Challenge Course Consultancy

Bill Cook is a man of many parts, most of which are his own.

On leaving school at 19 he entered the grubby world of fabrication and welding engineering and at 25 was works manager of a factory developing and producing medical equipment, with 27 staff looking up to him asking…”Why him?”

This was the time to move to Scotland and the joys of self-employment. The next 11 years were spent in the innovative design and manufacture of equipment for the agricultural industry including work with helicopter application equipment and the newly conceived concept of low ground pressure vehicles and chemical application. His spare time was involved with mountain rescue, team leader for three years, RNLI, inshore rescue boat crewmember, walking, climbing, open canoeing and generally enjoying the outdoors whilst designing equipment that potentially could damage it.

Time to move on.

The next 7 years involved working with disadvantaged people, generally in the 16-25 yr old range, but often as young as 10 or as old as 70. Using the outdoors as the means of communication and recognising the opportunity for the great metaphor in this environment he learnt that the available equipment was usually sadly lacking in the three most critical areas: appearance – client perception, quality – client safety and content – results.

Through a transition period Bill has now been working on the design and installation of quality equipment for the outdoor industry for over 8 years.

Challenge Course Consultancy is a company wholly owned by myself. I am committed to providing a high quality and economical service to the industry and have over the last few years been involved in setting up the Advisory Association for Ropes Course and Initiatives. The organisation is recognised and indeed consulted by both the A.A.L.A. and the H.S.E. Together we are working towards standards that are recognised throughout the world as the highest available, but practical enough to allow for innovation.

CCC is client led, our negotiations start with looking at your aim, not at what our standard product is. Once we know your aim we can then design equipment to help you to achieve this.

CCC selects and uses materials and techniques that it believes are the most appropriate to the purpose, based on quality, appearance and price.

Where required, or where we consider it prudent, we will only use components that are individually certificated as meeting the required BS, DIN, or UIAA standard. Many components are stamped with their safe working load, SWL, or working load limit, WLL. This can at times cause confusion, UIAA insist that a climbing sling is labelled with its fail load, typically 2.5t. whilst BS insist that slings are labelled with their SWL. A commercial sling labelled 2.5t would in fact fail under a load of 17.5t. Confused? That’s why I am here.

Many of our components and materials are quite innovative. We have designed and have manufactured through a sub-contractor a galvanised bracket for attaching ropes to trees. Approved by arboriculturalists and simple to fit the bracket offers a neat attachment which has a theoretical fail load of over 6 t. We have tested it to 5t quite satisfactorily. Under its designed usage we would not expect them to carry a load higher than .5t. These brackets are sold to a number of other ropes course manufacturers.

Our main load bearing ropes are quite unique. Where others use either 10mm wire or polypropylene we use polyethylene, our manufacturer cannot tell us how long it will last – they have only been making it for 40 years. Polyethylene is what your car seat belt is made from. We use rope of 28mm diameter with four strands rather than three because it is kind on hands and feet. Not content with this we insert a 6mm flexible wire through the middle, this is not to increase the strength but to limit stretch in the system, reducing the amount of re-tensioning which is required after installation.

Any timber that we use is treated to prevent damage from rot or insect infestation. Depending on the application the guarantee on this may be as high as 40 yrs.

Where painting is required this is applied over an approved treatment. We use a Scandinavian product that allows the timber to breathe and is non-toxic to fauna and flora.

The ground beneath a ropes course needs a friendly surface, this is not only to protect clients in the event of a fall. The correct material will help to keep the equipment clean and protect the ground from compaction and prevent damage to tree roots. There is a wide range of products on the market all of which have advantages depending on circumstances. As ever you get what you pay for and if the budget will allow a little more spent at installation will pay off later. Basically if a course is built on or around trees we would recommend a “forest” product. These are available in a vast range of styles the main cost being transport. They do require regular forking and redistribution with a rake and of course are degrading from day one. Annual topping up is to be expected and eventually total replacement. In other areas pea-gravel is the best option, readily available at reasonable cost its performance is excellent and it does not rot.



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