AIM On Target Newsletter 2017

[pdf-embedder url=””]

Manager’s Travels

Here’s the latest blog from our new Mutual Manager Sophia Reed on her travels.

This is a great job and one of the best aspects which I particularly love is getting out and about to meet as many of our AIM Members as possible. This is a very busy season for us as well as for you, with plenty of renewals and the opportunity to come and see you. I have really enjoyed my recent trips and thought that I would share some of these with you, and say a big thank you to the Members who have hosted me and shown me their centres and activities. I hope to meet as many of our other Members as possible over the coming months.

Scotland (first trip!)

I had a super few days earlier in March visiting Aboyne to the west of Aberdeen and meeting Alex from FireTrail and learning all about their annual Illuminator Race which is held in October. This is a 25km night race over varying terrain and which I am very much looking forward to attending later this year. I also learned all about the school groups activities and the Beast 10km obstacle races.

Then I travelled up to Outfit Moray to meet with Tony and learn all about their group events and biking activities and in particular the scheme they have for repairing old and discarded bikes and putting these back into good use. The weather was kind and the coastal scenery stunning!

Next was a stopover in Grantown on Spey and a visit to Suresh at Equal Adventure to see first hand how he puts in practice his Can Do attitude to outdoor adventures for disabled people, and of course to marvel at his incredible workshop! From there to Aviemore and the exciting Zip Trek trail run by G2 Outdoors. Mike Gale there was very kind in showing me round their activities and in taking me up the mountain to the starting point of the zip trek trail, comprising 14 individual zip wires which take the participant from the top back down to the base.

Scotland (second trip)

Being half Scots I relish being up in Scotland and am thrilled we have so many of you there who we can come and see. On this trip I was accompanied by James Willis and we started off on the overnight Caledonian sleeper from London to Glasgow. Then a short hop across to the beautiful island of Arran to visit Colin Morrison at Auchrannie and to take in the sights of their hotel complex and many activities including their large gymnasium. From there we drove up to the top end of the island to Lochranza where we met with Stuart and learned about the school groups who stay at their field studies centre and indulge in geological research, and were treated to stags on the golf course and seals on the rocks at mid tide!


From there we travelled to Oban and met with Jane from Hebridean Pursuits and discussed their charity arm and the work they do with school and other groups in mountaineering courses and development through outdoor experiences.

Our next stop was to meet with James at Ossian Developments and check out with envy their niche luxury riverside lodges and learn about their Segway excursions, an activity which is hugely popular and on the increase with so many of our Members. From there we travelled to see Ben Starkie at Vertical Descents and learn all about their new Via Ferrata which they have constructed in a local gorge, providing a thrilling vertical descent up and across the gorge and waterfall.

The next day after a pre breakfast run (me) and a walk (James) with magnificent views of Ben Nevis we moved indoors at Three Wise Monkeys climbing centre at Fort William and met with Peter and Ollie. The climbing centre is housed in a former church situated on a hill so provides a perfect height and gradient for climbing walls! One of AIM’s newest Members, the clientele is diverse ranging from very experienced climbers and mountaineers, as well as guides, to local families and children’s groups and college students.

From there we rounded off our trip with another visit to Grantown on Spey (again) to meet with Les Durance and to see the accommodation he provides to vulnerable youngsters and the opportunities his company provides to re introduce them into education and give them opportunities to develop and grow as young people.

I boarded a plane at Inverness bound for London and left James with the prospect of a trip to Skye where the Cuillin Ridge beckoned him. More about that shortly!


Cheshire and Wales

I started off with a visit to Woodland Adventure based in Walsall and met with Darren who showed me round their residential accommodation and numerous outdoor activities. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the Year 6 group who were relishing their turns on the zip wire traversing the small lake!

Next stop was Manley Mere where the lake sparkled in the very warm afternoon sunshine and a lovely meeting with Jane who gave me a tour of the centre which provides numerous water sports activities and lake swimming, as well as an adventure trail. The newest addition is the thrilling inflatable challenge course, appealing to both young and old!

