My first day at Ford Castle – what an adventure

by Rosy Graham 

I joined Ford Castle Adventure Ltd as an apprentice Admin Assistant, based at Head Office in Stanhope.  So I was very surprised to find myself travelling to the Castle itself to take part in some ropes training and a First Aid course, on my first day.

 After one of the most traumatic journeys I have ever experienced, taking four hours to complete a trip that 

should only have taken an hour and a half, with a full, and by the end, rather sweaty car, we arrived at Ford Castle in Northumberland.
The first thing that hits you is how incredibly castle-like Ford Castle is.  It really is like something from a fairytale.  I had never seen a castle that appears to be straight out of the middle ages
and yet is still very much lived in. I was even more impressed as we toured the Castle and I was shown snippets of history like the secret staircase, the hidden library and a ring given to King James IV by the Queen of France.
On to the training though and before long we were making  
our way to the armoury, where all of the kit is stored.  Fully laden with ropes, karabiners, harnesses, helmets and all of the other paraphernalia needed, we headed out to the Zip Wire.  It soon became apparent that some of us were somewhat, how should I say this . . . vertically challenged and had a problem reaching the wire to attach the trolley.
  Some were lifted by the instructor, but with a premonition of being dropped, I decided to try a leap-and-grab tactic to pull the wire closer to me.  After setting up successfully, we sent
each other down the Zip Wire in turn.  Now, whilst I maintain that I am unafraid of heights, there is something quite unnatural about being launched from one side of a gorge, voluntarily, suspended from a length of wire; a dizzying drop beneath you, by a not entirely confident fellow trainee.
I imagine that most people on their first day of a new job would try to impress their seniors with whatever knowledge or skill they possessed.  I fear that my squeaking like a mouse being trodden on whilst zipping across the gorge on that wire possibly did not convey the impression I was hoping for.
After Zip Wire training we moved on to the high ropes course.  I had been looking forward to this, knowing that I at least have some experience with ropes.
However, nothing could have prepared me for the sight of colleagues attempting an elegant ascent of Jacob’s ladder as I belayed, or going for a wobble across the Postman’s Walk.
Unfortunately however, I drew the short straw once again, as I was volunteered by our instructor to do . . . (drum roll please) the LEAP OF FAITH.   Never mind, I would impress all onlookers with my confidence.  How hard could it be . . . ?
Very, very hard indeed actually, as the wind makes the 10m pole sway and the platform (platform?  Well
that’s a complete misnomer for a start: small tea tray may be closer) is so narrow that to climb atop without giving the appearance of a whale beaching itself, is something not in my gift.  I’m sure I recall some threats of failing the course if I didn’t manage to stand up, though this has been thoroughly denied by all concerned since, so I somehow managed to not only stand, but also leap toward the trapeze and even, joy of all joys, catch the bar swinging before me.  My joy was short-lived however, when I realised that whatever goes up, must come down and, more relevantly, I had to let go of the bar.
All joking aside, I learnt a huge amount in one of the most awe-inspiring places I have ever been to, with a staff team that not only made me feel welcome and helped me, but immediately made me feel like an equally important part of the team.  There was never a dull moment . . . I suspect dull moments will be few and far between in this job.


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