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).