After a birthday dinner for my Mum, I set off and headed up to West Lancashire to Rock & River where I was well looked after by Lee and Anna who showed me their new chalet accommodation and recent renovations as well as their variety of activities including a super Swamp Romp and stunning high ropes course!

From there to meet with Dave Orange at Open Door, which is based in a 19th Century manor house, set in a stunning valley, and to hear all about the groups who visit them there and to witness some excellent raft building culminating in an exciting raft race by a Princes Trust group who were on a residential trip. I rounded off my visit with a scramble in the caves!

En route back to the South, my last stop was RYG at Bala to see Ed. Arriving early, I was handed a much needed cup of coffee and met all the staff and learned what activities they were each providing to the Year 5 & 6 school group which was staying at their centre. Climbing, sailing and orienteering were all on the day’s agenda and I rounded off my visit with a tour of the stores and a delicious piece of home made flapjack!

So a huge thank you again to everyone I met with who gave up their time to see me and for their fabulous hospitality. Thank you all for showing me your activities and letting me see first hand what you do.


Glasgow Climbing Centre – Member Profile

Member Profile

The AIM team have been out and about meeting members during busy renewal season. Our Account Executive Ralph Doe recently made it to Scotland to visit long standing member Neil Mackay from Glasgow Climbing Centre/ Climbzone.

Glasgow Climbing Centre have been covered with AIM for over 10 years and are continuing to branch out and try new and exciting activities to add to their portfolio. The unusual premises based in an old church purchased 24 years ago as a derelict shell are now home to a mix of climbing styles from slabs and vertical walls to the steeply overhanging; from short boulder problems to athletic 16 meter routes.

At the Climbzone site you can try your hand at a number of activities including freestanding climbing walls, a state of the art 60m long aerial adventure course called The Skypark, Twin Power Fan Descenders at The Drop and the newest activity The Big Slide. The UK’s tallest indoor slide is 16m high and 40m long. Owner & Director Neil Mackay designed the slide himself and used a fabricator in Germany to build it. It’s generating a lot of interest, both kids and those adults who are young at heart can visit the slide for the same cost.

How long have you been in business and what were your reasons for joining AIM:-

I bought the church that Glasgow Climbing Centre is in 24 years ago, and have been at Soar @ Intu Braehead with Climbzone for 12 years.

Good insurance is an essential part of business – especially when you operate what appear to be high risk activities. In the early days, I was fairly disillusioned with the insurance options that were available within the outdoor activities market and so I was delighted when AIM was started. I signed up immediately as I recognised the benefits of a mutual that worked for its members and not for itself. AIM also understood the actual activities that were being provided by the members and that specialist knowledge made everything easier

What is your most popular activity?

Sky Park and Fan drop at Climbzone. We get a lot of regulars at the Climbing Centre too but it’s always busy at Climbzone and the Giant Slide has been really popular with visitors.

What is the biggest challenge you face running your business?

Staffing. We have a small group of long term staff and a large group of short term seasonal staff. There are high costs involved in training the seasonal staff and many are student studying for exams which can cause problems.

Where is your next holiday destination?

In June I’m taking on the Route Des Grandes Alpes which runs from Geneva to Nice and includes all the highest passes in the Alps. I should have been training since Christmas.

For more information and to read all about the Big Slide at Climbzone please follow these links.




DofE Case Study – Lessons Learned

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) is the world’s leading achievement award for young people.  Its ethos is to enable every young person of every background to take part and succeed, regardless of any barriers.

Many of our Members will be familiar with the programme, in which young people aged between 14 and 24 progress through three levels to achieve a Bronze Silver or Gold award.

It requires persistence, commitment and has a lasting impact on the attitudes and outlook of all young people who do their DofE, building confidence and self-esteem. Awards are delivered under special licence by over 400 partners, many being members of AIM, supporting nearly 11,000 DofE centres including youth clubs, voluntary organisations, schools, colleges, young offenders institutions and businesses.

