A question often asked during the booking process is “can we really do activities like abseiling, even with disabilities?” – and the answer is always a big YES. We’ve seen time and time again that a disability doesn’t stop anyone from doing accessible abseiling.
Abseiling may traditionally be seen as a ‘daredevil’ stunt down tall buildings or cliffs, but in reality it’s a fun outdoor activity that can be enjoyed by everyone.
The Calvert Trust Exmoor facilities
We have a wide range of exciting accessible activities, and abseiling is one of the most popular.
Abseiling takes place outside on a specially designed outdoor wall, whatever the weather.
We use and maintain our rope and safety equipment every day, and the expert instructors provide a safe activity for everyone to experience, adapting to all disabilities.
Anyone can do abseiling
Instructors will work with each individual to find a way for them to have a go, using harnesses, safety equipment and ropes to walk down the wall – or a manual wheelchair can be used if needed.
Any doubts and worries quickly disappear as the group cheer each other on and the instructors provide advice, guidance, and reassurance throughout.
How accessible abseiling sessions work
At the start of a session, the activity instructor will lead the group to be fitted out with harnesses and helmets and any other equipment needed. They will then go to the viewing area at the top of the wall for a full safety briefing, before taking it in turns abseiling.
Instructors ensure each person is secure and that they understand how to travel down the wall. Two people can abseil side by side, or individuals can go down on their own.
There are several variations on how the activity can be adapted for disabilities. We haven’t listed disabilities here but aim to provide some information on what you can expect in most circumstances.
Abseiling support for wheelchair users
We use the term “abseiling wall” but describing it as a steep “ramp” is also appropriate. The ground at the start is a level surface, then the top and the bottom are curved to allow a wheelchair to easily roll over it.
We have a specialist wheelchair that is designed for abseiling, and most guests choose to transfer into it manually or with a hoist. Other manual wheelchairs may be suitable depending on a decision from the instructor. Sadly, electric wheelchairs cannot be used for accessible abseiling. Instead, participants will be hoisted into our abseiling chair.
Guests in a wheelchair can control their speed down the wall with their hands, using the rope system. Anyone unable to hold or use the ropes will be controlled by the instructor.
Anyone using a wheelchair to abseil will have someone beside them throughout for additional encouragement.
Abseiling support for those with sensory disabilities
For those who are deaf or have a hearing impairment, instructors can create a system which encompasses rope tugs as a means of communication. The instructor will be in sight of the guest at all times for constant visual cues.
Guests who are blind or have a visual impairment will be guided down by the voices of the instructor and the person abseiling beside them.
Abseiling support for those with learning or behavioural disabilities
We understand that it can be difficult for people with learning or behavioural disabilities to concentrate and focus on the task at hand or to fully understand what they are being asked to do.
With abseiling, we find the process of putting on harnesses and helmets before going to the top of the wall breaks the session into several stages, so not to overwhelm. This gives guests time to adapt and allows instructors to constantly talk and repeat what will happen.
The group will see the wall from the bottom before walking to the top, so everyone has time to process what is taking place. Instructors will patiently repeat what needs to be done as many times as needed to see the whole group abseiling successfully. Children or adults with learning or behavioural disabilities can also abseil first if they wish before focus is lost.
What are the benefits of abseiling?
Abseiling is excellent for developing problem-solving skills, motor skills and coordination – due to the process of travelling backwards whilst using the hands to control speed.
It gives the feeling of accomplishment and boosts confidence
There is often a huge sense of accomplishment and excitement after guests have achieved something they may not have thought possible. This improves confidence and self-belief. Here at Calvert Trust Exmoor, our expert team is always on hand to make sure everyone feels their best, especially when abseiling for the first time.
It helps build trust and communication
Guests will be with their group and their instructor throughout their stay. Everyone bonds to ensure that individuals are comfortable and that each person knows what they are doing in activities. So guests will inevitably build up a good rapport with those around them.
