Thank you to our members who took the time to complete our membership survey for 2016. We received responses from over 30% of our AIM members.
Those who completed our survey were automatically entered into a prize draw to win an IPad Air 2, and our lucky winner was Russell Smith of Outdoor Expeditions Ltd in Suffolk. Bradley Mott and Kirsty Savidge, of the AIM team were able to deliver the IPad in person and speak with Russell about his experience in the industry and his newly established business, Outdoor Expeditions Ltd.
Outdoor Expeditions Ltd
After working as a teacher for over 10 years Russell decided a change was in order and in October of last year set up Outdoor Expeditions. Outdoor Expeditions Ltd is a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award approved activity provider that works with schools, organisations and individuals to run or provide access to high quality activities for all. They provide full packages which include training, practice and assessed expeditions.
Russell commented on why he choose AIM:-
“I chose AIM because I felt as a new business it was important to get the right cover and I felt after the research I had done AIM offered the best, this was because they appeared to understand the needs of my business better than anyone else. I originally came across AIM through the Institute of Outdoor Learning (IOL) of which I am a member, I had also read some good feedback on a couple of outdoor Facebook groups I’m a member of. More importantly the thing that appealed the most to me was the fact that AIM was a mutual. I have always been fascinated by the whole mutual/cooperative business model, admiring companies such as John Lewis and my local Co-op – East of England Co-op, and when I started my business I tried to explore how I could work with mutuals and cooperatives. This is why I arranged my cover through AIM and why I bank with my local credit union Eastern Savings and Loans”
AIM was very pleased to welcome Outdoor Expeditions to the Mutual and wish Outdoor Expeditions the best of luck for the future.
We are pleased to welcome Weardale Adventure Centre, a residential multi-activity centre, as a new member to AIM.
Weardale Adventure Centre is an 80 bedded residential centre based in the North Pennines offering high-quality, outdoor and adventure education activities. They were founded in 1978 and ever since has been an integral part of the local community. As a result there are groups that have been visiting the centre for over 20 years.
After working at Weardale Adventure Centre for a number of years, centre manager Kay Sheppard and head of outdoor activities, John Noble decided to take over the business at the beginning of 2016.
The centre is situated in 5 acres of grounds surrounded by beautiful scenery where participants can enjoy on-site activities as well as the use of local venues.
Weardale Adventure Centre focus on delivering high quality educational programmes to school groups between the ages of 8 and 18 as well as offering activities to individuals, families and corporate events.
The centre offers a range of activities including high ropes, bushcraft, climbing, archery, gorge walking, mine exploration, canoeing, kayaking, raft building, camping, hiking and orienteering. As well as the activities Weardale offers canoeing courses, climbing courses, corporate training, first aid courses and navigation and hill skills.
AIM was happy to welcome Weardale Adventure Centre to the Mutual and wish them the best of success for the future.
John Noble, Director of Weardale Adventure Centre has this to say;
“We have found AIM very professional, helpful and friendly. The seminar I attended in London was very informative. We look forward to working with them for many years to come.”
For more information on Weardale Adventure Centre please contact them by visiting:-
AIM Member Profile
Established in 1999 on the site of a former RAF base in Plymouth, the Mount Batten Watersports and Activities Centre is one of the foremost Outdoor Education centres in the South West.
It opens all year round to provide a wide range of watersports and land-based adventure activities for individuals, groups and affiliated clubs and associations. Located on the tidal estuary of the Plymouth Sound, the centre facilities include accommodation for up to 60 guests, boat storage and a waterside cafe bar that is open to the public.
Watersports offered include canoeing, coasteering, kayaking, sailing, stand-up paddleboarding and windsurfing. Land-based activities within easy reach of the centre include caving, gorge walking and rock climbing on limestone crags.
School groups visit the centre throughout the year and travel from as far afield as North Wales, Lincolnshire and Cornwall. Currently most groups that visit are from secondary schools but in recent years the centre has seen an increase in the number of primary schools attending, particularly from the immediate catchment area in and around Devon.
