The Bendrigg Trust is a registered charity providing residential activity breaks for people of any age or ability, delivering high quality activity courses for disabled and disadvantaged people. They aim to promote inclusion, encourage independence and build self-confidence through adventurous activities.
For over 40 years they have been challenging the perceptions of disabled and disadvantaged people through adventurous activities, aiming to give all their visitors lasting memories.
So when our team up at Alpkit Keswick highlighted the work Bendrigg Trust were doing, we knew they would make a great Continuum partner.
We caught up with Centre Director, Nick Liley who first joined Bendrigg as a volunteer back in 1995 to see what’s kept him there for so long.
"My first visit to Bendrigg as a Volunteer changed my life. I remember it clearly to this day, the first time that I was supporting a visitor down the abseil, just seeing the smile on their face and that real sense of achievement that it gave them, made me realise the incredible difference that Bendrigg makes to people’s lives. This inspired me to want to become an outdoor instructor and to work with people with disabilities.
What’s kept me at Bendrigg is definitely the people. There is an amazing sense of community at Bendrigg, whether you’re a visitor, a volunteer, a cleaner or the Director. We treat everyone equally and value everyone for the part they play. At the age of 15, when I first volunteered at Bendrigg, becoming the Director was not part of my plan, but it’s been a joy and an absolute privilege to lead this great organisation over the past 5 years."
Having seen some incredible moments over the years that really highlight the power of outdoor experiences, the impact it has is hard to summarise, but we gave Nick that challenge!
"People often say it is a magical place and I agree. We create an atmosphere where by anyone who visits us feels the impact of our work in some way. Whether that’s a visitor themselves, their carers or support workers, siblings or our volunteers and staff. It’s not just the participants of our services who are impacted, but a big part of our mission as a charity is to work towards equality and inclusion on a larger scale. The visitors themselves obviously feel a huge benefit from being able to access things they may have never thought were possible, but for everyone who witnesses that happen, their perceptions are also changed. We call it the Bendrigg Ripple Effect"
What's extra special about Bendrigg are the multiple, beneficial layers it provides, for those taking part in the activities, through to the passionate volunteers and those on the Bendrigg Alternative scheme.
"The BA scheme is part of Bendrigg’s foundations, from the very beginning our founders brought together offenders (or people at risk of offending) with people with disabilities, to have adventures in the outdoors together. It’s a very powerful concept which has developed over the years."
The Bendrigg Alternative scheme today sees them working closely with the prison services, to identify offenders who are soon to be released. The scheme then provides people with the opportunity to give something back to society, to come to a place with no judgement and be given the opportunity to do something good – this is incredibly powerful.
"Many of these people haven’t ever thought of themselves as “good” before, so to feel like a valuable member of society and feel useful can help to give them a huge amount of confidence to move forwards positively upon their release. You can see the type of experience it provides through one of our former BA volunteers who talks us through his experience at Bendrigg. Watch the video"
Through Continuum we can support the work they do by passing on the usable, no longer wanted outdoor kit found in the back of peoples wardrobes to then bolster their gear pool for visitors and volunteers to use. Giving it a second life, continuing its journey and benefiting others as they look to get out and experience outdoor activities that they perhaps wouldn’t ordinarily have the opportunity to have.
"A lot of our visitors may not have spent very much time in the outdoors before, or may not have the finances to purchase outdoor gear, so we provide them with the clothing and equipment they’ll need to stay warm and safe whilst out on adventures. We have a resource centre where our visitors and volunteers are kitted up with waterproofs, wellies, fleeces, walking boots, hats, gloves and everything else they need for a day of adventures. The gear from the Continuum project will help to increase our levels of supplies for our visitors, volunteers and staff team.
We are incredibly grateful to be a part of the Alpkit Continuum project, one of our core values is the Outdoor Environment and we are always looking for ways to improve our carbon footprint as an organisation so to be able to be a part of this fantastic scheme really does make a difference." Marketing and fundraising officer Martha Wood.
It's a truly inspiring place. Check out the Bendrigg Trust