As with any worthwhile award, there is no guarantee that all participants will achieve the required standard. As well as successes there will be disappointments and occasionally a disappointed parent may look for someone to blame for their child’s unexpected set-back, be it a DofE Award or an elusive A* grade. There may be an element of this in two claims for personal injury compensation arising from DofE activities.

Claim 1

The first claim involves a high achieving schoolgirl, Emma, participating in a Gold practice expedition managed by the school with the help of qualified instructors hired to assist in specific elements. Emma developed a strain, which may have been an exacerbation of a previous shoulder injury, from stoically carrying her rucksack through the expedition, despite suffering discomfort. Offers were made by staff to take her rucksack, which she consistently turned down, wanting to continue to the end. By the end of the expedition, the discomfort had developed into a strained shoulder which required attention and physio treatment follow up. Although she withdrew from the actual Gold award expedition, we are told that she was soon back playing netball in the school team. Her disappointed parents decided to sue both the school and the instructors, alleging that their negligence causing Emma’s injury.

Claim 2 –

The second claim involves a schoolgirl, Coral, in a group of seemingly less than enthusiastic or uncooperative participants in a Silver award expedition. In deteriorating misty and drizzly conditions, the specialist provider managing the expedition, decided to call the groups off the hillside shortly after midday. This instruction was acknowledged by Coral, who had been appointed as the nominated point of contact in her group. However, shortly after the call, Coral went “off air”; her phone had been turned off and the group was no longer in contact. An hour later, communication with the group was re established (briefly), as they had met up with another group with a working phone and once again they were instructed to come down off the hill. It soon became clear that this instruction too was not complied with and they were off air again, so the leaders set out themselves to search for the group. Later, some 45 minutes later, the leaders received a phone call from the group; they were now situated even further up the hill, cold and wet. This time they were told to put up a tent for shelter in an area that is visible to rescuers and have some hot food to keep warm. However, they decided to settle inside a wooded area out of vision and telephone Mountain Rescue. A while later they were helicoptered out, colder and wetter.

Coral’s parents blame the expedition provider and have lodged a claim for compensation alleging that a “non-freezing cold injury” to their daughter’s feet was caused by their negligence. Who actually is deemed to have been at fault for this non serious injury will be decided in court.

Lessons learned

In both cases the injuries are minor and the claims detract from the work that the schools and instructors put in to provide the real benefits to their charges that the DofE programme offers to young people and society as a whole. Both cases have cost the schools and providers a great deal in terms of potential cost and management time and, in Emma’s case, school has decided not to manage any more DofE programmes in the future.

In the first case, admirable though Emma’s determination to carry on was, had she accepted the help with her rucksack that she was offered, it is likely she would have continued and achieved her Gold Award. So for teachers and providers, it is important that individual participants and their attitudes are monitored closely. Where a school is managing the programme and hiring instructors for specific elements, it’s important that the division or delegation of responsibilities is made crystal clear and documented at the outset.

In the second case, a lack of commitment of some of the participants seems apparent. It’s important that the expedition programme manager, as well as constantly monitoring the commitment of participants, ensures that the parents too actually “buy in” to the programme. They can contribute by supporting their kids jointly with the teachers at school, so that all parties are committed and fully aware of the responsibilities and rewards involved in the challenge.

The names of the participants have been changed to preserve anonymity. 

AALA Licensing – AIM Member Survey Results

What our members said

We recently sent out a member survey to gauge members views on the AALA Licensing review and we had an excellent response rate with members submitting their views to the three options posed by the HSE.  For those of you not familiar with this, the HSE have set up a review to the current AALA licensing scheme and were asking all providers to respond.

  • Option 1 – Retain the AALA regulations and current licensing scheme underpinned by the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and increase fees
  • Option 2 – Retain the AALA regulations and current licensing scheme underpinned by the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, extend the activities in-scope and increase fees.
  • Option 3 – Removal of the AALA regulations and move to an industry-led; not-for-profit accreditation scheme underpinned by the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, to provide assurance to users of outdoor activities

The HSE survey is now closed and the HSE have advised that all responses will be analysed and will engage further with stakeholders to further develop the preferred option.