From Not-For-Profit to Charitable Status
The centre operates on a long-term lease from Plymouth City Council and has successfully operated as a “not-for-profit” company for many years. It has recently completed a transition to charitable status and now operates as the Mount Batten Centre Charity Trust. Alex King, Centre Manager, says that the prime reason for becoming a charity was to access a wider range of potential funding sources:
“With our newly established Charity status we will be able to access funding and grants, and benefit from tax relief, enabling us to increase our offering and make further improvements to the Centre, ensuring that all of our activities continue to be for the benefit of the Plymouth, and wider, community.”
Alex explained that the process of changing to charitable status was not without its challenges and he would be happy to offer advice to any other centre considering such a move. The process took many months and was not at all straightforward. Some of the centre’s trading activities have stayed outside the charity within a not-for-profit company that operates in parallel to accommodate some of the hospitality services that they provide (bar, weddings, parties, etc.).
One interesting outcome from their new charitable status has been the innovative “Recycle for Rewards” scheme that they have launched with Radio Plymouth to encourage local Primary Schools to earn credit for their school through recycling projects. Credits gained by the schools can then be “spent” on activities at the centre.
Flexible Staff Structure
The centre operates a flexible staff structure with a core team of 10 full-time permanent staff supplemented by a large number of freelance, casual and part-time workers. They employ a full-time Hospitality Manager, a part-time Housekeeper and up to 18 additional hospitality or housekeeping staff on a casual / part-time basis. They have a database of over 70 local Instructors who may help them as required throughout the seasonal peaks and troughs of the year. The centre can have up to 240 guests on the water and activity staff numbers can range from two to 32 per day.
The Mount Batten Watersports and Activities Centre moved to AIM in 2014. In addition to Public and Employers’ Liability cover of £10m and Professional Indemnity cover of £2m, AIM provides property cover for a large fleet of boats and equipment and also arranges the insurance of their 7-seater vehicle with a specialist motor insurer.
Alex King, Centre Manager, values the industry knowledge and expertise within AIM and said that this was a major factor that was considered along with cost savings when making the decision to move from their previous insurer. He appreciates the sense of community that is AIM and the opportunities for Members to help each other. One such opportunity arose recently when Alex, whose previous experience includes the management of a group of UK dry-ski slopes, was invited to share his winter-sports technical expertise with a fellow AIM Member. This was to provide an external review of their procedures relating to a recently acquired dry-ski slope which they had added to their range of managed activities.
Other AIM community events include Member seminars, the AGM and the election of AIM directors. Alex says that he has not been disappointed since joining AIM and appreciates the added value that is provided by a “flexible approach with a personal touch”.
More info: www.mount-batten-centre.com
AIM assists new watersports centre in Glasgow
Pinkston Watersports, a £3.25 million Watersports centre was officially completed and handed over to Scottish Canals and charitable body Glasgow Watersports. Located in Pinkston Basin on the Forth & Clyde Canal, Pinkston Watersports is Scotland’s first and only competition-standard, purpose-built paddlesports venue. Featuring customisable white water and canoe slalom courses – designed by London 2012 course designer Andy Laird – a clean water basin, canoe polo pitches, wet classrooms and heated clubhouse and is expected to attract around 25,000 visitors a year. It will play a key role as a training venue but as a community hub to encourage people of Scotland to get out on the water and lead more active lives.
Iain Braithwaite, the Centre Manager, contacted AIM in October 2013 while the centre was still in construction and enquired about the mutual and getting the right cover in place.
“I have to extend my thanks to the team for the outstanding customer service you have demonstrated to us. From the first phone call, right through to clearing up the final few details AIM have been infinitely helpful and a pleasure to deal with”.
AIM was happy to support this development from early discussions through to the final opening of the site. AIM welcomes Pinkston to the Mutual and wishes all involved in the centre good luck for the grand opening and for the year ahead.
The Mutual is pleased to announce that Dukes Barn an educational trust based in Beeley, in the heart of the Peak District National Park has joined AIM.
Dukes Barn provides group accommodation and outdoor adventure activities to young people of all ages and abilities but its main focus is those children with special needs including Autism, Aspergers Syndrome, Downs Syndrome, children with hearing or sight impairment and those with physical disabilities including wheelchair users.
It offers a wide range of activities and tailors a program to suit the needs of any group but this can include abseiling, rock climbing, canoeing and orienteering. There is a comprehensive list of the activities offered under the website including details of the group accommodation available.
