GOActivities.co.uk Beta trial (not betamax!)

The prototype of the GO Activities site is looking “insanely great”. If you would like to be one of the very first people, outside our close knit team, to get to see it, and test it to destruction before it is unleashed into the wild, then please drop us an email to: info@goactivities.co.uk
Many thanks
Mike

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GO Activities Go Kayaking

There’s something about the Lake District that makes you hungry. Signs to Appleby, Scotch Corner, and of course the horizon littered by sheep and cows.

Luckily, when I was invited by Distant Horizons , a new supplier for GO Activities, to take come see them,  I was also offered lunch by the lake. I couldn’t drive quickly enough.

I show off my paddling skills in Ullswater

Distant Horizons was started in 1993, and the MD Jason Beverley who I met has been involved in outdoor activities for 25 years.

On meeting him, his enthusiasm for the outdoor was clear. Wearing Petzl and Mountain Hardwear gear he greeted me from a bona fide country house/office conversion, complete with 30 acres of land, farm dog (okay, a spaniel) and the pre requisite Land Rover.

I got out in my waterproofs after the drive and prepared to be popped into another small enclosed space- a tandem sea kayak for my day with Jason.

Jason reassured me after I asked ‘how cold is the water’ and ‘how likely is it I’ll capsize’ that I wouldn’t fall off the kayak ,and should it capsize (which was unlikely) he could rescue me in a jiffy.

I’d like to say that kayaking is all a chip off the old block, and that at the weekend I like nothing more than climbing, bouldering and extreme horse riding, but in reality, I represent a great portion of the UK that is alien to most of the outdoors. Having grown up away from hills, trees or much farmland, my outdoor skills are limited to say the least and the idea of just ‘hopping in a kayak’ or ‘booking a surfing weekend’ is naturally daunting.

I nervously explained this at my job interview, and as I prepared to be shunned, I was informed that I could in fact be a benefit. For every keen ghyll scrambler (a hobby involving leaping into cold water, feet first) there’s an Elaine who spends weekends shopping, looking over at the climbers, walkers and people with hobbies, just wondering what it’s like.

The idea of GO Activities is to make getting into the outdoors accessible, so even if you’re the type of person who would rather have a cup of tea and watch other people climb/scramble/capsize in cold UK waters, you get a choice to learn what these things are, and then to book an adventure!

Jason the MD shows me around

With this in mind, GO Outdoors’s  mantra of  ‘fun and adventure in the outdoors’ was repeated to myself in the mirror before setting off the Penrith over the wet Snakes Pass from Sheffield.

Welcomed with tea and allowed to use the on site facilities (which are gorgeous) and a after tickle with the farm dog, it was then time to see the boats! All the boats are made by Wilderness Systems in the USA and vary from 12 tandem sea kayaks 16 single seater kayaks, 8 sit on tops, and 16 open top or ‘Canadian style’ canoes. “ We can get 60 people out on the water at once- and that’s quite a sight!” Exclaims Jason. With a staff ratio of 1 to 5, the training is certainly impressive.

Jason also showed me around the rest of the area which includes 30 acres of land, a dedicated climbing, abseiling and dry tooling wall, a space for indoor archery and even circus training skills (more on this later). As a group you are met on site, rather than having to drive to a lake, where you will meet your team and be kitted out in your gear- Distant Horizons offer all the gear, from fleeces and waterproofs to wellies, hats and gloves. You can come prepared though with gear from GO Outdoors- I was wearing my Craghoppers Kiwi Stretch trousers, a North Ridge Pumori jacket and North Ridge Firefly e-Vent boots.

So onto the lake itself. Ullswater is beautiful, or it least it was once I arrived- I must have brought the weather with me. Kitted out in my waterproofs and wellies I was taught how to use the paddle and shown how the kayak works. Then I made my way into the boat, a graceful manoeuvre based on putting my bum on the side and sliding in with a thud (although the padded seat, plus 3 layers of clothing and my Hi Gear Overtrousers did keep me unharmed.)

With Jason in the back, we paddled Ullswater which is 7.5 miles each way, taking in sights like Helvellyn, Catseye Cam and the Sharrow Bay hotel where Nicole Kidman has stayed, as well as spending time looking for pike, swans, ducks and the deer that wander on the lakeside.

I asked Jason about his hobbies, which include, but aren’t limited to: telemark skiing, potholing, abseiling, as well as mountain climbs in the Himalayas, climbing in Thailand and more. It’s clear that Jason is a man who loves adventure and is really living his dream. He remembers being 10 years old, off on a ski trip with school to Cairngorm, and watching as big ‘bearded men climbers with tartan shirts’ wandering off into the mountains for winter climbing adventures. He knew at 10 that he wanted to work in the outdoors and nothing else.

I asked if he was scared of anything, after the idea of sleeping in a snow hole made me cold by proxy and ask him for gloves. “Not really.” Was the short answer. Jason told me about how he has worked hard to ensure all the kit is the best (even avoiding the company name to branded on the gear to avoid being ostentatious), and that his staff are well paid and happy. He is also keen to stress that the experiences Distant Horizons provide are  “for anyone, complete beginners to experts.” His passion is similar to ours ensuring the outdoors is open to anyone.

