National honour for adventure company

SUFFOLK-based treetop adventure company Go Ape was last night named among the national winners in the 2009 National Business Awards.The company, which is based at Hargrave, near Bury St Edmunds, and opened its first centre in 2002, took top honours in the Small to Medium Sized Business of the Year category, sponsored by banking group Santander.

SUFFOLK-based treetop adventure company Go Ape was last night named among the national winners in the 2009 National Business Awards.

The company, which is based at Hargrave, near Bury St Edmunds, and opened its first centre in 2002, took top honours in the Small to Medium Sized Business of the Year category, sponsored by banking group Santander.

Go Ape was formed by husband and wife team Tristram and Rebecca Mayhew following a holiday in France during which a visit to a similar adventure centre in the Auvergne inspired them to give up their jobs in London and form their own business.

The company now has 350 staff and 22 forest adventure courses across the country and is planning up to seven new courses in the UK next year plus expansion into Australia and America, involving around 100 additional jobs in all.


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Robert Janes, vice chairman of the judging panel said Mr Mayhew - whose official company title is “chief gorilla” - had “laid out a careful and measured path to a diversified future and long term prosperity”.

He added: “The judges felt Go Ape! have all the makings of a model small-to-medium sized business.”

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Go Ape was one of 17 organisations and individuals honoured at last night's ceremony, held at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London, where Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling was the keynote speaker.

Peter Marks, chief executive of the Co-operative Group won Leader of the Year award; Liverpool's T.J. Morris Home Bargains won the 3i Private Business of the Year category; London-based Inmarsat triumphed with the Coutts & Co Large-Cap Business of the Year Award; and ASOS, the online fashion and beauty retailer, was presented with the Grant Thornton Mid-Cap Business of the Year Award.

Another Suffolk finalist, Active Web Solutions, from Little Blakenham, near Ipswich, narrowly missed out on adding national success to its victory in the regional round of the awards earlier this year in the Orange Best Use of Technology in Business Award.

AWS, which has developed an internet-based “man overboard” alert system in partnership with the RNLI to assist search and rescue crews, was beaten to the national award by Forensic Pathways from Tamworth, whose technology has been adopted by Cambridgeshire to improve the management of police evidence and intelligence.

Philip Forrest, chairman of judges, said: “All finalists have demonstrated great strength in the ability to adapt and innovate quickly in response to challenging circumstances this year.

“We're seeing a diverse range of businesses enjoying success, which should rightly stimulate confidence for any organisation to invest in both financial and human capital terms in UK plc.

“On behalf of the judges I would like to offer our congratulations to all finalists and winners on their achievement to date and wish them continuing success in the year ahead.”

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