Friday, January 20, 2012

Corwen Outdoor Capital of North East Wales

After many years of working on the project at Yr Hen Felin turning a run down Youth Hostel into a stand alone activity centre that is making money that is ploughed back into Scouting in Northampton District we have spent a lot of time running activities around the Corwen Area. Through the centre staffs involvement with the Corwen and District Buisness Association we have been able to see th true potential that Corwen has to become one of the great destinations for walking and outdoor activities in the UK. Corwen just has to believe in itself and it could really become the Outdoor Capital of North East Wales. Llangollen has its International Eistedford and advertises itself as the town that welcomes the world to Wales and there is a real buzz in the high street in the Town but for outdoor activities Corwen has so much to offer. The Berwyn is in itself a really remarkable area of the Country vastly overlooked but offers one of the best ridge walks in the Country. Jeremy Ashcroft the mountaineering editor of Trail was full of praise for the Berwyn in his recent article and he has walked all over the world.

Corwen has high mountains on its doorstep but could also offer climbing, water activities and mountain biking all in its backyard. We just need to unlock the potential and let it out. At a meeting today I was privileged to meet Gareth Parry the owner of the best chip shop in the world, situated on the A5 in Corwen, and also for Stone Willy's Pizzas in Cynwyd but he is also an avid mountain biker. Time went by too quickly at our meeting but I think we could both see the potential that Corwen has to the outdoor enthusiasts many of whom simple pass through this fantastic area to travel the extra distance to Snowdonia. To do this simply ignores that fact that you are missing out on some amazing activity areas.

So to the outdoor enthusiasts out there why not have a look at what Corwen can offer you and to our colleagues, friends and neighbours in Corwen what we say is lets share a dream. Let's build the infrastructure to become a world class venue for the outdoors and as in the film Field of Dreams believe that if we build it they will come. It's up to us all to ensure that this dream becomes a reality.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Ty Mawr Country Park

Ty Mawr country park which is about 30 minutes from the centre has all the fun of the farm in the magnificent setting of the River Dee Valley. There are lots of animals you can meet at Ty Mawr such as donkeys, pigs, and goats. You can even feed the free range chickens and ducks or admire Lawrence the guard Llama, who protects the sheep from foxes! There is a childrens play area on site and a bike track.

At Ty Mawr they do not use chemicals and pesticides on the land. That is why they have many species of wild plants and animals and in the summer their traditional hay meadows are full of colour. You can take a gentle stroll down to the river, sit and relax and see if you can spot a salmon jumping!

Picturesquely situated beneath the dramatic Cefn Viaduct on the banks of the River Dee, Ty Mawr provides some of the best scenery around.
Why not take a longer walk along the riverside to the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, along the Cefn Heritage Trail or link up with the Offas Dyke National Trail?
Whether its to admire the view, to see the farm animals or to take a walk, you could take a picnic and have a great day out at Ty Mawr Country Park.

Campion School students complete their Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award Expedition

In July we were privileged to host on their first night a team from Campion School in Northamptonshire who were doing their Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme Expedition. The centre and cottage are ideal for D of E Group expeditions as they are able to use the centre for the first night and then the groups supervisors can make use of the cottage. The following report is taken from the Campion School website.

True to the ethos of The Award, the sixth-form students organised practically everything for themselves. This included booking the camp sites, making travel arrangements and booking an assessor.

Despite leaving early on Friday afternoon to avoid traffic, they still got caught up in traffic jams and heavy rain. After 4 hours on the road, the group finally arrived at Yr Hen Felin Cynwyd Activity and Mountain Centre (near Corwen), just outside of the Snowdonia National Park. Luckily, 4 days of glorious sunshine followed.

During the first evening at Yr Hen Felin Activity Centre, Steve Layt, the group’s excellent assessor, did a pre-expedition check to make sure the group were well equipped. After a good breakfast, the team began their expedition. They hiked from around Llandrillo to Llangynog and Bala Lake. This included three nights’ camping. They tackled challenging areas requiring careful navigation as their routes are relatively un-walked or unmarked.

