Windermere woodland adventure park celebrates a tree-mendous fifth birthday
TREETOP Trek has just celebrated its fifth birthday. DUNCAN BICK finds out how it has achieved such rapid growth and what the future holds.
THE year 2012 had a number of memorable events.
Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner became the first person to break the sound barrier without any machine assistance during a record space dive, the Queen celebrated her Diamond Jubilee and the country cheered on Team GB as it took a record medal haul at the London Olympics.
It was also the year in which a new visitor attraction welcomed its first guests.
Treetop Trek at Brockhole, Windermere, offered – and continues to offer – people the chance to travel through the heights of an oak woodland, climbing and balancing their way through 35 different treetop challenges.
It was an instant hit and now boasts a number of extra features.
This success has also seen it grow from one site, employing eight people, to one with a staff of more than 100 people in three locations.
Turnover in the first year was £400,000 and it has now grown to £1.4m in the past year and this is expected to grow to about £2.5m by the end of the next financial year.
The man who set up the business and continues to lead it is Mike Turner, 43, its managing director.
He said: "It was quite a long time before 2012 when I originally thought about setting it up. It came to me when I was working for Center Parcs about five years earlier."
Mr Turner held a senior position with the national firm, which opened a similar but smaller attraction at its site in Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire. It proved to be an instant success with visitors.
"From there I got the idea for something I could take on," he said.
At first he tried to take the concept to urban areas, with some success, but was always determined to find a suitable rural location. The Lake District National Park Authority put out a tender for an outdoor attraction in Brockhole, which Mr Turner successfully bid for in 2011, leading to Treetop Trek opening the following year.
Its first season was a tough one, with higher than expected demand and extremely wet weather. He is full of praise for the staff who helped the business get through this period.
"We had a very intensive first six months, they worked very hard and I still thank them for it," he said.
It quickly became clear that the business needed extra facilities, which led to the introduction of a climbing wall.
This was followed by Treetop Nets, described as a complex of trampolines, walkways, slides and tunnels – all made from state-of-the-art netting – up to 40ft off the ground in the tree canopy.
Mr Turner first saw these nets in France and brought it to the UK, where his firm is the only one to make use of it. They are used by people of all ages and is particularly suited to younger children, as there is no need to wear a harness.
This has proved enormously popular and has led to the business expanding into new sites. The first was Rippon, in North Yorkshire, while last week saw the opening of a venue in Manchester.
Mr Turner said he has been approached by several people who are interested in taking on the concept and in discussions with one in the north east. He added though: "I think we need to consolidate."
He wants to make sure he can be involved with any site so is keen that they situated are not a long drive from his home in Storth, on the Cumbria/Lancashire border.
In particular, he is keen to explore opportunities to develop in other parts of the Lake District.
Mr Turner is optimistic for the future of the national park.
"I think the customers will always come," he said.
"Whether they are American because of the exchange rate or from anywhere else I think they will come because the Lake District is just fantastic."
He added though that firms must always be able to recruit staff into the area.