As the fastest zip line in the world, and the longest in Europe, Velocity 2 promised us ‘a truly unique and exhilarating experience’ with ‘breathtaking views’. And it didn’t disappoint…
We went for our adrenaline adventure at Zip World, Penryhn Quarry, North Wales, on 15th October. I was originally booked to do the zip line too, but my recent illness (a dodgy ticker) meant I couldn’t take part. So, Dan was flying solo – literally. We got there on the day and true to form, I’d been unorganised; I hadn’t let them know I wasn’t doing it. I was fully expecting to lose the pre-paid fee, and was miffed at my forgetfulness. We were surprised when the staff at reception said it wasn’t a problem, we had 12 months to rebook my adventure at no further expense. We were already impressed with Zip World.
Once we’d checked-in at reception we sat down to eat our lunch. We arrived early because we’d allowed for any travel dramas. How many heated discussions do you think are had by couples whilst in the car navigating a new area? A lot, I reckon. Thankfully, the scenic drive was stress free. The sat-nav got us most of the way and then the last few minutes were really well signposted. When you arrive, there’s loads of picnic benches positioned in view of the zip line, so you can watch people fly past. There are a couple on a gravelled area, near the reception doors, so they’re easily accessible. Plus, there’s more on a grassy area (which is naturally quite bumpy so I had to give Dan a bit of a push here). The picnic area is overlooked by a viewing platform- a huge covered balcony area above reception, with plenty of seating. Also upstairs is a restaurant, café and bar (all accessible via a lift). There’s a spacious accessible toilet too, with plenty of grab rails and an emergency cord. Dan thinks it’s important to mention that there was a mirror too. Maybe it’s because he messes with his hair about a hundred times a day.
Nerves creeping in.
As Dan’s time slot approached, adrenaline started kicking in for us both. But the nerves weren’t really because of the actual zip line (nope, not the fact that he’d be flying head-first down a quarry for a mile, at speeds of over 100mph!). The nerves were logistics related. We weren’t sure how it was all going to work, practically. Dan’s used to planning everything he does carefully, with thought given to every little detail, working out in advance how he’ll do things. Since being with him, I’ve learnt how I can help. Most of the time, I know how to make things easier for him and what he does or doesn’t need me to do. However at Zip World, neither of us were in control and that’s a feeling that makes most people feel nervous. But for someone with a disability and for those close to them, that feeling is often more intense and can quickly become overwhelming. I knew I’d feel useless sat in the viewing area while Dan went off up the quarry.
Usually at Zip World, you’re put into a group with other visitors. You have a go on the smaller line, then get into one of their huge, red trucks and begin the 15 minute drive up to the starting point at the top of the quarry. We knew that Dan couldn’t do the smaller zip line because of accessibility issues. (He’d been told this when he originally enquired about going). However, we didn’t know how this would work with the rest of the group on his time slot. The main concern we had was that the trucks did NOT look easy to get into- there are metal steps which climb up onto the back of the army-style beasts. In fact, it’d be dangerous for Dan to even attempt it. So, what would he do? How would he do it? Would people be watching, and would it be awkward? What would happen with his wheelchair? Dan can fall and hurt himself at home, doing every day, mundane tasks, so the thought of him going to the top of this huge, rocky, uneven, steep quarry made my stomach flip. I tried not to show it.
It was soon time to head back into reception to the meeting point. There were other people also waiting; some looking cool and composed, others looking like they might throw up at any given point. I was the latter, and I was only a spectator…! Then one of the instructors, Guy, came over and approached Dan individually. He asked discreetly and respectfully how much mobility he had and whether he could stand at all (he commented that it didn’t matter either way). Guy explained that whilst the rest of the group would be going in one of the trucks with another instructor, he’d be looking after Dan. He asked if I wanted to join them and go up to the top. Yes!!
The ascent to the top of the quarry…
Before the *quite frankly dreaded* ascent to the top, Dan had to have a safety harness fitted. The harness is designed to go around your whole body (imagine a sort of strappy dungaree type thing!), so your legs and arms have to go through holes and fittings. This would be fiddly for someone without ataxia, so it required a certain degree of planning and thought for Dan to get into it. Guy asked how it was best to do it though, and didn’t rush anything at all.
All kitted up, we got into a normal 4×4 pick-up truck; similar in size to Dan’s car and fitted with grab rails, getting into it was no trouble. The wheelchair went onto the flat bed and we dropped it off at the finishing point of the zip line. At the top, there’d be other staff to help get Dan into position, and then his wheelchair would be ready at the end. Guy started the drive up the steep and windy tracks to the top of the quarry, and told us about the history of Zip World and shared some of his local knowledge with us on the way. At about two thirds of the way up, he said that we were about to see one of the best views in Wales. Bold statement, I thought. But it proved to be one I couldn’t argue with! Guy stopped the 4×4 on a bend on the side of the quarry. The view went straight down the middle of a valley and was quite simply breathtaking. I’ll let this photo I took do the talking…
Once we got to the top, we took in the views across the quarry and out to the sea. We were so lucky and had absolutely perfect weather for it. We got into the large cabin style building where the starting point of Velocity is and had a seat. When it was Dan’s turn, we helped him to the platform/ start of the zip line. Again, Guy was patient, respectful and made the logistics and practicalities of the process as easy as possible. The staff were so attentive and considerate, we genuinely couldn’t fault them at all. I was allowed to stand with Dan and the staff at the top of the line, on the metal grate platform which hung over the quarry edge. It made my legs so wobbly that I could’ve done with a wheelchair. I gave Dan some encouraging words (i.e. ‘Are you bricking it?!), and off he hurtled! I was slightly jealous, but mainly extremely excited for him.
Adrenaline adventures, action and rocky quarries don’t sound compatible with wheelchairs and disabilities, but thanks to Zip World, they can be.
Of course, there are some restrictions and limitations (which can be seen here) but the staff will do everything they can to make the fastest zip line in the world accessible for everyone. Dan absolutely loved the experience, and was buzzing for hours after. I can’t wait to go back and do it myself, but even just going and taking in the scenery was so worthwhile. Disability or not, if you’re after an adrenaline rush and a memorable action adventure, Zip World is a must!