The managers of Dukes Barn Company are highly qualified in the delivery of outdoor adventure activities with many years experience of working with disadvantaged, disabled and special needs children and young adults and in the operational management of centres such as Dukes Barn and is also AALA licensed.
Dukes Barn were, like many centres, left without cover when JLT withdrew its activity provision from the market place and so AIM was happy to provide a quotation for this centre. It welcomes Dukes Barn to the Mutual and wishes them a successful year ahead.
Graham Jones, Head of Centre commented:-
“When approaching the Mutual for a quotation on our insurance we found them to be very friendly, professional and efficient. Transferring insurance to a new company can always be hard work but the Mutual has helped us achieve a smooth transaction”
For more information on Dukes Barn please contact them http://www.dukesbarn.org/index.htm
How Stean Gorge is a unique natural attraction and presents an exciting opportunity for those looking to try some gorge walking, scrambling or other outdoor activity set in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales. The gorge contains a maze of footpaths, caves and potholes which have been hollowed out of the limestone rock by the constant water flow over thousands of years.
Stan and his wife Ann Beer offer a range of activities including Via Ferrata (since 2009), gorge walking, caving and canoeing plus much more. There are also camping facilities, a café and shop available to visitors on site.
The Mutual were happy to assist How Stean Gorge with cover for the public and employer’s liability element of the business, together with buildings, contents and activity equipment. They had been part of the JLT scheme that was unable to continue to offer cover and left many activity providers seeking an alternative at short notice.
The activities that How Stean Gorge provide are similar to those the Mutual is presented with regularly, but the location and setting are certainly something strikingly different.
How Stean truly look to utilize the natural environment to provide access to some amazing activities for groups and individuals alike.
Stan Beer, the owner of How Stean Gorge, requested the quotation from the Mutual and had this to say:
“We were pleased with the knowledge and understanding of this industry by those dealing with our enquiry and are happy that our entire basket of cover is with this professional provider.”
For more information on How Stean Gorge please contact them by visiting:- www.howstean.co.uk
If like How Stean you are an activity provider who needs cover for a range of activities and is in a challenging or possibly unusual location then please don’t hesitate to contact us for a quote and discuss your requirements.
Thorpe Woodlands is a centre which joined the Mutual this September after they came out of local authority arrangement with Suffolk Council and became an independent company.
The centre is set in the beautiful surroundings of Thetford Forest, and offers a fantastic range of adventurous and educational outdoor activities for primary schools, secondary schools, youth groups, FE colleges, universities, adults and corporate groups.
They offer indoor accommodation for up to 46 people in a modern Cedar-clad building which blends perfectly with the surrounding forest and offers a warm and welcome retreat from the outdoors at the end of a busy day. There is also camping facilities for 100+.
The catering team on site provide food for all visiting groups although self-catering options are available if required. The building is all on one level so they have no problem in accommodating people with disability or other additional needs. They also have state-of-the-art accessible shower room featuring hoists, changing bed and shower chair.
Some of the activities offered at Thorpe Woodlands include, 6 High Ropes activities, climbing tower, caves, mountain bike trails, 2 orienteering courses, archery range, kayaks, canoes, zip wires and much more.
Tim Edmonds, Head of Centre at Thorpe Woodlands commented:
“As a centre leaving the Local Authority we were faced with having to find our own insurance – luckily AIM came highly recommended and the transition was smoother than we could have ever expected. From the first enquiry to the actual placing of the policy, the AIM staff were extremely helpful and supportive.”
AIM is very pleased to welcome Thorpe Woodlands to the Mutual.
For more information on Thorpe Woodlands please contact them on www.thorpewoodlands.co.uk
Wolf Mountain is an activity centre set in an urban area but with great access to mountain bike trails and water who joined the Mutual in October 2014. Julian Porter, Director at Wolf Mountain tells us a bit about the set up of the company and what they offer to the community.