At the end of the expedition, the group were very tired but incredibly pleased and satisfied with their achievement. They worked extremely well together and are a credit to themselves and Campion School. Thank you to Steve and Kay Layt who were nearby throughout the entire expedition. We are looking forward to seeing their presentation based on the aim of their expedition “The sky and its wonders”. We wish them well with completing the remaining sections of The Award. All being well, they will be presented with The Gold Award at St James’ Palace in 2012.

The team consisted of Rachel Dickson, Larissa Gardner, Lydia Prince, Kelly Oakley, Kizzy Jurgon, Dale Thomas, Matthew Chatting

Monday, November 28, 2011

Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty

THE Countryside Council for Wales today (Tuesday 22 November 2011) welcomed the Welsh Government’s decision to extend the Clwydian Range Area of Outstanding Beauty, to include southern parts of the Clwydian Range, the Vale of Llangollen and parts of the Dee Valley.

The decision follows a statutory consultation process, undertaken by the Countryside Council for Wales.

CCW Chairman Morgan Parry said: “We are delighted with the decision, which confirms all the evidence provided that this is truly an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Whilst the designation gives the area the national recognition it deserves, the key to its success will rest with local management.

“We now look forward to working with the local authorities of Wrexham, Flintshire and Denbighshire, their local communities and landowners, to realise the environmental, social and economic opportunities of this national designation - so that all sectors of society benefit from the sustainable management of the natural environment.”

The Clwydian Range AONB Management Service has an excellent track record in implementing and funding sustainable environmental enhancement projects – experience that can now be drawn on for the benefit of a wider area. CCW will now start detailed discussions with the local authorities on the resources and administrative arrangements required for the future management of the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty as a whole.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Rhug Estate

I recently picked up a leaflet on the Rhug Estate which is one mile west of Corwen so about 2.5 miles from the centre. The estate has a couple of things that are of interest to users of the centre and so we detail these below.

Farm Tours

You can visit the large working organic farm where you will be taken on a guided tour of the farm in a purpose built covered trailer which is complete with audio equipment and full safety features which includes disabled access. On a tour you will see sheep, cattle and bison and will also learn about crop rotation that is key to the success of an organic farm. The cost is £4.50 for an adult and £2.00 for a child under 16 with OAP’s being £4.00. A family ticket for two adults and three children is £11.00.  Private parties can be booked in by prior arrangement by telephoning the estate office on 01490 413000 during office hours the maximum party size for this is 36 with a minimum charge of £100.

As well as the guided farm tour there is also a self guided farm trail.

Farm Shop

The farm shop on site sells fresh meat off the farm (which is superb) and have over 1000 lines of gourmet food items. It also has a popular farm cafe selling organic food off the farm.

The estate are currently constructing a new 60 seat cafe, children’s play area and shops which are all due for completion in 2012. This will make a great place for users of the centre to visit as well as all the people visiting Corwen and those travelling further along the A5 to Snowdonia.

See  the estate web site

Thursday, June 23, 2011

July Trail Magazine

For many years I have subscribed to Trail Magazine which I still consider to be the best magazine for all round interest in mountains and walking. I bought my first Trail magazine on my very first trip to the Lake District and it inspired me to greater efforts with regard to my mountaineering. TGO magazine comes in a very close second and we have been impressed by the first edition of the new format and eagerly await the next few editions to see what that brings. TGO has some very thought provoking articles and we hope that this continues as each of the three regularly read outdoor magazines all bring something a little bit different to the party. It would be a shame for any of them to try and copy each other as this would in my opinion change why I liked all three magazines so much. The third magazine I regularly read is Country Walking. I will say that over the past few months Country Walking has had some good Denbighshire routes in it. Both Trail and Country Walking magazines have recently introduced a new routes service via Trailzilla and this is really excellent and worth subscribing to one of these magazines for the free subscription to Trailzilla.
The July edition of Trail has a real treat in it for centre users with a five page article on the Berwyn Mountains. Jeremy Ashcroft describes ‘The Berwyns Round’ a journey around all the main peaks of the Berwyns and with a little bit more walking this could be adapted to be done from the centre.
We have long advocated that the Berwyn’s are a great set of mountains which are far too often overlooked by people who see North Wales as Snowdonia and therefore ignore the truly great ridge that the Berwyns offer. We are glad that this article, with its stunning photos, brings these great mountains to a widespread audience. If anyone does this walk please drop us an update which we will publish on the Blog.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Annual Report for Northampton District Scouts April 2010 to March 2011

