Cummings’ goings

PUBLISHED: 09:00 23 October 2013 | UPDATED: 09:41 24 October 2013

Going ape in the forest

Going ape in the forest


with BBC Radio Gloucestershire’s Mark Cummings

When you sign up to a career in broadcasting, part of the deal for those of us who love the intimacy of regional radio is the stream of ‘offers’ to open fêtes, steam rallies, dog shows etc. Once you start on this journey of cake-judging, fancy dress officiating, tannoy-grappling and flesh-pressing, you enter a world that you will never escape from. Once the word goes round you are up for it and cheap, you can kiss goodbye to all your weekends in the summer.

When my daughters were young I had no trouble in getting them to come along with me. This meant I could mix work and family life and my girls could grow up seeing their hero dad as some major celebrity. Oh, how they gazed on in admiration when the vicar would say: “Thank you so much for coming at the last minute, such a pity Adam Henson had to pull out” or when the organiser of the Country Show would hush the crowd with a squeaky blast of his hand-held loudhailer and boom out his big build up. “We will be having the motorbike acrobatics in five minutes, but first will you put your hands together for today’s special guest who we all wake up to every morning” then turning to me with loudhailer still on… “What’s your name again, son? Of course… Mike Cannings from Gloucester Radio..”

Yep, my girls were awe-struck when tiny but funnily enough, as teenagers, even the offer of free candy floss and unlimited rides in a tea cup won’t get them out. Recently I did the honours at the Vintage Steam Rally at the Speech House in the Forest of Dean. Knowing this was a fair hike from my place and would take up most of Sunday, I decided to try one last time to bribe them along. This is where Go Ape came in. This is an experience offered in the Forest if you love climbing high and swinging through the canopy of trees on a zip wire, hurling yourself into Tarzan nets and tip-toeing along thin planks of wood with a considerable drop below.

They seized the bait and agreed to the deal so after my duties were complete with the steam engine fraternity, we toddled off ready for an afternoon of high drama. In my smugness at my ability to manoeuvre teenagers away from an afternoon of Facebook, I had forgotten quite an important factor – I have an abject fear of heights.

For some strange reason I can go on the world’s biggest rollercoaster but put me on a cliff ledge, windy coastal path with a drop or the roof of a high building and I completely turn to jelly and panic in quite an undignified, hysterical manner. However, there were two other factors involved in the equation – my personal pride in front of my family and the fact I’d shelled out 30 quid for the pleasure…ok you’re right, it was the 30 quid.

The instructors who prepare you are brilliant and their skill and reassurance meant I gave it a go. The next three hours involved the rest of my team having the time of their life skipping across ‘Indiana’ rope bridges, whooping down the zip wires, nonchalantly walking over tiny poles connecting two trees and hurling themselves on a rope from the sky into a big string vest. The word to describe my efforts would be tentative. I’m trying to find a way of describing the guttural noises I emitted across the Forest of Dean that Sunday and the closest I can come up with is if you imagine the comedian Alan Carr trapped in tank full of snakes. So this jungle VIP has learned his lesson and next time anyone wants a bit of publicity and a ribbon cutting, I’ll be coming on my own!


November nibbles -

A touch of frost… I met the late Sir David Frost a few years ago. He was doing interviews to plug his latest tome but this was no ordinary book plug. We were all invited to a top hotel in Bath, treated to a fine meal and then he did his after-dinner routine. After that, he gave me as much time as I wanted and at the end, asked me to show him to a decent local pub so he could go and watch the England football international that had just kicked off.

A dip into the afterlife… the follow up to The Meaning of Liff has just been published. This is the book that uses place names for things there aren’t any words for yet but should be. I’m pleased to say the follow-up book called The After Liff includes my suggestion of Ozleworth… the blissful feeling after a sneeze.


Pet’s corner -

As this is the theme this month I thought I’d jot down the pros and cons of dog ownership. I’ve shared many stories in the column about my late lurcher Tangle and my current rescues Stella and Tyler. So here goes.

Cons… Vets’ bills, freezing walks in the driving rain in winter, cost of food, hassle of getting them looked after when you want to go on holiday, stress when they get ill, stress when they escape, never being able to leave any food within their reach and finally staying calm when you forget about the food and the whole roast chicken disappears down their neck.

Pros… Have a look at the picture in the gallery to the right!


This article is from the November 2013 issue of Cotswold Life

For more from Mark Cummings, listen to BBC Radio Gloucestershire’s morning show 6am-9am or visit

Latest from the Cotswold Life