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Zip World London

21 July 2017 Will Rathbone

Zip World London has taken over Archbishop’s Park in Lambeth for the summer. The very first of its kind in London, the 225m long zip line allows guests to soar through the city sky at up to 50mph, taking in spectacular views of the capital. London Calling headed down to try the experience, and caught up with founder Barry Shaverin at the same time.

It’s a bright, sunny morning as London Calling arrive at Archbishop’s Park in Lambeth to try out the latest in a long line of London attractions – the city’s very first zip wire. The clear blue skies make for a excited, yet slightly nervous crowd as we all gather round the safety instruction video before being thoroughly harnessed and led to the 35 metre-high launch tower. A lot of stairs later we stand at the top, pausing to soak up the view. It’s genuinely surprising that nobody thought of this before.
 
The idea came to Shaverin suddenly one day. “I was walking in a Central London park and I had the thought that it would be a really fun thing to do. Then the thought went away, until a few months later when I went to Wales and visited Zip World there. It was huge fun, and the thought came back.”
 
With zip wires over forests, through caverns and across valleys, Zip World’s Welsh sites are a far cry from the urban jungle of Central London. The view is just as impressive as it is different, with a panorama that includes the House of Commons, London Eye, Westminster Abbey and the City – as well as a significant sprawl of South London.


Image courtesy of Zip World London
 
It’s not often someone finds a niche in London’s attractions market, but founder Barry Shaverin has managed it. “I’ve got two young kids, aged six and eight, and every day they do something they’ve never done before. It might just be eating a new food, but it made me think. I’m 45, so finding something I’ve never done before is a challenge. The giant zip wire in Wales was something I personally hadn’t done before, but this is something nobody’s ever done before. There’s never been a zip wire here in London.”
 
It would be understandable if someone were a little daunted by the thought of setting up something as vast as Zip World London, but Shaverin makes it sound easy – not that there weren’t a few obstacles. “Finding the right location involves a lot of conditions. First, it has to be the right length. Then the trees have to be the right shape, and in the right place. The tower sections are huge, so they have to come in on certain lorries. What are the park entrances like? The towers also weigh a huge amount, so what’s going to be underneath them? You have to literally drill down to that level of detail. You start by thinking “I’ll find a park.” Then some months later, the parks are dropping like flies! We’re very lucky to have found Archbishop’s Park – it’s an amazing place”.


Image courtesy of Zip World London
 
Shaverin is right. Archbishop’s Park may be an often overlooked green space, but it’s open and airy – a leafy oasis which feels a lot further away from the busy streets surrounding Lambeth North tube station than it actually is. Zip World London is likely to put the park back on the map, and Shaverin is conscious of the dangers associated with opening up a ‘hidden gem’ to the wider public. “The event has to be great for Lambeth and the neighbours too, so we’re working very closely with them. It doesn’t work if there’s too much impact on the park, or if it upsets the neighbours, so that’s a priority for us”.
 
So – how is the ride itself? The hairiest moment is right at the start. Once at the top of the tower, a final safety check is undergone (and double-checked) and you are led through a small gate to a series of four steps leading down to nothingness. On the third step you feel it taking your weight but, before you can think too much further, you’re flying through the air and whooping at the top of your voice. There’s just enough time to take one last glance at the view before you reach the other side with a big grin on your face. Shaverin’s kids have got it spot on – trying new things is the perfect way to go about life.
 
Zip World London is at Archbishop’s Park until October 1. Ticket prices vary, but an adult single is £22.50 and a group of five is £92.50.  
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