“We primarily set up as an indoor climbing wall making use of a closed down sports centre with the main wall actually built in what was a swimming pool. Since inception it was always the plan to add further outdoor activities so that local people can access outdoor activities without the expense of travelling too far. We now have a very large indoor caving system with hundreds of metres of sculptured tunnels and an indoor archery range but we also have the equipment to set up archery off site which is very popular with schools. The centre is set in green belt land, a little oasis in the urban jungle of Wolverhampton, with access on to a 10 mile long disused railway gifting us with an excellent mountain bike trail. Running next to the old railway line is the canal which again has allowed us to offer kayaking and canoeing to groups and schools.
With the addition of these activities it is great that we have found Activities Industry Mutual who understand fully what our company activities are and have been excellent in meeting our insurance needs!’
AIM is very pleased to welcome Wolf Mountain to the Mutual and for more information please contact them on http://www.wolfmountain.co.uk
The Bendrigg Trust is a charitable trust offering residential and non-residential activity courses for groups of disabled and disadvantaged people of any age or ability. Originally founded in 1977 as the Northern Association for Community Care, the Trust operates from a 40-bed centre in Kendal, Cumbria and a Bunkhouse in the Yorkshire Dales. Courses provided range from day visits and residential courses to more adventurous expeditions away from the main centre, in the UK and abroad.
The Centre operates throughout the year and is open 7 days per week to welcome a wide variety of disabled and disadvantaged user groups including special needs schools , colleges and disability organisations from all over the UK. Around 80% of the guests have a physical, learning or sensory disability and up to 10% of the guests can be wheelchair users. The Trust aims to promote integration, encourage independence and build self-confidence through the use of residential experience and the safe provision of adventurous activities.
Outstanding Adventure Activities for Disabled People
The Centre offers outstanding adventure activities for disabled visitors both within their 15-acre woodland site and at nearby off-site locations. Activities include Abseiling, Archery, Canoeing, Caving, Climbing, Fell Walking, Gorge Walking, Low Robes and Zip Wire. Facilities and equipment are specially adapted such as wheelchairs that can be used for abseiling or caving and specially rafted canoes that provide a stable introduction to watersports. The purpose-built indoor climbing facility is very highly regarded and described as one of the finest climbing facilities for disabled people in the UK.
The Trust deliver their programmes with a team of full-time Tutors who are selected just as much for their soft people skills as their NGB qualifications. 10 full-time Tutors are led by a Senior Tutor and assisted by dedicated volunteers who provide additional non-technical support. Up to 150 volunteers work at the Centre throughout each year with many using the experience as part of their Duke of Edinburgh or John Muir award scheme. Staff:pupil ratios are typically double what you would expect to see at an Activity Centre.
Head of Centre, Trevor Clarke, has been with Bendrigg since 1983 following earlier roles in Outdoor Education and he is proud of the unique experiences that his team offer their visitors:
“Key outcomes can include improvements in self esteem, confidence and independence as they experience a sense of achievement through adventure.”
The Trust is often asked to share the vast experience it has gained from over 35 years of working with disabled people in outdoor education and recreation. Bendrigg provide consultancy services to other independent centres and local authorities on access, equipment and inclusivity.
The capital cost of the original centre building was funded by a donation from the Mary Kinross Charitable Trust. As an independent charity, The Bendrigg Trust has always been completely dependent on course fees and fundraising to cover its operating costs. In recent they have faced an increasing challenge as some of their regular visiting groups have struggled to fund their annual trip to Bendrigg.
Further building projects and improvements have only been possible through donations and grants provided over the years. Projects have included a dining room extension, the rebuilding of bedrooms to make better accommodation for wheelchair users and, more recently, an indoor activity centre. Head of Centre, Trevor Clarke, is currently seeking to raise £1m to build a new purpose-designed accommodation block within the grounds. He says that he has found more and more of his time has to be dedicated to fundraising activities in recent years.
Bendrigg has been using the services of Activities Industry Mutual since its foundation and Trevor describes the AIM service as a “refreshing change” from his previous experiences with commercial insurers. Bendrigg value the service and the level of support provided as much as the cost-effective advantage that the mutual approach has brought to the industry.
The Bendrigg Trust is inspected on a biennial basis by the Adventure Activities Licencing Service and the Trust was one of the first centres in the UK to be awarded the AHOEC Gold Standard badge (which includes “Learning outside the Classroom” and “Adventuremark” accreditation).