 3,960 metres, Norfolk is spread out below as far as the eye can see. Then you’re out, falling away from the plane and quickly picking up speed.

Norfolk’s skydiving centre, UK Parachuting (01953 861030, www.ukparachuting.co.uk), is based at Old Buckenham Airfield, where professional instructors guide you through your freefall fun. There are two ways to make a first jump. Tandem is the most popular. You’re strapped to the front of an instructor and they take all the responsibility. Accelerated Free Fall (AFF) allows you to get out at altitude wearing your own parachute, with two instructors to give you hand signals. Tandem jumps from £220, Level 1 AFF jump course from £350.

■ Extreme rating: 9/10

MOTOR RACING

For a taste of real motor racing, head to Snetterton’s race circuit for a track day. Experience what it is like to drive at speed around a professional racing circuit. Club MSV (www.clubmsv.com) offers a range of track days — on both four wheels and two — on the famous track. Alternatively, test your mettle at the Lotus test track (www.lotusdrivingacademy.com) at Hethel, near Wymondham. Take the iconic Lotus Elise on the newly-refurbished FIA-approved south track before setting off onto the high-speed north track behind the wheel of the award-winning Evora S.

■ Extreme rating: 5/10

WHITE KNUCKLE RIDES

Get the adrenaline pumping as you spin, fall, scream and smile on rides at Great Yarmouth’s Pleasure Beach (www.pleasure-beach.co.uk) Just along the seafront is the Pleasure Beach with rides ranging from family fairground fun to white-knuckle stuff. Its crowning glory is the wooden rollercoaster – complete with a brake-man who rides every train, making each roll of the 83-year-old coaster unique. Some of the rides are the very latest in up-to-the-minute thrills, others have been loved down the generations. Meanwhile Pleasurewood Hills (www.pleasurewoodhills.com) has a number of thrill rides including the 120ft, 50mph, 4.5 G-force Wipeout, and new this year The Jolly Roger a white knuckle vertical drop ride and Laser Labyrinth.

■ Extreme rating: 4/10

GO-KARTING

Enjoy four-wheeled fun at one of the county’s go-karting tracks. Anglia Karting Centre at North Pickenham, near Swaffham (www.anglia-karting.co.uk), which offers all-weather adventure for all the family with a guarantee of a fast and exciting time. The circuit is a purpose-built racetrack of 1,000 metres and is floodlit to enable night racing, which adds to the excitement.

■ Extreme rating: 5/10

SNOW SPORTS

Fast-paced action can be had at Norfolk Snowsports Club at Trowse (www.norfolksnowsports.com). Get into a specially-made tube and have a go at snow-tubing — basically haring down the slope in a rubber ring. It costs only £10 to have a go at what is one of the fastest-growing winter sports and no lessons are needed. Alternatively try your luck at snowboarding or traditional skiing. They offer masses of taster sessions and lessons. It’s all weather so, ironically, summer is arguably the best time to learn winter sports.

■ Extreme rating: 6/10

SURFING

The growing presence of surfers in the sea at Cromer is largely down to the popularity of the Glide Surf School (www.glidesurfschool.co.uk) on the promenade by the pier. Set up by teacher Ben Kewell five years ago, it has become a permanent fixture on the beach from May to October, attracting pupils from the age of eight to 70. Lessons aren’t just about grabbing a board and hitting the sea; before you start there are some reminders about basic beach safety. Two hours in the sea leaves you feeling physically exhausted yet it is so addictive and afterwards, while tired, you also feel incredibly invigorated.

■ Extreme rating: 6/10

BMX

If you’ve been inspired by the Olympic antics of Shanaze Reade, why not try adrenaline-fuelled two-wheeled fun at the BMX track at Sloughbottom Park in Norwich. Join in a session with the Norwich Flyers (www.norwichbmx.co.uk) and tackle the berms and jumps at the British Cycling national standard track. They always welcome new members and are a friendly bunch too.

■ Extreme rating: 4/10

PARKOUR

Parkour is hard to categorise – it is not an extreme sport, it’s not dance or a martial art – but contains elements of all these things. The aim is to move from A to B as quickly and efficiently as possible by overcoming the obstacles in your environment, whether they are trees, fences, park benches or concrete walls. There are techniques for beginners to learn, starting with jumping, landing, rolling and using your body’s momentum. Learn more through Norwich Parkour (www.norwich-parkour.co.uk).

■ Extreme rating: 4/10

WATERSKIING

Being pulled behind a speedboat or by a slingshot over the water at high speed is surely a sure — and very wet way — way to get your thrills. It’s not an easy sport to perfect; lessons typically start on land, learning how to pull up into a standing position, before you graduate to the tow rope. The best way to get started is to join one of the county’s water-skiing clubs and head out on to the Norfolk Broads and certain stretches of the River Yare or to the coast. Clubs include: Eastern Rivers Ski Club (www.erwsc.co.uk); Wells and District Ski Club (www.wellsskiclub.com); and Norwich Water Ski Club (norwichwaterskiclub.wordpress.com).

■ Extreme rating: 7/10

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