When abseiling individually, the group will watch and provide support. Or if abseiling in pairs, talking to each other is essential to abseil side by side. The activity encourages friendships and builds relationships, whether abseiling with friends, family or other members of the group.
Having a disability should never hold anyone back from doing accessible abseiling, or any outdoor adventure activities – which is why Calvert Trust Exmoor is a fully accessible site where everyone can enjoy themselves during a stay and do a full range of fun activities.
We would like to say a BIG THANK YOU to Richard, who has been volunteering to give our courtyard garden a makeover.
Richard is a gardener at the popular RHS Garden Rosemoor in Great Torrington, near our centre in North Devon. Whilst on furlough leave due to Covid-19, he decided to put his green fingers to good use and gave our courtyard the love and attention it so thoroughly needed.
Our thanks, therefore, go to Richard for his time and effort. We look forward to welcoming him back again soon, possibly on a monthly bases – so we also thank RHS Rosemoor for allowing him to do so.
Other people deserve a ‘thank you’ as well.
Fresh mulch was supplied by Wedgewood Buildings Ltd in Devon. It was delivered to the centre by Pip from nearby Quince Honey Farm, using their vehicle and trailer. So our thanks to owners Paddy and Ian for arranging the delivery.
How’s the garden looking now?
With the sensory garden left to do its own thing recently, the courtyard was looking ‘wild’ and overgrown.
But now the stinging nettles and weeds have gone, with colourful flowers and bushes remaining!
Here’s Richard making a start on the first of the flower beds…
They were was all stripped back ready for new plants to grow and flourish…
The bushes behind the benches were overgrown…
But once again they’re a pleasant place to sit…
Can you spot the pots amongst the green?
With the overgrown plants removed, you can see the pots and water feature again…
With the area cleared, Richard can continue working on it in the future…
There are some more images of the courtyard garden in the gallery below. Our accommodation is based around this courtyard, so it’s easy to spend time looking at the flowers and plants during an accessible break.
We can be reached on 01598 763221 if you have any questions about the accommodation or booking a break at Calvert Trust Exmoor.
In July 2020, Sam and Tyler (Calvert Trust Exmoor activity instructors), walked around Exmoor National Park looking for 26 markers spread out across the remote moors. It took them 5 days and almost 200km of walking to complete their Trig Trek.
Orienteering played a big part in their adventure, as the pair had to understand where to find the markers, how to navigate the terrain and which routes to take across the moor.
Without knowledge of orienteering plus a map and compass, finding the markers simply wouldn’t have been possible.
But what exactly is orienteering and how can anyone have a go, including those with disabilities?
This news piece takes a general look at how orienteering is more than simply hiking over remote places, but can be an exciting activity for all.
What is orienteering?
Orienteering is the term used for finding specific locations or points using a map and compass.
The aim is to travel between checkpoints marked on an orienteering map, working out the best routes to take.
As orienteering usually takes place over open ground (such as moors) or through wooded areas, there is no set route, so getting from A to B however you decide is a fun challenge that takes concentration, practice and skill.
Orienteering can also be a competitive sport, with runners racing to find the markers first. The marker in competitive orienteering is a square with white and orange/red triangles.
People who have experience in orienteering can use a standard map and compass to plan their routes and find their markers, like Sam and Tyler did with their trek across Exmoor.
But competitive orienteerers or orienteering groups will use a special map highlighting where the set markers are. Orienteering maps are also very good for beginners, as they include colour co-ordinated information about the terrain with different symbols to guide you.
The benefits of orienteering for people with disabilities
Orienteering can be an activity enjoyed alongside friends or family, at a leisurely pace.
It involves travelling over longer distances, either by foot or with a suitable wheelchair or scooter, and can be enjoyed by all abilities – as long as individuals are able to travel over uneven ground and rough terrains such as pebbles, rocks, grass, mud or water.
Benefits naturally include being outside and exercising. It is well known that there is a positive relationship between outdoor exercise and the improvement of physical and mental wellbeing.
