We put Cornish quarry adventure centre through its paces
Via ferrata Cornwall celebrated its first anniversary this summer.
The outdoor adventure centre at two former quarries in Halvasso near Penryn is the first of its kind in the south of England, and despite the year we have had, has already welcomed more than 7,000 visitors.
We thought we’d give Via Ferrata Cornwall a go. So on a rare non-rainy day in early August we paid the centre a visit to put it through its paces.
Via Ferrata was designed and constructed by the BF Adventure charity to generate income so more young people from deprived backgrounds in the Duchy can enjoy adventure holidays too. The centre is found at the end of a narrow twisty lane off the Penryn to Helston road and could do with one or two more signs so it is easier to find. But apart from that it’s great.
Split over two water-filled quarries, the site offers a wide choice of adventures from archery to rock climbing, SUP and coasteering around the quarries, kayaking, canoeing and of course Via Ferrata.
Meaning iron way in Italian, where it originates from, Via Ferrata is a safe way to discover an area of cliffs, mountains or even caves.
While not the Italian Alps or the Pyrenees, Via Ferrata Cornwall allows you to climb the cliffs of the two quarries along a zig-zaggy route that increases in difficulty as you go up and along, and culminates with a zip wire over the second quarry.
The first quarry acts as your beginner’s course where you learn to use the equipment and how to stay safe, while the second quarry, which is much bigger and deeper, is where the fun really begins.
With Via Ferrata there is no abseiling, taking your own safety rock climbing equipment along with you or belaying others as they go up the cliff. From the start and throughout the duration of the course you will remain tied to a guide metal wire meaning you are never at risk of plunging to your death into the water below.
Some people may be familiar with the concept of Via Ferrata whereby climbers climb up a ladder of large metallic staples anchored into the rock face using two safety ropes and carabiners to hook themselves up and over the next anchor point.
Via Ferrata Cornwall uses a completely different system called ‘Zaza’ which means your safety rope runs along a rail like system that frees your hands so you can concentrate on going along safely.
As well as harnesses and helmets of course, participants giving Via Ferrata Cornwall a go, are accompanied by a qualified instructor who will guide you through the course, including the tricky bits such as the 70m long wire bridge and zip wire at the end.
If at the end of the first course in the smaller quarry you want to stop, then it is fine. But as the chap taking our bookings said to us as I explained my son’s wobble about the whole thing on our way from Truro, most people will want to do the second quarry because they’re having too much fun.
And it proved true. We hadn’t been harnessed up for five minutes that apprehension was replaced by excitement. Five more minutes and all I could hear was “this is easy, when can we go in the bigger quarry”.
You start at the bottom of the first quarry leaving the cafe which overlooks the area behind and after a quick familiarisation with the ’zaza’ system and a warm up of running across a Peruvian suspended bridge, off you go making your way around until you start gaining height and you reach the wire bridge.
There is nothing tricky on the course especially if you are already an outdoor type person or familiar with via ferratas but it still good fun and even better – it is accessible to children aged eight (there is a height restriction) and over so it can prove a great way to keep them entertained during the holidays or at weekends.
The second quarry is more fun. Perhaps because it is a lot more difficult – still accessible to all age groups – but trickier because of the zig zags along the cliff and the height you climb at. Then of course there’s the funniest bit of the whole course at the end – the zip wire.
All in all, Via Ferrata Cornwall is a great addition to everything Cornwall has to offer residents and holiday makers visiting our great county. It will keep you active and fit, it’s new and different to what’s out there and it is also unique to the region. So go for it and give it a go, in the knowledge that it also helps a good cause.
For more information about Via Ferrata Cornwall visit viaferratacornwall.co.uk/
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