As AIM is a membership community providing Public and Employers liability cover to activity providers we have also submitted our own response. Responses from the members can be viewed here.  If you require further information about the survey please do not hesitate to contact me on [email protected]

[pdf-embedder url=””]

Sense & Defensibility – Recent Legal Cases and what you need to know

Our Mutual Manager Sophia Reed presented an update at our member event on some legal cases which provide valuable lessons learned on claims.  A copy of her slides can be viewed here.

[pdf-embedder url=””]






Data file

GDPR – Love it or Loathe it

At our member event recently in Plas Y Brenin we heard from Ron Ruston at Kennedy’s Law who gave us a light hearted talk on GDPR and what organisations need to know about the new regulations.

There were some excellent points which came out of the discussions and many members asked us to share the slides so they could use these when they got back to their place of work.

In brief what you need to know is:-

GDPR comes in to force on 25th May 2018 and will build on the current Data Protection Regulations 1998

What does it mean?

It means you have to manage and protect personal data that you hold

Why do we need to comply?

  1. To avoid potentially heavy fines from the Data Commissioner
  2. To reduce risk of legal action from the individuals in the event of unauthorised use

[pdf-embedder url=””]

If you are interested in finding out more about our member events, either to present or to attend, please email [email protected]


AIM Surveys Members – AALA Licensing

AALA Licensing Member Survey

The HSE has been reviewing the AALA licensing regulations to consider the future of these and the form and scope of the regulations going forward. They have now produced three options for the future.  These are:-

  • Option 1 – Retain the AALA regulations and current licensing scheme underpinned by the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and increase fees
  • Option 2 – Retain the AALA regulations and current licensing scheme underpinned by the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, extend the activities in-scope and increase fees.
  • Option 3 – Removal of the AALA regulations and move to an industry-led; not-for-profit accreditation scheme underpinned by the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, to provide assurance to users of outdoor activities

All interested parties are requested to respond to the HSE survey and the deadline date for the response is the 9th March.

AIM wishes to gauge its Members’ views in advance of this deadline date and has emailed all members requesting they complete a survey so we can assess these views.

Please check your inboxes for this email and click the link within to commence the survey.  Please will you complete the survey by the 21st February so we can review the results in advance of the deadline.

As directly involved in  the industry we strongly encourage you to respond to the HSE direct as well using the link here.

The HSE have advised that after the discussion document is closed, the responses to the questions will be analysed.  They will engage further with stakeholders to further develop the preferred option.


Legal Update from BLM Law

Sports injuries: thrills carry risks

Sophia Reed of BLM reviews Hood v Forestry Commission [2017] Preston County Court (District Judge Burrow)

The facts

The claimant was injured whilst using a mountain bike trail at Grisedale Forest which was operated by the defendant. At the time of the accident the claimant was leaning on his bike and was turning to his right in order to leave the boardwalk when he alleged that the rear wheel of his bike slipped off the boardwalk, causing him to fall from his bike and to suffer serious leg injuries.

The claimant argued that the boardwalk was unsafe and that the cross-hatching or grove scoring to prevent slippage had worn. Also he alleged that the boardwalk had not been properly maintained and no other safety measures had been carried out to prevent cyclists from coming off the trail.

Liability was denied on the basis that the boards were anti-slip and the cross-hatch scoring was an additional, but not necessary, safety measure that had been added at a much later stage. Also the defendant argued that mountain biking carries with it an inherent risks and dangers, which the claimant had voluntarily accepted when using the trail.


The court unsurprisingly concluded that the defendant clearly owed a duty to the claimant under section 2 of the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957 (“OLA 1957”) to take such care, as in all the circumstances, was reasonable to see that they were reasonably safe whilst on the bike trail.

It was held that on the balance of probabilities it was more likely than not that the accident was caused due to the claimant misjudging his route of exit from the boardwalk and not due to any failure on the part of the defendant. The court reached this finding on the basis that that the mountain bike trail was described as a “red trail” and signage was in place notifying people that it was difficult and suitable for proficient mountain bikers with good off-road riding skills. The court also focussed on the fact that the signage warned that the trail had “challenging climbs, tricky descents and technical features…” and that the claimant had read this signage.

