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