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02.12.2021 - Ausgabe: 6/2021

A tower within the tower - a new highlight for the Bavarian forest treetop trail

© Berliner Seilfabrik GmbH & CO.

In 2007, construction work on the “Waldwipfelweg” (forest treetop trail) project began in the Bavarian town of Sankt Englmar, near the Czech border. Martin Six, the operator of the Lower Bavarian family attraction, had originally inherited the area from his father for part-time farming.  However, the 20 cows were not enough to make a living and so he wondered what he could do with the land. After some deliberation, he soon came up with the idea of using the natural and wooded surroundings to build a treetop trail, which was opened in 2008.  “The site's location on a south-facing slope makes it ideally suited for this purpose,” says Martin Six. “On a clear day, you may even catch a glimpse of the Zugspitze peak, which is about 220 kilometres away as the crow flies.” While it started out with just one kiosk, the range of services was expanded year by year. Away from the treetop trail, there are now numerous interesting learning and hands-on activities for children, as well as restaurants and cafés.

The trail takes visitors about 600 meters above and across the treetops at a height of 30 meters and provides a splendid view of the mountain ranges of the Bavarian Forest, the Danube Valley and the Gäuboden plains. In 2011, the trail was extended to include a suspension bridge suspended 25 meters above the ground. Along the approximately 2-kilometer-long nature discovery trail that leads through the forest, families can experience nature in a new way at various hands-on stations and learn interesting facts about their surroundings.  The Path of Optical Phenomena is fun for young and old alike and will make many a person doubt their own perception. In addition, you can admire alpacas, llamas, blacknose sheep and kangaroos on the grounds of the treetop trail, which is particularly pleasing for the little ones. 

In 2014, Martin Six came up with the idea of a forest tower. It was to be clearly visible from afar, as from there you can enjoy an unobstructed view of the now approximately 10-hectare site and the surrounding hills. Moreover, the shape of the tower was to resemble that of a deciduous tree. The location of the tower was reconsidered, so that it is now not quite so free-standing, but as such blends in more harmoniously with its surroundings. The result was a tower whose “trunk” is represented by a huge concrete mast. The steel structure comprises almost 300 tonnes of steel and 140 m³ of larch wood. You can reach the viewing platform at a height of 52 metres via a 400-metre-long wooden path that winds around the mast like a kind of spiral staircase. The ascent is barrier-free and wheelchair-accessible, as the path has a 6% incline in some parts and is 2.5 metres wide, just like the rest of the treetop trail. As planning progressed, Mr. Six decided to make the tower more attractive for children and to incorporate a playground of a special kind. Two tube slides take those who have made it to the top straight down to the lowest level of the forest tower. 

Mr. Six teamed up with playground equipment manufacturer Berliner Seilfabrik to meet the request for an alternative ascent. Various play elements such as tunnels and bridges playfully connect six levels, thus covering approximately 23 metres in height, up to the viewing platform. Elimar Quednau, project designer at Berliner, recalls: “The initial designs of the tower had been finalised and so, in close consultation with the steel construction company, we designed four different net elements to take the climbers from level to level.” Starting from the "treetop", a vertical net ascent with staggered HDPE panels leads to the second level and hence to the first of two intermediate platforms. An inclined net ascent takes visitors from there to an arched ascent with offset nets on the inside, which leads along the outside of the tower at a height of about 40 metres. Once you have crossed the arch, you will reach the second intermediate platform, where you will find one of the highlights of the forest tower: the ten-metre-high DNA Tower with a three-dimensional climbing net, its posts almost protruding from the tower. Mr. Quednau revealed: “The idea of installing a DNA Tower within the tower arose at a somewhat later stage of the planning process. As with the other play elements, this required close cooperation with the tower builder in terms of planning. To enable the installation of the DNA Tower, additional structural calculations had to be undertaken and further steel girders had to be installed below the second intermediate platform.”

Climbing in a three-dimensional space has a lot of benefits for children. On a physical level, it can help prevent poor posture and overweight. Climbing improves balance and body awareness. Motor skills are developed. On a neural level, movement in three-dimensional space activates wiring patterns in the brain, precisely those that stimulate imagination, which in turn is needed when doing arithmetic. 

A jungle bridge rope in an 11.5-metre-long net tunnel allows you to balance at a height of 6 metres across the forest tower. A second arched ascent bridges the path between the last two levels, leading up to the viewing platform at a height of about 7 metres inside the tower, where another special highlight awaits the visitors. At the far edge of the platform, two close-meshed nets 52 metres above the ground provide a breathtaking view into the depths for those who are brave enough to step onto the netting. 

All rope crossing points of the spatial nets as well as the tunnels manufactured by Berliner are fixed by means of aluminium ballknots. A new version has been granted an international patent. The pressing of each individual ball knot is a precise multi-stage process that ensures fixation of the rope crossover points and high slip resistance. In addition, the ballknots withstand any temperature and are vandal-resistant. It is therefore very safe to walk on the two 6-by-3-metre nets, although some people may forget this in view of the height of the nets. This is also what happened to David Köhler, Managing Director of Berliner Seilfabrik, when visiting the forest tower: “Although I know that our nets are designed to withstand several tonnes of actual load, it cost me a quite an effort to step onto the netting. In retrospect, I am glad I dared to do it after all. The dizzying heights and the scenic view were an amazing experience.”

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