On the 2024 staff residential, the Mount Cook team visited The Bendrigg Trust in Kendall, Cumbria. The staff residential trips are a great opportunity to visit other centres, meet other people in the industry, and try new activities. As one of the leading outdoor centres in the UK for disability access, our team had a lot to learn from Bendrigg!
At Mount Cook, we are always looking to improve our offering: whether it’s new activities like our Via Ferrata and Rock Climbing, or getting inhouse staff training. Making our facilities and activities as accessible as possible is a key element of our mission: To provide access to the outdoors and outdoor activities for all, especially young people and those who might not otherwise have the opportunity. This includes young people with disabilities, who may face barriers to accessing the outdoors and therefore all the benefits that the outdoors brings, that aren't always considered.
24% of children with a long-term illness or disability report to “often or always feel lonely”, compared to 6% of children with no long-term condition.” - Active Lives, 2021 survey
Bendrigg Trust are a fellow AHOEC Gold Standard centre, based on the edge of the Lake District, with over 40 years of experience working with young people with a variety of disabilities and additional needs. The centre itself has stunning views towards the Yorkshire Dales – simply being in such a remote feeling location is an adventure in itself!
Our 2-day trip started with a lunch and welcome talk – we took notice of the dining hall set up that allows guests to make their own teas and coffees and put their own dishes through the washer, which gives a level of independence to all. We met Steve and Sara, who talked us through our itinerary, showed us our rooms and started the "classroom" training session.
The session was part 1 of Disability Awareness Training – we learnt about each other’s experience with disability, outlined what we wanted to learn, and discussed appropriate language and terminology to use when talking about disability. Having honest, frank discussions about pre-conceptions, personal experience, and the impact of awareness was an eye-opening experience.
We had the chance to meet with some of the Bendrigg Trust team and discuss how they worked within their departments, before heading to dinner and a campfire. Braving the January cold, we played a few games, toasted marshmallows and headed to our accommodation.
On the second morning, the January weather turned on us and the snow started coming in, which was slightly scary due to the long country track that Bendrigg’s centre is on, but they were prepared with snow chains and a plan to shuffle our cars.
Once a plan was in place to deal with the snow, we toured the site, including an indoor caving system, a spectacular fully wheelchair accessible climbing wall, and some very impressive accessible accommodation in the Acorn Lodge. Brains buzzing with ideas, we headed home after one final classroom session discussing possible changes we could make around the centre to make it more accessible for a variety of disabilities.
We work with a wide variety of groups who have additional needs or disabilities, including groups like Umbrella – Embracing Abilities, Kidney Care UK, and Type 1 Together. We are far from perfect, but the desire to improve and give as many people as possible the opportunity to access the outdoors is at the core of the Mount Cook ethos.
Thank you to The Bendrigg Trust for this wonderful learning and team building experience. Collaboration within the outdoor industry is a great way to spread knowledge and best practice, for the benefit of young people everywhere. We highly recommend all other outdoor centres visit Bendrigg for a training session to give the young people with disabilities they work with the best experience possible.
A very special thank you to Sara and Steve for looking after us on our stay.
If you would like to make a booking at Mount Cook, call us on 01629 823 702 or email firstname.lastname@example.org