Climbing – High Ropes – Shelters – Dens – Paddles – Boats and Bikes were all on the menu for a great couple of days out at the RockBlok, Rutland Water. Seven young adventurers, with an assortment of disabilities, brought together by the “Aiming High team” at Rutland County Council and supported by New Horizons, visited for two separate days of fun filled adventures in the great outdoors.
I wake ahead of the alarm clock, awoken by nervous energy in the anticipation to deliver and make sure the stage is set for the day’s adventures ahead of us. With my partner Lisa and our daughter Molly (age 10), who is always keen to help and get involved in the delivery of these sessions in tow, we make the half hour journey to the RockBlok.
It’s adventure day 1: climbing, high ropes and cycling. The RockBlok team of instructors prep and make ready the climbing wall and high ropes course. Ropes are fixed, along with hauling systems to keep safe and aid the climbers to the top of both the climbing wall and high ropes course.
With harnesses and helmets at the ready, including our paragliding harness (a special harness that we’ve adapted as a means of transporting participants up to and around the high ropes course and our climbing wall), our adventurers arrive, excited as well as curious as to whether they can succeed or even attempt the challenges ahead.
With safety equipment fitted, along with gentle words of encouragement from our dedicated team of instructors, climbers are clipped into the rope, ready to take their first tentative steps away from the ground and up the climbing wall, locating the coloured hand and foot holds that will keep them in contact with the wall.
With a yell of excitement, one of our young adventurer climbers, lets go of the wall, suspended half way up by the rope, skilfully belayed by the instructor below, who directs words of reassurance and encouragement, helping the climber to focus and concentrate on searching for more holds, once again he’s back in contact with the wall, and slowly moves a little higher. With the understanding now that if he does let go of the wall or falls away from the wall he will be safe, held securely by the rope above, and instructor below. He now lets go of the wall, as and when he needs to rest. Ready to come back down to the ground he signals to the instructor that he’s had enough for now, the instructor takes the rope tight and safely lowers the climber back to the ground.
Meanwhile, another climber battles with the challenge of keeping his hands and feet in contact with the wall. As the climber continues to climb, his frustrations begin to show, but his determination to succeed spurs him on. With an instructor at hand the climber’s attempts to climb on are supported closely, as myself and several other instructors assist his continued efforts and commitment to get to the top. I make my way up the wall next to Luke to encourage his determination, I reach over, clipping another rope to the climber’s harness, which is rigged to a hauling system. With this now in place we can take the strain from the climber’s tired arms. Once again with a little support his determination is re–fuelled and he is able to continue his efforts to reach his goal, and wins over the climbing wall! Once at the top he is lowered down by the instructor below and enjoys a well-deserved rest. Minutes later he attempts another wall; with the instructor belaying and offering further words of encouragement, he succeeds and completes the climb to the top, this time under his own steam, driven on by the confidence from his earlier success.
A few meters away from the success of the climbing wall, another young adventurer along with other members of the group attempt to climb their way to the heady heights of the high ropes course, 30 ft from the ground. Once they arrive at the platform, the instructors give the participants more words of reassurance, as well as guidance and instruction to help each person’s attempts to overcome the initial fear of leaving the security of the platform.
With the first high roper in line he begins to make his way from the platform and onto the course. These are hugely challenging moments for him, unsure of what to do. However, the instructors are there to guide him, and he quickly takes their advice on board, allowing him to make steady progress, his feet balancing across the tensioned wire, his hands gripping the tensioned rope above, he traverses shifting and sliding his hands and feet several metres until he reaches a small island of safety, a platform about the size of a small coffee table. Here, he plans his next move. With support from myself, our team and several carers, he is able to complete the whole course successfully. Eager to show off his new skills the young adventurer voices his enthusiasm for the chance to have another go!
Since we started the day at 10am time has flown by, and we arrive at lunch after 2 hours of activities. Batteries re-charged, we head over to the bikes for – dare I say – “a more leisurely afternoon of cycling.” Waiting for us are a variety of different style bikes to suit every ability, from tricycles, tandems, as well as our specially designed Draisin tandem with back support and safety belt, for those who may not be able to self support. With everyone allocated a suitable bike, our qualified trail leaders head off, shepherding the group along the scenic cycle path, heading towards Normanton church, a route which is approximately 8 miles there and back. Cautiously we weave between, and sometimes dodge, oncoming cyclists and the odd pedestrian, thankfully the sheep steer clear of us and watch our energetic cyclists from afar.
Our leaders observe the group with vigilant eyes, thus ensuring they’re one step ahead of any mishaps along the way whilst making sure the adventurers enjoy the freedom of cycling. Although we don’t want to interfere with the flow and motion of the group, we occasionally need to beckon those with a heady enthusiasm to race off into the distance, so the front leader holds the group at conveniently placed locations, whilst another leader brings up the rear, thus ensuring the group stays together.
Our enthusiastic cyclists keep us busy, with leaders constantly changing position in the group, pepper potting from front to middle to back, constantly adjusting to the pace of our snake of cyclists, until we return to where we began, tired but full of the joys of the fun and freedom of our cycle adventure. Although tired and worn out, our two-hour cycle has not quelled their enthusiasm for more, as our young adventurers bombard me with questions of what’s next, excited to continue with the fun and adventure of the outdoors. For today unfortunately time has run out and our adventurers head for home.
To catch up on day two you can read further with our “shelter – dens – paddles and boats” blog, coming soon!