arete centre recovery plan post covid-19

Covid-19 safety on outdoor activities post lockdown


for Arete Outdoor Centre residentials, activities & at school support

We are now open for Activities & Group Accommodation.

As Wales moves forward in mitigating the spread of Covid-19, we have highlighted below measures that will be in place so that we can safely continue to offer our activities.  We know we can still easily run our activities without effecting the adventure or fun and still limiting the spread of Covid-19.  We can provide accommodation with shared facilities that includes toilets and dinning facilities under government guidance. 


We have acquired the ‘We’re Good To Go‘ certificate, the industry standard mark which means that we have followed government and industry covid-19 guidelines, have a risk assessment in place and a process to maintain cleanliness and aid social distancing. The outlined plan will be continually updated as new government advice is published and further restrictions are lifted.

“Children and young people are dealing with high levels of disruption, uncertainty and a lack of physical connection with their friends and with the natural world and the inequalities are widening. There are few so well-evidenced interventions that offer – with almost universal availability and at very low cost – the immediate opportunity to make such a big difference to so many children and young people. With government encouraging time outdoors as part of our recovery strategies, now is the time to take learning outside the classroom.’’
Dr Anne Hunt, chief executive of the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom, in the joint document ‘Supporting Schools to Re-Open’

“The benefits of learning outdoors have never been so important or so urgently needed. The need to support schools and families take play and learning safely and effectively beyond the classroom has never been greater.’’
Martin Smith, chair of the Outdoor Education Advisers’ Panel.

Improving Wellbeing

importance of the outdoors to improve mental health and wellbeing post lockdown

We believe outdoor education, that we are experienced in delivering, is an important element that can be used to help young people to recover post Covid-19. There are many questions being raised on young people’s mental health through the loss of social interaction and structure.  It can be argued that through this period of school closures there are 5 losses to young people: routine, structure, friendship, opportunity and freedom.  This can trigger the emergence, emotionally, of anxiety, trauma and bereavement in any child.  Before learning can take place again young people need to be re-engaged with school education through addressing their well being.  See the paper Recovery Curriculum (B Carpenter & M Carpenter, 2020).

Outdoor activities, that Arete Outdoor Centre can provide, are known to support personal and social development and improve health and wellbeing.    The benefits of the outdoors are central to active lifestyles and mental health. Through inspiration, lifelong engagement with the outdoors is possible with all its positive mental and physical health outcomes.  They give opportunities to build relationships with peers and staff, which may have been broken down in these challenging times. The importance of wellbeing and the same benefits of outdoor learning is also highlighted in the Welsh Government Keep Education Safe.

The outdoors not only offers a fantastic classroom to improve well-being, but provides a safe environment when considering the spread of the virus.  As stated in the government document implementing protective measures in education (May, 2020), outdoor education can drastically limit transmission and provide opportunity for distancing.  

We hope to assist schools by not only providing future residentials, but in the short term at school on their own grounds too.  This has been outlined in the consortium paper to support schools to re-open by taking learning outdoors as supported by Learning Outside the Classroom, Institute of Outdoor Learning and Association of Heads of Outdoor Education Centres among others.

What can Arete Outdoor Centre do to help schools:

  1. Discuss with schools ways we can help them develop, deliver, and evaluate their own programmes of learning beyond the classroom, whether at school or at home. We are in the process of producing home activity sheets as seen on our web page.  We can work with any local outdoor space near your school, come with extra ideas and suggestions or look at managing any outdoor risk.
  2. Run courses from your school. We can run outdoor education lessons from school grounds or the local area.  Many of our schools also have rivers, reservoirs, hills and woods a short distance from their school where we can run adventures, inline with our safe Covid-19 recovery strategy below. 
  3. Book a residential with us in North Wales.  Under the road to recovery mapped out below, we believe as schools open there will be safe options to run managed activity courses again.  The pupils can fully benefit from all our outdoor education benefits for residentials.