For people with physical disabilities, travelling over rough terrain helps improve fitness, co-ordination and stamina. The task of map reading also takes the mind off exercising, providing a set goal to focus on.
Map reading and using a compass to find markers also takes a lot of mental concentration. Which may benefit anyone with behavioural or learning disabilities.
We wouldn’t recommend individuals orienteer by themselves for safety reasons, instead see it as a fun group activity. Benefits include social interactions and working together as a team to find the markers.
People with disabilities can be involved in any number of ways, such as: recognising map colours and remembering what they mean, helping to hold the compass and find north, watching the surroundings and looking out for buildings or land features, or shouting out the numbers on markers.
How orienteering is adapted for people with disabilities – TrailO
TrailO – or Trail Orienteering – a competitive form of accessible orienteering where all levels of physical ability can compete on equal terms. TrailO is designed to reduce the physical elements of orienteering, with more focus on puzzle-solving.
Unlike normal orienteering, there is a set route to follow, as shown on a map. The challenge is to find the right markers, among many.
Participants use map reading and navigational skills to complete the course and find the correct markers as they go along. Several markers can be found at a site but only one will exactly match the required description and position.
In TrailO competitions, individuals have to find markers and decide which to record on their own, with no help in the decision processes. But they are allowed as much physical help as they require to move around.
5 top tips from our instructor
We asked Sam to provide his top 5 tips for orienteering so that others can enjoy walking through the great outdoors – including people with disabilities.
1. Use your tools, the map and compass!
“Figure out where on the map you are before going anywhere. Often the starting point is identified on an orienteering map, but if not you can do this by looking around you.
Roads or paths marked on the map that lead north are a great way to identify your location, perhaps things like a split in the path with one route going north. Check your compass to make sure.
I like to orientate the map so the path I am currently on is in line with where I am going, this might mean turning the map so the path points in the same direction of travel. Make sure to keep north in mind and to turn the map northwards are regular intervals.”
2. Plan your route!
“Pick the first point you have been tasked to find and before moving off, plan where you are going. It is a good idea to visualise where you will be going at all times. I find identifying a shape useful. For example, if you know the overall route is a rough circle then most of the turnings will bear in the same direction.
Say to yourself and the other people in your group things like ‘OK so we take this path, then a left and after some distance we should see a gate’ as you go along.”
3. Keep locating yourself on the map!
“A control point or marker is great for confirming your location. Once you have found and confirmed it you will be able to say with certainty where you are on the map. You can then use your compass to orientate yourself in the direction of the next control point and plan the next leg accordingly.
However, it’s very important to check that the point you have found is the correct one. It’s easy to see a marker on the way to another and to then assume your position, which could cause navigation errors or to lose your place on the map.
Relocation – finding your position on the map if lost – is not simple and can seem scary. Often there is no single way to relocate your position on the map straight away, so continue onwards until you can find features which you can relate to on the map.”
4. Use your surroundings to your advantage!
“Landmarks; buildings, roads, hills, lakes are obvious features both on the map and when looking around that can help guide you in the right direction.
‘Line’ features (paths or fences) visible on the map can be followed or used to orientate yourself in a direction
This is useful in relocating yourself if you have gone wrong and are lost.
Again communicate with each other and ensure you have shared goals as you travel: ‘We need to keep this hill on our left-hand side as we cross this field’ -‘the next marker should be on the other side of that stream’ and so on.”
5. Figure out distances, and don’t rush!
“It is very easy to overshoot and miss a set point or marker, especially early on when excitement and energy levels are high.
If you know the next point is say, 100m along the path, then keep this in mind and if you feel you have gone farther then you might well have missed it and gone too far. Time to turn around and relocate!”
“Orienteering is a great sport. It is accessible to everyone who can read a map, and even those who can’t still enjoy the journey and finding points of interest. It’s a great way to make a simple walk more engaging for kids and adults alike!”
