Wednesday 30 November 2011

Busy Times

So this last few months we have been busy bees here at Safe and Sound Outdoors. In addition to activity manager Spud having another baby(Elwood) we have done some advances in our business. We started off by applying for and getting AdventureMark accreditation. This is a safety accreditation that goes hand in hand with AALA which we are all overseen by. We also applied for an LOTC quality badge which shows that we are teaching good stuff to our clients in addition to just having fun. This is a great step as it proves we are helping young people in their education not just in a school setting but also in the outdoor environment. We also decided to apply to be a Duke of Edinburgh AAP which we successfully gained. This means that we can now offer Gold, Silver and Bronze Duke of Edinburgh expeditions to a variety of clients. This is something we are particularly excited about. On the work front we did an advert with groupon for gorge walks and climbing sessions which sold remarkably well and we have a good number of people accessing our gorge over the coming months. This was really good as we have increased the amount of people who can access the outdoors via us and hopefully experience a cracking day out. We have lots of thing in the pipeline for the future so keep looking. Check out our twitter account sasoutdoors and also our facebook page. Cheers for reading.

Monday 18 July 2011

River Spey

On the 9th July 2011 Safe and Sound Outdoors took a group of Gold Duke of Edinburgh students up to Scotland for their expedition section of their award.

Day One

I met the group at Greystoke, Lake District along with Steve(our assessor) and after hitching up the trailer started our long journey north. We were headed for Aviemore in the Cairngorms for the start of our exped. The group were in high spirits in the back of the bus and the journey passed without incident even though it took ages. Scotland is a long way north and Aviemore in particular is at least 8 hours with a trailer.
The group had booked us into Dalraddy Camping and caravan park but when we arrived the lady didn't seem too keen on them staying there. However, with a little persausion we pitched up and settled in for the night. The group started to pack up their kit in preparation for the days ahead. The Gold section of the award states that you have to be on exped for 4 days and 3 nights so we were to paddle from Loch Insh to Spey Bay a total of 120km over 4 days. The forecast for the week was iffy to say the least.

Day Two

We started early to get on the water for 9.30am. One of the groups wanted to get on for 7.30am but we stopped that silly talk. Loch Insh was still as a millpond which was an omen for later as it turned out. Both groups left at 9.45am and set off for the first camp. The idea was that they would run the river independely from us. We followed at a discreet distance to jst check their progress but not get involved. The day passed without much interest. The Spey is classed as one of the great "classics" of Scottish paddling. The scenery was good if not spectacular. The weather meant it was cloudy for most of the day.
On arrival at camp for the first night proper at boat of balliefurth camping the heavens opened. The river had been running faster than normal but this downpour lasted for approx 12 hours. We had just managed to put up a tarp which proved essential for the evening as the rain didn't let up. I ended up sleeping under the tarp in just me inner tent. "Tent in a tarp".

Before bed we positioned a stick in the river bank to monitor the rise of the river.

Day Three

The river has risen about 3 foot overnight and was flowing pretty fast. It was decided that the group could continue on their journey but were made aware of the faster current and the need to stay in the middle of the river.
We had Gemma as a driver of the minbus and general shuttle bunny which would prove invaluable.
The second day distance was 29km. We managed to cover the distance in approx 2 1/2 hours and it didnt feel like too much of a push. One rapid just passed Grantown on Spey was exciting but not desperate. The second night camping spot was Ballindalloch Station. This was a site for use by the Speyside Way walkers but regularly used by D of E groups such as ours. Teh group spent the afternoon drying clothes and making progress on their chosen projects. We set up camp on the old station platform which was awesome.

Day Four
No rain or wind greeted us in the morning and it was decided we would run the next section of the river as one large group due the nature of the rapids. The guidebook describes the next section as the interesting bit and with the river running at the level it was we felt it was better to treat this with special attention. "The Washing Machine" was a bit washed out but still managed to fill a couple of boats and would have proved tricky for fully laden boats.
The next 3 miles of river had a number of grade 2 rapids with enough interest to keep the group concentrating. Knackando rapid was the next named rapid on the river and the guide said to approach it through the middle channel. This wasn't possible with the eddying out skills of the group in this water so we ran it river right. This option proved correct and the whole group navigated it fine. After this and down to Carron bridge was a series of grade 2 rapids and all were negotiated perfectly.
There were a great deal of fishermen on the river due to the salmon season but unlike welsh fishermen they all waved and were very pleasant and we in turn stayed out of their way.
We left the group to carry on on their own until the next campsite which was chosen to be at "Boat o Brig" This was going to be a wild camp if we could find somewhere suitable and this being Scotland we had no problem. We ended up camping under a bridge evoking lots of Red Hot Chili Peppers songs etc.

Day Five
The sun was shining finally for the last day of the exped and the group were all "demob happy" and on the river for 8.00am. There was a smell of the sea in the air as soon as we started. The rapids on this section weren't named but some of them still managed to trip up some of the less focused of the group. The aim for today was to get to the sea and finish the trip which both groups did quite ably and some even managed a bit of surf.
The final act was to sort out kit ready for the long drive home. We hadnt even driven 10 miles and 8 out of 11 of the group were asleep in the back of the bus. After a stop in Aviemore for some fish and chips we headed home. The sat nav showed 8 1/2 hours back to greystoke.

