Trail of the unexpected: Adrenalin Quarry

Zipping down a wire from a cliff in Cornwall is exhilarating, beautiful – and strangely addictive, says Chris Moran

The village of Looe in South Cornwall is the kind of place a ship's captain might retire to: a quiet, quaint village overlooking a narrow harbour whose most famous inhabitant was until very recently a one-eyed seal named Nelson. Once he'd gone the same way as his namesake (presumably without the kissing incident on his deathbed), the townsfolk chipped in and commissioned a bronze sculpture, later unveiled by sailing legend than Robin Knox-Johnston.

An unlikely venue, then, for the UK's first (and perhaps only) opencast-mine-turned-extreme-sports-arena. But just a few miles inland from the pensioner-friendly fishing village lies an adventurer's treasure trove. Here you'll find single-seat hovercrafts, go-karts, tombstone cliff jumps and the main attraction: a 490m-long, 50m-high zip-wire that skims willing participants across the quarry at hair-parting speeds.

"If you care about someone," says Will Sneyd, owner of Adrenalin Quarry, "then we like to say you should throw them off a cliff."

The cliff in question is clearly signposted a mile east of Liskeard, on the A38. Driving in, I follow signs up a 2km dirt track, avoiding the potholes and mindful of warning signs featuring a man tumbling down a precipice. On reaching the summit, an awe-inspiring view over the water-filled quarry reveals itself, the beautifully clear lake flanked by cliffs, bushes and the odd, stubborn tree clinging to a perilous patch of greenery on the granite faces.

Clicker Quarry opened in the early 1930s and originally mined a variety of stone called Blue Elvin. By the 1960s the mine was bankrupt, and it remained derelict until Will took the lease on in 1989. Nature has done a fine job of covering the machine-made scars in the intervening years, and today the only signs of man among this idyllic, hidden outpost, are the wires that dangle through the valley in parallel curves down to a sandy beach at the far end of the quarry.

"It's the longest zip wire in the UK," says Will – though really it's the longest two zip wires. "It's perfect because no one goes to a tourist attraction on their own, so with two zips we can provide an experience that people can share."

Following its launch back in Easter of 2009, the site has seen 25,000 people take the plunge. Presumably mostly a stag do-crowd? "Not at all," says Will. "Our insurance says that if we can safely harness someone onto the wire, then they're good to fly. The youngest we've had on here is a boy of three, and the oldest was a man of 93."

So the big question: what's it like? I harness up, hitch in and hoist my legs up. The acceleration is gentle, but the ground falls away rapidly until I go over the main cliff and zoom towards the water. As the noise of the wheels on the metal wire reaches its highest pitch, I'm zipping along at 40m/h just above the calm lake. For some reason, I can't get the opening credits of Miami Vice out of my mind. It's perhaps less scary than I'd imagined, more beautiful and definitely more addictive. I want another go straight away.

I wonder what the Looe locals make of it, and ask Will whether Adrenalin Quarry has tapped into the purchasing power of the grey pound. "Oh they love it," laughs Will. "It's perfect for the tourists who are here for 10 weeks of the year, but I can guarantee that you'd be hard pressed to find a local who hasn't had a go."

Travel essentials

* Adrenalin Quarry (01579 308 204; adrenalinquarry.co.uk), Lower Clicker Road, Menheniot, Near Liskeard, Cornwall PL14 3PJ. Open weekends from 29 January (10am-dusk) and daily from Easter until the end of September (10am-6pm). £12.50 per jump.

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