We all need outdoor education. Here’s how to support it.

This week, thanks to a great piece of research work from Plas-y-Brenin (The National Outdoor Centre) . I read the fantastic news that almost a third (32%) of the British population have tried a new outdoor activity since the start of lockdown.

Trying a new outdoor activity

Ordnance Survey, Street to Peak

That’s almost 17 million UK adults who have experienced the challenge and exhilaration that outdoor achievement delivers. The Plas-y-Brenin ‘Outdoor Aware 2021’ report (definitely worth a read) also reveals that 32% of people plan to continue their new-found enjoyment of being outside once lockdown ends.

Outdoor centre closures

This is good news for outdoor centres and professionals who have struggled throughout the pandemic but for many it may come too late. In March 2021 the BBC reported that at least five outdoor centres in Wales alone had been forced  to close.

Some centres are back up and running again but they badly need to replenish lost income if they are going to continue to deliver the skills and confidence so many of us are now clearly valuing.

Outdoor education is for everybody

If you feel that outdoor centres or coaching from outdoor professionals isn’t for you, please let me put your mind at rest. Whatever your level of experience, you are unlikely to find a more encouraging or supportive bunch of people on this planet.

Although I’ve never worked at an outdoor centre, I’ve visited many. I’ve raised two outdoor instructors, been on two family adventure holidays, and worked part time as an outdoor instructor for over fifteen years. I can honestly say that I’ve never had an outdoor adventure experience (provided by professionals or volunteers) that I haven’t benefitted from.

We (society and individuals) need our outdoor centres and outdoor professionals more than we realise. Our wellbeing, outdoor safety, and ability to look after our outdoor spaces, all depend on enough us learning enough appropriate skills.

How you can help outdoor education

There are lots of ways we can all support outdoor education. Outdoor centres are great adaptors and you’ll find all kinds of experiences and training available all over the UK. Here are three ideas to get you started:

Turn your family staycation into an adventure

Land and Wave Dorset

You really don’t need to go overseas to enjoy a family adventure holiday. We had our first years ago with Acorn Adventure in the Wye Valley. It was fantastic being amongst like-minded families, we never once had to worry about entertaining the kids, and it sowed the seeds of instructor careers in both our boys.

There’s nothing, by the way, like the outdoors to level the parent/child playing field. Our kids were all better than me at almost all the activities we tried, and none of them made quite as much fuss at being at the top of a ladder as I did (they still don’t)!

Visit your local outdoor centre

Land and Wave Dorset

Stay at home adventures have plenty of advantages. Your own bed at night, a bubble bath to warm up, and a full set of clean clothes in the morning. If you’ve never visited your nearest outdoor centre, perhaps 2021 is the year to do so.

I just checked out my nearest centre, Grenville House in Brixham. I’ve visited them a few times, and always enjoyed myself. They offer a whole range of land and water based activities, as well as ones that leave you dangling from ropes.

One of the big advantages of outdoor centres over individual providers is that you can generally be really sure of their qualification and safety standards. Many of them offer family activities during the school holidays, and every time you enjoy one of these, you’ll be helping the centre to continue their important work with school groups.

Go YHA instead of Airbnb

If you’ve never stayed at a YHA hostel, you might be surprised by how much you enjoy the experience. With accommodation right across England and Wales (visit Hostelling Scotland for Scotland), the YHA has a bit of outdoors magic for everyone. Not only that, the YHA has three dedicated Activity Centres where you can take part in an exciting range of family outdoor activities alongside experienced instructors.

The YHA is reopening and taking bookings for this summer. Whether you want to enjoy your own room, glamp, camp, sleep in a barn, or even hire a whole hostel for a family get together, the YHA has plenty of options (and you won’t even have to cook your own dinner).

You might not know, by the way, that the Youth Hostel Association is a registered charity. Their mission is to ensure that, ‘Everyone has access to the benefits of adventure, for the first time and a lifetime.’ That everyone includes all of us but the YHA do great work in providing support for young people.

Adventure is out there

If you fancy trying something new outdoors, or want to get more experience with something you loved last year, please give our outdoor education centres a boost this year. They need us. But perhaps not as much as we need them!




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