How to get started with orienteering
For complete beginners or those wishing to do orienteering for fun, the first step is to find a course or club near you. They will provide maps, compasses and details of the markers.
We recommend starting with the British Orienteering website, which has lots more information on orienteering, including updates on clubs and events around the UK.
By attending events and doing courses, it gets easier to read maps and gain confidence. Competitive orienteering is then an option for those who feel they have advanced enough and wish to give it a go.
Orienteering at Calvert Trust Exmoor
Alternatively, give basic orienteering a go during a stay at Calvert Trust Exmoor during an accessibility break in North Devon!
We have Disney and cartoon character markers around the sight for guests to find. Guests will partake in a range of activities and orienteering may be one of them depending on the type of group and the disabilities included.
Learning to navigate and read maps on our trails around the centre is a great way to develop teamwork while learning new life-skills, such as problem solving and self-confidence.
Guests are also welcome to ask reception staff or instructors to do orienteering in their own time.
Or perhaps young children can bring their own compasses, with walks around the reservoir to learn about directions.
Discover the full Calvert Experience to learn more about what our disability breaks include.
You may know Sam and Tyler, two of the activity instructors at Calvert Trust Exmoor.
Their Trig Trek has so far raised more than £400 for the charity, which we are very thankful for! Anyone wishing to add to the fundraising total can do so by visiting this Trig Trek Just Giving page.
Take a look at the gallery below to see some highlights of their adventures.
Trig markers, points, or pillars are positioned on the high peaks of Exmoor National Park and were used by the Ordnance Survey to determine the shape of the land.
Sam and Tyler walked to each of the 26 remote trigs, only using a car to reach the moors from the Calvet Trust Exmoor centre where they have been living on furlough since March.
Before starting the Trig Trek, Sam said…
“We’re helping to raise money for Calvert Trust Exmoor, that brings outdoor adventure activities to people with special needs and disabilities. Any donations would be for the best of causes, keeping the wonderful place open as they have struggled during the lockdown.”
Over the five days of walking, they experienced both high temperatures and torrential rain, bumped into snakes, and endured lots of blisters.
Yet Sam and Tyler are proud of what they have accomplished. Sam says…
“It was a lot harder than we thought it was going to be.
“We hoped to do the walk in five consecutive days and had the route all planned out. But a combination of sore blistered feet and unpredictable weather meant we needed to take a couple of days off. Plus some of the trig points could not be easily found or reached which threw the planning out the window a bit. Yet it was a brilliant experience and I’m glad we’ve done it.”
Whilst Tyler added…
“It was really nice to explore Exmoor and discover the areas most people don’t usually visit. We were knackered afterwards, but the walks were worth doing to test ourselves and to raise money for the charity.”
Andrew Laming, Centre Director at Calvert Trust Exmoor, has high praise for the activity instructors.
“It’s wonderful that Sam and Tyler have gone above and beyond to raise money for the centre. I would like to thank them for their fundraising efforts and say ‘well done’ from the whole team.
“All the money raised will contribute to the running of the centre once we re-open on the 21st August.
“I’m looking forward to seeing Sam, Tyler and the other centre instructors leading guests through activities once again.”
The Calvert Exmoor Challenge was created to encourage fundraisers for Calvert Trust Exmoor during the lockdown and beyond.
Fancy doing your own challenge? There’s still plenty of time.
We invite you to create a unique challenge that best fits your current lifestyle and conditions. Sign-up today.
In 2018, over £50 million was raised by the Poppy Appeal. These donations help to care for both current and former members of the Armed Forces and their families. There are a variety of UK charities which have been set up to help former soldiers. The gov.uk website has a vast and useful list of charities in connection to veteran welfare and the service community. In this article, we have chosen a selection of charities which aim to support ex-service personnel who have suffered physical or mental trauma. The charities hold similar values to our own, to have accessibility for all.
Every year, Calvert Trust Exmoor welcomes war veterans for residentials at our five star, all accessible accommodation. For more information, take a look at our accessible holidays in Devon to find out what to expect when you stay with us.
