Editor Laura took her three perennially-reluctant teenagers to try Rock Reef in Bournemouth – and was amazed at just how much they loved it.
Every parent of teenagers knows that the coninual air of bored cynicism gets wearing. So I arrived at Rock Reef with three teenagers and only moderate expectations of the fun they’d have climbing a big colourful wall. As it wasn’t going to be me wobbling precariously on a rope, I hadn’t paid too much attention to the specifics when we’d agreed to review the experience. Walking in was an eye opener.
Rock Reef is located literally on Bournemouth Pier – we parked at the BIC, and it was just a two minute walk down the hill. Checked in upon arrival, we deposited coats and bags in one of the plentiful free lockers, and everyone who was climbing headed straight for the safety briefing.
Instructions were clear and patient; alarmingly quickly they were confident in how to work the clipping system, and let loose on a frankly HUGE hall of different climbing walls – mostly themed sections, with one entire end a fake rock face for a more authentic climbing experience. They each chose differently themed ‘walls’ and after a nervous start they soon found their confidence and began racing and challenging each other, trying out the various routes. They then moved on to the Highline, suspended from the ceiling much like an indoors ‘Go Ape’ course – wobbly log rungs, monkey hoops, balance posts and cargo nets – all swinging freely, way up high in the air. It was so good they went round twice.
A great atmosphere
Rather than an intimidating first impression, the atmosphere was brilliantly collaborative and friendly between climbers. Staff were attentive, helpful and unfailingly cheerful. When a lady had a panic attack half way around the Highline course (it’s very high!), she was rescued with gentle, unhurried coaxing; despite the big traffic jam she’d created there was no hint of impatience in helping her move along.
Our given time slot was 90 minutes, and it swiftly vanished. The walls were high enough to be challenging even for 6’2” 19yr olds (though we saw small 6yr olds scampering up them at terrifying speeds…), and a range of difficulties which meant a nervous first timer could still reach the top on some, and didn’t feel defeated when they couldn’t conquer the difficulty of others.
To finish off the experience, at the end of the session they had two goes each on the Leap of Faith and the Death Slide. That’s a no from me. So HIGH.
And the verdict of the jaded cynical teenagers? A unanimous “When can we go again?”. They’re demanding a return trip soon.
We were provided with the Ultimate Adventure tickets (£30 per person), which included the Clip ‘n Climb, the HighLine, PierCave and two goes on both the Vertical Slide and Leap of Faith. Just Clip n Climb tickets are £12, and the Highline is £10. The Piercave is a set of dark tunnels with pits, slides and ball pools to replicate a caving experience. Smaller kids seemed to enjoy it hugely, but my teens suggested skipping it if you’re tall, a bigger build or not keen on confined spaces. Tickets must be booked in advance on the website here
By: Laura Hitchcock