“My least favourite thing to hear is ‘I can’t do that’ or ‘lucky you, getting to do that’ or ‘I wish I could do that..’ you have the ability, you just need the inspiration. That’s why I like working with groups and doing team building out here, you can give someone a small mind shift and show them they are capable. We get people who have never jumped into open water doing lakeside cliff jumps really enjoying it.”

I saw the cliff, which wasn’t too daunting, but did look a bit cold. Luckily, before I was goaded to leap, it was time for a picnic. We moored up and Jason cooked lunch of soup and tea, as well as an array of fruit, crisps, cakes, chocolates, drinks and sandwiches. Jason told me that for larger groups, BBQ’s can be brought, but for our needs, it was out with the Trangia for the real experience.

A leisurely lunch!

As I wolfed down a millionaire shortbread and watched ramblers walk by and saw one of the oldest steam boats in the world trawl past us on the sun dappled lake I asked Jason what his plans for the future are.

Enthused about so many elements, it’s clear that Jason is a big people person. He told me about a group of circus skills trainers he had stay last year who he intends to get back to help teach groups. He is also running an adventure challenge, a race that combines orienteering, kayaking or even biking for groups. He plans to offer stop over tours for the Summer and Easter holiday where groups who have never even slept outdoors can spend a day kayaking, can moor up in a bivvi camp and can catch and cook fresh fish, before sleeping in the wilderness and heading home across the lake the next day.

Distant Horizons are also part of other events like the 3 lakes, a day of paddling Coniston water, Ullswater and Windermere, or training people before events, as well as taking people on trips to Nepal. They are also involved in offering activities for the Ullswater festival, and lake clean ups so Ullswater stays clean for locals.

After lunch it’s time to head back. As I paddle in shore, using my finest, newly learnt techniques, a local on a boat shouts ‘nice paddling!’ ‘Thank you!’ I say, chuffed with a grin and a flip of my hair.

‘She’s trying her best’ says Jason at the same time.

Oh. It looks like I might need a little more practice….

Elaine

The Anti Glamping Movement

There are plenty of camping top ten’s that feature the best glamorous campsites. The top ten glamping sites. The best campsites with wi-fi, super showers, parking, onsite chefs and electricity for your Macbook.

But is this really what camping is about? Camping should be about getting out there and roughing it whilst you can surely? Before it’s time to go back home to the real world with its washing, bills, and your managing director BBMing, texting and ‘poking’ you.

Oak Cottage demonstrating real camping!

Packing up your tent, sleeping bag, pots and pans as well as your loo roll and a torch, you get a real sense of adventure when you are real camping, that many yurts, stylish pods and cozy guesthouses have eliminated.  Some campsites don’t even allow you to pitch your own tent! We think this is madness.

So as an antithesis to the other glamorous top tens- here’s a list of the Top 10 Real campsites from Camping Ninja, who know their stuff when it comes to idyllic, secluded but not boring, beautiful, ‘real’ campsites.

Wetherdown Lodge Campsite      

In the Roman invasion of Britain, Hampshire was one of the first areas to fall to the invading forces. If you feel ready to fall down, knackered to a weekend of sleep, stove cooked bangers and beans and relaxation, then might we suggest the idyllic Wetherdown Lodge in Petersfield, Hampshire. This is a great spot if you want to get away and explore the south of England. Based around one communal campground this has a fire pit and plenty of space for you to meet people, but it also offers private bays for precious alone time!

Surrounded by trees this feels like a your own little haven, and with wood supplied from woodlands, local charcoal, a straw bale building and solar power, this is far removed from the stresses of urban life.

Because the Wetherdown Lodhe is right near the South Downs National Park, you can easily get involved in walking, cycling and horse riding.

Dernwood Farm Wild Camping    

If animals make you coo with delight and the idea of a cow sitting under a local tree makes your heart sing rather than your mouth salivate, you’re going to love it in Dernwood in Heathfield East Sussex.  (And if it does make you salivate, the home produced beef and pork you can buy will sort that out…)

Nestled in  70 acres of ancient woodland 25 minutes away from Eastbourne, this campsite is also a farm, so you have animals like pigs, badgers, cows, rabbits and buzzards roaming around, and as well as a  chance to enjoy the peace and quiet the onsite falconry experiences, group campfires and real camping experience. A 10 minute walk from your car, this gives you a real sense of ‘getting away from it all’ – especially when you get to cart your gear to the pitch in a wheelbarrow.

Oak Cottage Campsite  

 

If you want to explore the Royal Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire without resorting to wild camping and an angry Tony Martin esque experience on someone else’s land, you need to try Oak Cottage.

Based in between the Wye Valley and the forest, this is a flat land area with wildlife, footpaths, trails and plenty of pitching space for your idyllic getaway.

Onsite eggs, milk or bread help you survive your long weekend, and the nearby sights like Go Ape for a spot of treetop climbing, Wintours Leap for climbing and Severn Bore for getting out on the tide surfing or kayaking makes this a great active getaway.  Horse riding, canoeing and walking, get back to nature at Oak Cottage.