As a result, it was held that the claimant was fully aware and accepted the risk of riding along the trail. Also the claimant had described the trail as being “good” and was on it for a considerable period of time prior to the accident. Further, other riders had used the trail that day with no problems and it was seen that there had been no real deterioration to the route.

Further, the court reiterated the fundamental principle that the duty placed on occupiers is not absolute and is instead to “take reasonable care in all the circumstances”. On the facts, it was held that the cross-hatching was visible and although it was worn it was not the only mechanism that was in place to provide protection from slipping. It was also noted that the trail had operated without the cross-hatching for a period of six years and the boardwalk was to be completely removed just a few days after the accident for other unrelated reasons.

The court concluded that the defendant’s duty under section 2 of the OLA 1957 did not require the installation of the cross-hatching or grooving. It was held that this was an additional, non-compulsory, safety measure to prevent slipping but the defendant did not have to guard against the risk of slipping at all costs.

It was stated that these types of courses are there to provide a thrill to participants and to impose such a high burden on an occupier to protect against every risk would be too great, would take the thrill away and would result in these activities being considered too dangerous to operate. As a result, the claim was dismissed.

What this means for you

This is a welcome judgment where the court made clear that occupiers do not have an absolute duty to protect visitors against every risk of injury. In this case, it was seen that use of the boardwalk trail carried with it inherent risks that the claimant was fully aware of. Also there was signage in place that advised of the type of terrain, warned the claimant that the course was difficult and noted that the course was designed for more proficient and experienced riders.

It should be noted that the court took into account that the claimant had read the signage and had negotiated the rest of the course without incident. Also, it was seen that the grooving or cross-hatching was an additional safety feature, which the defendant had not been under an obligation to install.

This case applied some of the principles in the recent High Court case of Maylin v Dacorum Sports Trust t/a XC Sportspace [2017] EWHC 387 (QB), where it was held that participants accepted the risks when carrying out sporting activities, which posed obvious and inherent dangers.

In this case, the court took a common sense approach by not wanting to place too onerous obligations on sports and activity providers to carry out every possible step to protect participants against every possible risk, especially in circumstances where these risks could be considered obvious.

This case may have been dealt with differently, had the defendant failed to use signage or provide warnings to riders in respect of the nature and difficulty level of the trail. Also, it should be noted that the trail was not seen to be in a state of disrepair but had there been a specific defect that had caused the accident, then liability could have possibly attached, if the defendant had or ought to have been on notice of the defect but failed to repair it.

It is recommended that sports and leisure operators have records of maintenance and inspection in relation to the facilities, equipment, courses etc. that are used by members of the public. Also suitable supervision, guidance and signage should be put in place to assist with minimising the number of accidents and to assist with defending these types of claims.

AHOEC – Association Heads Outdoor Education Centres Conference

The AIM team will be at the AHOEC Conference on 23-24th November at Brathay Hall, Ambleside and we look forward to seeing many of members and industry colleagues.

The theme this year is “Resilience” – your own, your business, your clients

Who are the speakers?

Doug Strycharczyk (AQR) – ‘Mental Toughness’

Chris Ford (Lancaster University) – Disruptive Innovation – part 2

Dr Tom Harrison (the Jubilee Centre) – Developing character

Nigel Vardy – ‘Mr Frostbite’ – will be the after dinner speaker

What workshops are there?

There will be a range of different workshops covering all aspects of the resilience theme.  Confirmed so far:

Mindfulness, Customer Care, Business continuity, Dealing with the media, mental toughness, developing character, wellbeing in the workplace, generating new business, equipment for accessible activities.

Our own James Willis will be presenting a workshop on avoiding and defending claims.

There will be plenty of networking time and also opportunities to make the most of the Lake District.  Early morning bike rides (mountain and road) are possible, and there will be guided bike opportunities on Friday afternoon.