The year up to March 2011 was a good year for the activity centre in Wales. In some ways we can look back on this year and see it as a stepping stone for a greater level of booking in the future. Although income remained static from the previous year we saw interest gradually rise so that even when we had a booking on popular weekends we got two or three additional enquires. This is good in the fact that many people now know that booking early is essential so our ongoing bookings are now consistently good. This year was also the year when we finally agreed to take a big step and employ a caretaker. This allows us to ensure that the high standards we had worked hard to achieve could be maintained on a weekly basis and we thank Fay for all her efforts.

For new members of the District and to remind other people we will again reiterate what the Yr Hen Felin complex offers. The main centre provides a thirty bedded centre with catering kitchen, toilet, washing and shower facilities, lounge and dining area which is suitable for groups to use. The cottage has two ensuite rooms with a double in one and a set of bunks and a single in the other. The addition of a bed settee in the lounge ensures that our cottage facilities are suitable for both small groups and families. The complex also has a small camping area and a drying room with a washing machine.

The centre and now the cottage continues to get people re booking year on year. In this twelve month period over 50% of bookings were returning customers showing that our level of commitment to quality is justified. We continue to use the evaluations that we receive to ensure that we constantly develop both our programme of activities and the facilities the centre offers and we now see evaluations from returning customers reflecting their appreciation that we listen to even the smallest items. In order to build both a committed and loyal client base we continued to hold our prices and this will continue as long as we can to build on what we have achieved so far. We receive regular bookings from the commercial outdoor activity companies based in North Wales and have become particularly popular with schools booking activities with these companies.

At the end of this year we had to replace all our fire extinguishers as they were all getting too old but this was the first time they had to be replaced rather than serviced and so the high cost this year will stand us in good stead for the future. We have also increased our drying ability within the drying room as this was an area of concern for our customers. We have some more work to do on the drying room but this has greatly helped and so even at the height of last winter the drying room worked by drying wet kit overnight for use the next day.

The website has been revamped and we now monitor its usage. We get above 300 visitors (10 per day) to the website each month. This year we also set up our Facebook page and this is now our main way of giving details of our special offers which are always worth considering. We also launched a blog and this has been viewed from around the world.  We continue to monitor the outdoor industry press and have had some success in correcting the notion that there is no hostel left in Cynwyd. This has given us positive feedback and whenever we are mentioned in widely read outdoor publications we see a spike on the website, Facebook and blog usage.

Last year we had made the decision to try and increase bookings by applying for an activity license so we can run our popular activity packages for people outside of the Scout Association. We have had some positive feedback and help on this from the staff at Gilwell Park. The governments’ review of health and safety has meant that major changes are going to be made to licensing and so we have put this aspect of the centre on hold until we see what is going to happen. We continue to still run our packages for Scout Groups, families and groups of adults and so we would encourage anyone who uses commercial companies to provide activities for their Scout group to talk to us about what we can offer as we guarantee to beat any commercial price. Every activity we run is done so as if we were a commercial operator and we maintain the same standards that they do so you can save the cost to your young people. Last year we were involved in the BBC Thrillseeker activity programme of events and this in itself was good publicity for the centre.

For groups of young people using the centre we now offer a workbook that can be used before, during and after a visit. This has proved popular with our school bookings and ensures that use of the centre is proper outdoor education that can build on learning in other areas.

We continue with our two clear aims for the centre in Wales which are to offer adventurous outdoor activities at a very low cost to the members of Northampton District and to provide an additional income to Northampton District Scout Council. For the future we have now set some additional targets and would like to increase bookings over the next year by 25% and to increase our midweek bookings by 10%. Both of these are ambitious targets but we hope to report on a successful outcome in next years report. We are also looking at developing two programmes for young people from Northampton District using the centre with a Basic Adventure Wales and Advanced Adventure Wales package to suit all users. These will be backed up by badges that can be used as part of the progressive training scheme.

We would encourage all Groups to make use of your own facilities for adventure by coming to stay in your own centre in Cynwyd so why not give us a call on 01604 813505 or visit the website at