Swanage outdoor education businesses are riding the wave of a boom in school bookings with a record number of children signed up for 2022.
Land & Wave based at Prospect Business Park and Cumulus Outdoors based in Cobblers Lane are expecting to cater for more schoolchildren than ever this season. It’s a turnaround in fortunes after last year saw the collapse of one local provider, Allnatt Outdoors.
It’s a record year of bookings for school trips
“Busiest it’s ever been”
Rosie Tanner, marketing director of Land & Wave, said:
“It’s a record year for us. Our school trip business is the busiest it’s ever been.
“It’s a combination of schools not going on foreign trips and a new appreciation of the benefits that outdoor education can have for not just physical but mental health. Children have had such a rough time over the last couple of years.”
Rosie Tanner, marketing director at Land & Wave
Many firms have closed
There were no trips at all in 2020 and trips in 2021 were on a knife edge until the last minute.
Steve Thompson, director at Cumulus Outdoors, said despite restrictions 2021 had been a positive year for the firm but this year is even better. He said:
“2022 is set to be a record year at both our residential centre and tented villages as we extend our range of activities as well as expanding our field studies programme.
“We’re already booked for the main season in 2023 and also taking bookings for 2024. It has been very rewarding to see all the young people out enjoying themselves again in the great outdoors.”
The benefits of outdoor adventures are many
Not so fortunate, Swanage-based firm Allnatt Outdoors closed in January 2021 as a result of the economic pressures of Covid. The firm, which was set up in 1924, was forced to bow out before its centenary.
Meanwhile, Owen Senior and David Mutton, founders of Land & Wave set up in 2009, stepped down as directors in 2021, leaving a new management team to take up the reins at a difficult time.
Allnatt Outdoors closed in January 2021
Rosie Tanner, of Land & Wave, said:
“It has been a turbulent time for the outdoor industry. Many centres have closed down, unable to weather the covid storm. That’s meant the demand for trips is greater than ever for those centres that survived.
“We’ve had five schools make enquiries in just the past couple of weeks after they had their trips cancelled due to staff shortages at other centres in the UK. But we are fully booked so sadly we had to turn them away.”
The firm is expecting to see more than 6,500 children on its holidays in 2022, that compares with a total of 4,284 in 2019 before covid.
Riding the wave of the boom in UK school trips
“Positive effects of outdoor adventure”
Simon Thompson of Cumulus said:
“After such a difficult time, the positive effects of outdoor adventure and learning are clear to see in students visiting Cumulus Outdoors for a residential school trip.”
He said the mental and physical benefits of outdoor learning are well documented.
Many studies have found that spending time outdoors can improve peer relationships and lead to greater connectivity with nature. This can pave the way for better outcomes in the school environment and have a positive impact on the wider community.
Field study with Cumulus Outdoors at Durdle Dor
“Range of people”
Land & Wave, meanwhile, says one of the reasons they have been able to weather the storm and find staff who are in short supply is because during the winter months they run an intensive 15-week training programme which allows people to become qualified outdoor instructors.
“We get a whole range of people joining the course, from those in their fifties wanting a change of direction after a career stuck indoors to those leaving school or college and wanting a career but not wanting to go to university.”
Having its own training course for instructors has helped Land & Wave
“Never seen a cow”
Children coming on the outdoor adventures are from all over the UK. For some this will be their first trip to the seaside and the countryside.
“Many children visit Dorset and have their first experience of the sea and sand between their toes. Some children from inner city schools have often never even seen a cow in a field before, so to be able to help them experience nature and outdoor adventure for the very first time is such a privilege.”
The firm works with accommodation partners at Swanage YHA and Sandyholme, with most children camping at Purbeck Valley Farm. The children may not be big spenders, but the industry is an important part of the local economy.
“It’s a lot of ice creams and a lot of fish and chips and they love spending their pocket money on souvenirs in the town.”
The area is perfect for outdoor adventures