Discover Adventure Activities Isle of Wight

Adventure Activities IOW started off as a hobby for Owen Burson, a former geography teacher from rural South Wales. Growing organically, every year it has now snowballed into a thriving business, not just on the Isle of Wight, but Essex and Sussex, with Dorset and Hampshire next. Expansion is at heart of his business plan, but it’s a business model a world away from profiteering. The take-home here is that we live in a circular economy:  so let’s give something back to society.

Adventure Activities run a very effective and impressive educational outreach and school enrichment programmes, alongside their sea and land based activities that cater for visitors and the local community alike.  “We see all our activities as a vehicle for personal development,” explains Owen. “Building independence, working with others, experiencing new things to overcoming challenges and obstacles with different types of learning and skill development.”

It all began life eleven years ago, when Owen and his wife Michelle (Mitch) launched a sea kayaking service in Freshwater Bay in West Wight.  Initially based out of a mobile van, he offered training for novices, to coach level and expedition leaders. “The amazing geography of the area led to demand for family kayak sessions and coasteering, so we started employing people seasonally,” says Owen. His wife, Mitch, began to help out as they developed archery sessions around the corner at Afton Farm.

By the end of summer 2011, they set-up HQ at Afton, with a series of landscaped areas with connecting log cabins for offices, kids store room, and classroom. “As demand grew with more and more stag and hen do’s, and families seeking a broader range of activities, we developed other areas, such as mountain boarding, zorbing, climbing-walls, stand-up paddle boarding and the ever popular archery – our biggest seller,” explains Owen. Kayaking is the Number One on most popular stakes, but archery follows it as a close second, although this is changing.

His team also offer bush craft and survival woodland skills with one or two nights away in Brighstone Forest, where you camp outdoors foraging for food, building fires and shelter and learning to cook al fresco. “We make these amazing special flapjacks out of foraged berries and herbs, wrapped in sycamore leaves and baked in the embers of the fire – it’s utterly delicious!” he enthuses. “And the baked potatoes with garlic handpicked garlic are another tasty hit.” Owen also started working with the job centre for young unemployed people to mentor them back to work programme. One of his first intakes, five year ago is still with him working as a school’s instructor himself. Now there are five full-time apprentices working at the IOW branch, while the full-time team of instructors has reached twenty staff, 10 full time and 20 in the seasonal complement.

Three years ago, Owen and his teacher wife Mitch began working with the local council and social services to help disadvantaged kids. “We began to get expelled children from the referral unit where we could work with them to re-engage the child back into education. For us, it’s all about building a relationship to get them captivated by using an activity to help them understand that committing to something brings benefits,” explains Owen.

These children also have to cover numeracy and literacy challenges. “We get them to apply practical skills to a real life issue or situation for example working out a run on mountain boarding they need to use numeracy skills to achieve this or setting out new risk assessment courses, they need to use literacy skills to implement this,” continues Owen.

That child’s progress is then monitored by how often they return to school. “Their school attendance goes up because there is a direct correlation between a child at 15-20% attendance who starts to work with us then increases attendance to 95%,” says Owen cheerfully. YR11’s also achieve qualification courses run by Owen and trained by his team such as first aid certificates, a food hygiene award, or numeracy and literacy certificates.

At Sandown Zoo, Adventure Activities has also partnered up to aid the on-site conservation project by adding a climbing wall and an archery range – not too far from Casper the White Lion. “We really want to engage and educate children with all sorts of skills – even circus skills and bushcraft survival,” says Owen. Planning permission is being considered for another beach side office on Sandown beach for more activities.

Now Adventure Activities have a brand new HQ for their land based activities set in six glorious acres of farmland at Tapnell Park Farm in the West Wight. “We have a large wood cabin as our main booking office and meeting area. With a super-friendly decking lounge coffee area, where visitors can come and unwind, soak up the atmosphere and watch some activities on site such as mountain boarding, zorbing or archery,” says Owen.

As well as mountain boarding, zorbing and archery they also offer a climbing wall on site. All their water-based activities are now based at Freshwater Bay.During the summer holidays Adventure Activities ran the hugely successful Young Adventurers days where kids and teens could spend the day learning a whole range of new skills from archery and bushcraft to paddleboarding and coasteering.

So visitors and Islanders alike can reap the benefits of this great activity centre and sample some of the adventurous delights the Island has to offer.

For more information contact: www.isleofwightadventureactivities.co.uk/ or call 01983 755838.

Sarah Sims

13 September 2016

By Sarah Sims in Articles

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