Many thanks to Gemma Lovering of Walford College for being in charge and to all the students for successfully completing their Gold D of E exped section.

Wednesday 27 April 2011

This is a blog from one of our groups on a Duke of Edinburgh Expedition on the River Severn during April

The first day we put the boats in on a section of river that was quite narrow and had many overhanging trees, meaning that if we didn't pay full attention to steering we were run aground or whipped by branches. There was a strong wind which blew the opposite direction and caught our soloer on every meander. Needless to say after soloing the previous three days this wind was tiring Tom out, so we rafted up and continued to make good time, getting out of the water at about three in the afternoon. We learnt that you can't always trust the campsite symbol on the map to be the one you're aiming for, but we found that oppotunism paid off. Tom learnt that not every tree is solid, when he got a wee bit wet trying to get to terra firma. Another thing we found, after a hyperactivce game of spoons, was that in the absence of medication suntan creme cures bee stings.
We woke up at five (or half five) the next morning, and were on the water for 7:15, which got most of the paddling done before the bright sun light burnt us. In Shrewsbury we decided it was polite to get slow moving canoes out of the way for the rowers (and the vicous swans) and we tried a weir. Following the near capsize of out new soloer Beth and the minor injuring of Marcus and Alice, we started to think about whether we would hae attempted such a task on our expedition. The conclusion we reached was that if any member was uneasy about a section we would portage it.
At camp that evening (past two in the afternoon) we weretaught the need for good camp ettiquette, especially when wild camping. The highlight of that afternoon was having warm enough sunshine than we could go swimming, admittedly still in wetsuits and B.As or, in Laura's case, sunbathe for a good three hours.
The final day taught us that hot days do not mean temperate mornings. The frost and freezing mist made sure the members of our team that forgot to bring in their wetsuits would never forget again. Solid wetsuits are not comfortable.
One member of the other team fell ill in the morning reminding us of the need to stay hydrated with clean purified water, so when we found our bottles running low we took the oppotunity to fill up from fresh water tributaries along the way. A while after this Tom got bored of soloing so we put Marcus who is pretty fresh to all paddling in the 14 foot boat. Tom taught him a few skills then we let him go it alone. Despite his evident talent and enthusiasm for this new freedom, we forced him to let Tom solo the rapids, which we all managed in imacculate style (well when style means dry). This means we have four paddlers we know can confidently and capable work alone, so we will be able to rotate at any point to let people relax and maximise our efficiency.
To sum up our trip, we can say our team heads enthusuiastically into the given task, deals with issues calmly and diplomatically and gets immense satisfation from having completed three awesome days on the water!

Tuesday 5 April 2011


Hello there folks, well 2011 is well and truly here and we are starting with a flourish. We have some awesome work booked in for this year including expeditions to the River Wye next week, Scotland in July and I'm personally off to Canada for a week in May. I'm headed to see a very good friend in Calgary and hope to do some biking and Canoeing whilst I'm there. New for this year we are in the process of updating the website and changing a few things( a bit of a cyber spring clean) and our prices have dropped slighly on a few things. Check it out for new deals. We are also offering a couple of new exciting activities including a full day gorge in one of the most exciting gorges in North Wales. Check out Trawsffynydd Gorge.

Friday 8 October 2010

Not Blogged

Well, I've not blogged for a while. Seem to get tied up in other stuff and forget to blog. Lots of work going on at the moment to make the company a bit better and appreciating feedback as to which areas to focus on. Sad times last month when Dave one of my most reliable instructors left me to get a "proper" full time job. He must be regretting that by now...
That left a big hole in my staffing and has made me think about staffing for next year as I really relied on him. I think its time we had a full time member of staff for the summer at the least.

Still looking for that elusive premises in which to run the company but which has so far eluded me. There are so few options in this valley of places to get. Found a few but they are either ridiculous terms or too small or in the wrong place. I'm sure we'll find somewhere at some point between now and next March.

Lots of First Aid and Open Canoeing going on this winter. REC trainers qualification to finish off and also a few expeds to do to Scotland. Loch Shiel is looking good for February. Loch Ness next summer is also looking good again. Have missed my boating in Scotland. Got my 5 star to finish off too so all in all a busy winter ahead.

Monday 22 March 2010

Summer's Coming

We folks it's been a long cold winter this year and we have seen an awful amount of snow and cold weather. But what with the clocks going forward this weekend(don't forget) I think spring has sprung and then summer will be here before we know it.
So far this year we have done a lot of mountain bike training and we've had the odd school group in.

The weather is due to break this week and rain is on the way so it might be time to dig out the canoe poles and paddles and head off onto the rivers for a bit of a play next week.

I have a good feeling about this year, we have a good number of fun jobs lined up for this year and some cool expeds organised.

Stay tuned and we'll keep you informed throughout the year.

Happy spring.


Monday 4 January 2010

New Year

Well, thats Christmas out of the way for another year. The tree in the office came dwon yesterday and the tinsel too. We are preparing for the New Year ahead. Everyone seems to be saying it will be a hard year but we are confident that it will be good.

Lots of things to look forward to this year. Check this blog regulary to check out whats going on with us.

For now we are focusing on changing the website slightly so keeo watching this space.......