Llechwrd Riverside  

If you’re determined to climb, walk or scramble Snowdon, then you don’t want to spoil your rugged, adventurous appearance you have with your new buddies by settling down in your wi-fi connected yurt for the evening. Llechwrd riverside is a traditional camping site that is right in Snowdonia’s National Park, so it’s spot on if you want to spend your time away climbing,walking, kayaking, cliff jumping and horse riding on the local trails.

Bring your mountain bikes and pitch up in the area known as Maentwrog, Blaenau Ffestiniog, a tongue twister that’s packed with beauty.

Wake up with a view of the River Dwyryd full of otters, kingfishers and other stunning animals, and spend mornings walking to The Rhaedr Cynfal waterfall and evenings on Felinrhyd Bach, pony trekking off the calories from your dinner or your ales from the nearby pubs.

Bush Farm Bison Centre    

 What’s the difference between a buffalo and a bison? You can’t wash your hands in a buffalo. Oh, and Bush Farm doesn’t have any buffalo. But they do have bison. And raccoons, in fact as well as a multitude of animals usually spotted across the pond in America, all living quite happily in Wiltshire, and a visit to Bush Farm is ideal for any animal lover.

Spend an idyllic weekend away getting active in 30 acres of oak woodland surrounded by bison, elk, raccoons, prarie dogs and Guanacos (a pretty looking llama- like animal) before walking in the beautiful area.

Pitch up and then trail the red deer and then have a more English experience with the onsite poultry, owls, rare breed sheep and pigs, chipmunks. Enjoy teas and cakes as well as the seclusion on site that many larger campsites lack and go home feeling refreshed.

Etherley Farm    

   Etherley Farm, found in Ockley, Surrey, offers a real camping experience for anyone wanting a good, country trip with a tent, a backpack and a stove. Found at the bottom of Leith Hill you are right on the cusp of the National Triust Etherley Farm Loop Walks.

You can collect wood from he store, get your kindling at the ready and before you know it youc an be cooking your store bought eggs, sausages and bread for a butty of champions.

There’s a local pub and some walks to do in Wisley gardens, Boxhill and Polsden Lacey but if you’re aftera  weekend of reading, relaxing and general R&R, Etherley farm is ideal.

Pleasant Rise Farm, Alfriston Campsite     

Pleasant Rise Farm in Alfriston, East Sussex just sounds nice doesn’t it? Luckily it’s name doesn’t deceive and this campsite is tucked away in the South Downs National Park right near the Cuckmere river, the quaint village of Alfriston and even the Drusillas Zoo.

Really natural and interesting, this has plenty of facilities but is ideal if you want to see the local nature and parks.

The walks to be found along the South Downs Way and a trip toWorld Nature Centre are also an ideal way to spend a day.

Roadford Lake      

 If water sports is your thing and you want a day of adventure rather than reading with your feet up, may we suggest a trip to Roadford lake in Lower Goodacre, Lifton, Devon close to the Dartmoor National Park.

A 3 star site, this is an amazing site if you want a clean, simple and perfectly placed campsite for a weekend of kayoing, canoeing, cycling, walking , indoor climbing, archery, surfing and more.

Based near a 740 acre woodland and with the local lake filled with boats, rowers and people, your mornings can be spent canoeing round the lake, or using the lake ferry, fishing off a boat or bank, as well as walking on water with ‘wowballs’ or exploring the Cornish coastline and seaside at Bude.

Stithians Lake    

 Stithians Lake Country Park in Cornwall is an ideal place if you want to get away from the stresses of everyday life. You can choose to spend your time chilling with fish on the dock (the famous trout weight around 4lb – great for that baguette you brought with you), spotting birds and lakeside walking in the beautiful area of Redruth or Falmouth.

If that sounds  like a schedule set to give you itchy feet and ants in your pants, then fear not. Sithians lake is fantastic for a huge variety of sports thanks to the nearby Outdoor + Active centre where you can try your hand at windsurfing, sailing, rowing and kayaking,

Families can use the cycle trail, go the seal sanctuary in Gwythian and check out Gelndurgan gardens, so there’s plenty to do.  Oh, and there is a absolutely lovely pub called The Golden Lion nearby. (But you have to cook on your stove at least one night for the real experience. Deal? Good.)

Lochranza Camping site  

 Stay at the Lochranza campsite in Arran, and prepare to feel very majestic all of a sudden. It must be the Scottish west coast wind, or maybe the sight of wild red deer, the medieval castle, the whiskey distillery or the beautiful setting, but Lochranza will make you feel a bit medieval yourself.

There’s hot water and plenty of clean facilities though, so you won’t get an experience worthy of a serf, but you can still keep up the face that it’s yesteryear with a trip to said distillery,  a walk or a cycle ride, a tour of the Scottish Highlands and Islands, and a trip on the ferry to Kintye where you can sing Mull of Kintyre until it’s time to come back to the campsite.

The site itself is a great place to visit Skipness beach and castle, to play gold, and makes a base to get involved in fishing, kayaking and pony trekking.

Do you have any experiences of real campsites? Let us know!

Elaine