The Royal British Legion- The Battle Back Centre
The Battle Back Centre was created in 2011 by the Royal British Legion. It was implemented to support injured members of the Armed Forces who were hurt while working in Iraq and Afghanistan. It focuses on providing accessible exercise and adventure activities in a safe space for servicemen and women to share and discuss their experiences while growing in confidence. It hopes to help introduce productive avenues for those who attend with their feelings of stress and anxiety. It has more recently developed wellbeing courses for veterans too.
Head to the Royal Legion website for more information or ring:
For serving personnel: 01952 815 670
For veterans: 01952 815681
Combat Stress has worked in supporting former members of the Armed Forces community to deal with the mental effects of their service for an impressive 100 years. It aims to help with depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD. It offers various specialist treatment and therapies in three different centres across the country. These include Ayrshire, Shropshire and Surrey and provide both residential and outpatient programmes as well as offering support for substance misuse. Furthermore, Combat Stress has introduced a Peer Support Service, a network created ‘by veterans for veterans’. It aims to provide a secure space for people to discuss their experiences with others who have been through similar situations and is an opportunity for ex-military to socialise comfortably.
A helpline for Combat Stress is available 24 hours a day throughout the year.
For veterans and their families: 0800 138 161
For serving personnel and families: 0800 323 4444
Text service is also available: 07537 404719
The Not Forgotten
The Not Forgotten is a charity which brings ex-service personnel together through social activities and holidays. Help is offered to anyone who has served or is currently serving in :
The Royal Navy
The Royal Marines
The British Army
The Royal Air Force
The Merchant Navy, both Regular and Reserve Forces
The charity aims to inspire confidence through physical tasks, which aim to challenge and inspire feelings of value and self-confidence. The charity also promotes the importance of socialising and creating friendships with fellow ex-service personnel.
To apply, head to the Not Forgotten website and fill in a general information form or print off and send in the post.
This charity has impressively supported for the Armed Forces for over 130 years. They pride themselves on their flexible services which they work hard to adjust and tailor to each individual to ensure help is as effective as possible. Working alongside other military charities, they are dedicated to providing those who seek support are efficiently looked after. These services include both physical and emotional care, including housing, finances, PTSD, addiction and relationship help.
To speak to a Forcesline advisor, telephone lines are available from Monday to Friday, 09:00- 17:30 on 0800 731 4880.
Help for Heros
Help for Heros is a well-known charity which offers support nationwide for those who have suffered an injury and illnesses while serving in the Armed Forces. They offer a recovery programme which has been developed alongside the Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre which aims to either create the opportunity for veterans to live independently or for those who can, to successfully return to their military unit. The Stanford Hall Estate has been developed to make this possible and is a vital part of the programme. The H4H Veterans Clinical Advisor has been implemented to aid more advance injuries that require more complex treatment.
For further information about the support Help for Heros provides, please contact 0300 303 9888.
The NHS is not a charity, but it is worth looking into the help offered which is specific to ex-service personnel. They have a series of services which are designed to support the Armed Forces community across England. These include :
NHS Veterans’ Mental Health Transition, Intervention and Liaison Service (TILS)
TILS was created to help servicemen and women transitioning from their service out of the Armed Forces. The aim is to prevent mental health issues developing further than the early stages by giving support promptly. Other affairs such as finance, employment and housing can also be offered.
NHS Veterans’ Mental Health Complex Treatment Service (CTS)
This could be considered as the next stage after TILS if initial treatment has not shown any signs of significant progress and used for more advanced mental health issues. It consists of intensive therapies and occupational and trauma-focused therapies to treat substance misuse and physical health, amongst other areas which need support.
If you are looking for adventure breaks in the Southwest of England, our accessible site is situated in the peaceful and soothing countryside of Exmoor. For more information on our location, take a look at our blog on Six Top Accessible National Trusts Site in Devon.