Take the plunge at Dinton Pastures Multi Activity CentreBy Jon Nurse
June 21, 2012
A multi activity centre just 20 minutes from the town offers people something a bit different.
Adventurous reporter Jon Nurse found out more
‘Just lean back and let go,” a reassuring voice encouraged me from below.
A brief gaze around at my current situation and I wasn’t too sure. “Really?”
“Yes, yes. The line will ease you back down, it’s absolutely safe.”
I was six metres off the ground and hanging precariously from a climbing wall at the Multi Activity Centre (MAC) in Dinton Pastures Country Park, Hurst.
Anyone who’s tried the trust-building exercise where you fall back and get caught in someone’s arms will know this doesn’t sound natural at all.
And those feelings are intensified when you are metres high with your hands clamped on to small outcroppings on a wall.
The cool thing with the apparatus they gave me was that the harness is attached to a seat belt-style strap that eases you down slowly when it feels your weight.
There are no knots and no steward holding your weight at the bottom with increasingly aching arms.
Eventually I did take the leap of faith and I slowly made my way back to earth, a bit like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible – just without the guns, muscles and intense stare.
Okay, maybe I did try a bit of an intense stare.
The centre in Sandford Lane has come on in leaps and bounds in the past year and it’s all the brainchild of manager Tanya Budd.
We were talking in the centre’s clubhouse which overlooks a lake and she told me: “I came on board in October 2010 and drafted a business plan.
“There was a sailing club here before which we have merged with and now we have so much more to offer. Last summer we were testing the waters and we were really busy.”
The business has doubled in size over the past year and the plan is eventually to get a new building.
“It's a great day out for people and something a bit different,” Tanya said. “So many people who live in the borough come and say ‘Wow, I never knew this was here’.”
The country park is only a 15-minute walk from Winnersh train station and around 20 minutes drive from Central Reading.
“We take the climbing wall out to community events and it’s always very popular with the kids,” said Tanya. “For a lot of schools it’s too much paperwork to come off site, so we take it to them.”
Many of the centre’s activities are based around the central Black Swan Lake, one of six lakes at the country park that is home to swans, geese and kingfishers.
The lakes offer pedalos, rowing, canoeing sailing and a new addition of paddleboarding.
This curious activity involves standing on a large surfing-style board and pushing yourself along with a big paddle, rather like a gondola in Venice.
“It’s a growing sport this year,” Tanya said. “There’s been a lot of interest so far.
“The pedalos are always very popular with teenagers which surprised me at first.
“Open water swimming in the lake is a growing group too. We’ve got more than 25 people signed up.”
Sadly there was no paddleboarding for me this time but I didn’t mind as I got to race across the water in the centre’s powerboat.
The Humber five metre boat is 60 horsepower and gets to 35mph, which may not sound a great deal but trust me – it’s a rush!
Another of the biggest draws at the centre is the sailing.
Boats come in all sizes, ranging from dinky ones for kids all the way up to full-sized ones for adults and teenagers.
On Sunday mornings the lake hosts a race series.
Senior instructor Rory Murray said: “The sailing is my favourite. It's so nice to look out of the window and see so many people on the water.
“We’ve had some busy weekends so far but it’s nothing like the peak of the summer. There can be 300 people on the water on a good day.”
Summer holidays aren’t far off now and until schools break up the centre is open from 10am to 6pm on Wednesdays and from 11am to 6pm from Thursday to Sunday.
From July 21 the centre will be open seven days a week.
It’s a fine setting for a family day out, so if – or hopefully when – the weather gets more favourable, it’s well worth a visit.
For more information call 0118 9344424 or email email@example.com.