“If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.”
Thanks to some free vouchers a group of us descended on the Bear Grylls Adventure recently to do a spot of Archery.
Having driven towards the NEC the first decision was where to park. Crazily, for a building that cost around 15 million pounds to build, the official car park is a 12 minute walk away ( East Car Park 5). I like to think this is a fitness initiative rather than an oversight. Anyway if you plonk your car over there you are charged £2 for the first hour and £1 for each additional hour, oh and you have to validate your token prior to leaving otherwise it will cost you more!
Rather helpfully, a local had given us a tip off about a cheaper way to Park – if you park at Resorts World and spend over £20.00, you can park for a flat rate of £2.50! As this offer includes restaurant spends and we needed lunch, we took advantage of the tip off. The other benefit to parking at Resorts World is that it’s literally over the road. So a 12 min walk becomes about 5 mins. Great for someone like me with short legs!
When you arrive at the adventure centre the first thing you notice is a large outdoor climbing structure, a zipwire straight out the backside of a Chinook and some semi dramatic music being played as you walk up to the entrance. This sounds impressive and it probably is if you are 8. However, on closer inspection you quickly realise that the outdoor structure isn’t that tall, the zip wire is tiny and the Chinook is fibreglass. Come on Bear I was expecting a real Chinook !
If you have ever visited Alton Towers, Thorpe or the Dungeons, you know that Merlin love a bit of fibreglass theming. I think Merlin magic making had a field day with Bears’ adventure. Once you go inside you are greeted with fake trees, rocks, a photo of a mountain, and a statue of Bear himself. That’s not all, to remind you that this is a Bear Grylls Adventure, the semi dramatic music is playing and the walls are littered with famous Bear quotes and Commando logos. Now I know that the edge of Solihull is no jungle or Tibetan mountain but somehow all this thaming seems a little too fake. Even the toilet doors have alarming warnings on them about snakes, spiders or alligators being inside!
The desk with some enthusiastic staff waiting to help you. Once you provide your tickets they give you an electronic tag (for the most elaborate) lockers, and a wrist band which shows the activities you’ve paid for. They also mention that you have unlimited access to the assault course.
At our allocated time we arrived at the Archery to be greeted by our instructor.
All activities seem to start with an introductory video by Bear himself. For archery Bear appeared on the screen and basically told us if we are rubbish at archery we would starve in the wild. Great motivational speech Bear! After the video our instructor provided our safety gear and walked us through the use of the bow. Then off to the Archery range.
After archery a couple of us attempted the assault course. It’s good fun and clearly aimed at people of all abilities. The staff are on hand to give you motivation by mainly shouting at you to get over or under various obstacles. A group of kids seemed to be really enjoying it.
After the assault course we took a look at the other activities and noticed a sign offering 40% off the cost of booking other activities while still within the centre. We got excited by the prospect of doing an escape room so enquired at the booking desk. At this point we were told that the discount does not apply and it would be £30 each. So a family of 4 would need to find £120 quid to be locked in a room for an hour. We looked at the price of other activities and were shocked at the costs:
I fly £65.00, Fear Zone £12.50, Archery £25.00, Escape Room £30.00, Shooting £25.00, Climb £25.00, Climb £20.00, High Ropes £40.00, Snorkel £45.00 (online or package deals may be available)
If you take away all the Bear Grylls promotion, and the heavy theming you are left with a building that houses lots of fitness activities. Merlin has basically reinvented the leisure centre and put a premium on the price.
If you want to (and can afford it) The Bear Grills Adventure is not a bad day out. We certainly had a good time with the Archery. I can’t help feeling that visiting a local shooting, Archery, climbing or diving club would be a much more fulfilling experience and probably a lot cheaper too!
We all had to stand in our individual bays and shoot the target in front of us when instructed to do so. Now, I’m no Robin Hood but I did manage to shoot the centre target a couple of times. After a few rounds of practice and a bit of support and tuition from the instructor we all moved to another range. This one had two rows of targets of differing heights and sizes. This time, instead of practice the instructor pitted us against each other in several fun games. Everyone had a smile on their face and the whole experience lasted around 40mins. Although not all of this time was shooting arrows.
We liked that The Bear Grylls Adventure has a wide variety of activities and free use of the lockers and assault course, with a booked activity. The concept of only paying for the activities you want to do is also a good idea.
We did not like the prices of activities. It’s expensive compared to what local companies would charge, such as an archery club for example.
Activities seem to be over too quick, parking is not close to the venue. The food, drink and shop are also the pricy side.
Words Garry Llewellyn
Photos Ant G
Former community radio producer and presenter, and currently an office worker by day and blogger by night.
Garry is the creator and writer of The Silver Hedgehog. A Sci-Fi geek (don’t mention Terry Pratchett or Isaac Asimov unless you have a spare hour) and avid lover of all things film and TV fan . Garry enjoys writing reviews, blogs, chatting to people and now hosts a podcast in his spare time.
He is now waiting for the day he gets paid for it!