We've been promising to take Callum to Rock Reef since it opened nearly a year ago but with a 2 year old Millie around (4 is the youngest for climbing and 6 the youngest for most other activities) it hasn't been possible to do as a family so we thought a great opportunity would be for me to take Callum during the school holiday when Millie was at nursery.
After an initial disappointment thinking they weren't open during the day - I struggled to find out opening times on their website, Google told me the wrong opening times and then noone answering the phone when I called, I thought it wasn't going to happen. However, I'm grateful to the friends who shared the correct opening times and booked tickets for the next week at 10.30.
There was a range of activities and packages to choose from, some of which Callum was to young for and I didn't want to make it too expensive by having too many activities. I knew I definitely wanted to book the climbing and settled on the Pier Cave as a second activity. I did consider the zip wire but thought Stuart could take him on that another time.
Having signed the waiver online
in advance, along with the tickets being prebooked, entry was painless. We dumped out jumpers and my handbag in a locker (£1 non-returnable) then waited for the climbing instructor to run through the rules and set us up with a harness.
I've climbed a few times at a climbing centre in Guildford but not for a long while. Callum has been a couple of times at Lemur Landings, a nearby soft play centre in Poole and it was seeing him fly up the wall there and jump down again that convinced us we should take him climbing.
But faced with a full scale climbing wall about 15-20ft tall, that previous experience can all be forgotten especially when it comes to putting your faith in an automatic belay (the safety cable that enables you to get down from the wall once you reach the top or prevents you dropping like a stone to the ground if you fall). Even I struggled to let go at the top to make my way down. So it was no surprise Callum was a little apprehensive to start and didn't want to go too high. But, eventually, we built his confidence up and he scaled one of the highest walls made up of easy to climb large hexagon shapes. Understandably (though I did try to encourage him) he was too nervous to let go at the top so climbed his way back down again. There were so many walls to choose from to suit all levels of skill which meant there was plenty to keep us both happy and there were lots of walls I found too challenging to try. Even if you did find a wall too easy there were other challenges attached to the wall such as only using specific colour hand or foot holds. There were even two speed walls so you could race a friend or beat your own time (Callum reduced his first time of 63 seconds to 49, I got mine down from 19.52 seconds to 19.02). I was surprised how quick the time passed when climbing and could have easily continued trying different walls for another hour or so but before we knew it, it was time to go try out the Pier Cave.
After reading the blurb online, I expected it to be a bit like a soft play activity with ball pools to drop in to all through (there was one ball pool at the start). I completely underestimated how tough it was going to be. It turns out I'm not as agile as a 6 year old and flexibility has never been my friend. My body turned and stretched through the tunnels in ways I didn't know it could and I collapsed unceremoniously, head first and without any grace, down the little drops and came out of it completely battered and bruised. In fact, when I noticed the young instructor sneakily sending us on different routes on our own instead of leading us like she did in the beginning I asked if I, too, could skip the last exploration and snuck out the back door with her. I would not recommend the cave if you are more than a little bit porky or are not particularly agile and certainly not if you are claustrophobic. Thankfully, I'm not claustrophobic, but even one of the teen girls in our group struggled with the close proximity of the cave walls.
At the end of the two activities we were both suitably tired but happy and really enjoyed the morning.
Unfortunately, because you weren't allowed anything in your pockets etc when climbing, I had to leave my phone in the locker so didn't get to take any photos.
For more information on Rock Reef on Bournemouth Pier, click here, but please note that all views are my own and this is not a sponsored post.