Effective Infection Protection and Control

primary methods to reduce virus transmission for activities, accommodation and transport

All course and accommodation provisions by Arete Outdoor Centre would be under the important basic principles of reducing direct and indirect virus transmission.  These apply to both participants and Arete staff.  These will be:

  • Non Attendance. For anyone with covid-19  symptoms, a household member has symptoms or tested positive for covid-19 or they have been told to isolate by track & trace.
  • Isolation.  Removing any individual that displays symptoms, has been tested positive for Covid-19 or has come into close contact with another person that has. Ordering home Covid-19 testing for anyone with symptoms and if positive informing those that have been in close contact.  
  • Hand Washing.  Regular and thorough washing of hands for 20 seconds throughout the day.  When arriving, at the end of the day, before eating, before and after any activities or transport, after sneezing or coughing.
  • Respiratory Hygiene.  Applying the principle of ‘catch it, kill it , bin it’ for coughs and sneezes.   
  • Minimising Contact.  Applying basic principles to minimising or removing any close contact or mixing.  
  • Cleaning Surfaces.  Regularly cleaning commonly touched surfaces with detergent or bleach.  Where possible issuing kit that stays exclusively with the participant, otherwise extra cleaning will be required.
safe outdoor education covid-19

“People can catch COVID-19 from others who have the virus. The disease spreads primarily from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth, which are expelled when a person with COVID-19 coughs, sneezes, or speaks. These droplets are relatively heavy, do not travel far and quickly sink to the ground. People can catch COVID-19 if they breathe in these droplets from a person infected with the virus.  This is why it is important to stay at least 1 meter away from others. These droplets can land on objects and surfaces around the person such as tables, doorknobs and handrails.  People can become infected by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.  This is why it is important to wash your hands regularly with soap and water or clean with alcohol-based hand rub.”
World Health Organisation (April 2020)

safe covid-19 climbing outdoor activity

Outdoor Activity Safety

use of kit, participating on activities with Covid-19 precautions

The Welsh Government guidance allows gatherings up to 30 people, when organised by outdoor centres such as Arete, under social distancing. This means we can take both households and mixed groups out on activity under social distancing rules under our normal instructor ratios of 1:1 up to 1:12.  All activities are possible, notes on each are found below where the format needs to be slightly altered.

As outlined by the government, activities in the outdoors limits transmission and more easily allows for distance between participants.  We have considered the safety of activities initially under the advised social distancing of 2 metres, which in Wales is still the legal requirement.  This importantly is coupled with our basic safety precautions as listed in the section ‘effective infection protection and control’.

Of particular note on activities, participants will be issued with their own kit to be used only by them.  This will include waterproofs, fleeces, bags, helmets, buoyancy aids, harnesses and clip karabiners.  In between groups all kit will be cleaned with disinfectant and according to manufacturers guidelines or not touched for 72 hours.  This is the length of time the virus can survive on hard surfaces indoors with survival time being less on soft surfaces, as stated by the World Health Organisation.  Outdoors and in direct sunlight the virus becomes 90% ineffective in a matter of minutes, as found in the paper used by Welsh Government Simulated Sunlight Rapidly Inactivates SARS-CoV-2 on Surfaces (May 2020).

For any of the group scenarios the following activities could take place safely with 2 m social distancing, incorporating any of the extra notes.   If instructors have to be temporarily closer than 2m, for safety reasons, face masks will be worn. 

Schools Only: In the Autumn term  schools will return in England and Wales, with whole classes returning.  We will keep activity groups within the same school bubbles while maintaining distance too.  We will discuss with each school their daily protocols and match these while they are at the centre for ease and continuity.  Instructor interaction will still be limited for each activity to the social distancing of 2m.     

  • Outdoor Activity Sheets: Our at home outdoor activity sheets can be adapted to be instructor led at 2 m distancing.
  • Field based Team Building: Activities to be chosen or adapted so they can be run with 2 m distancing such as picture pairs, run the gutter, hole tarp, magic stick, tyres of hanoi.
  • Bushcraft:  All supervision and learning possible with 2 m distancing for many bushcraft activities.
  • Walking: Using venues such as the beach, mountains or in the woods. Setting a 2 m distancing, encouraging walking side by side.
  • Orienteering: Pairs finding points staying 2 m apart or from the same household.  A star course can keep pairs spread as they search in different directions.
  • Canoeing / Kayaking: Using open canoes the participant seats are already two metres apart.  With individual kayaks or canoes a natural 2 m separation often happens, and can easily be enforced.  Rafted canoes to be set 2 m apart.
  • Rock Climbing: For beginner rope sessions the active participant can stay 2 m away from the belayers and instructor.  Systems will allow checks from a distance. Hand cleaning required between climbs.
  • Zip lines:  If the participant is able, attaching, detaching and checks can be done at 2 m distance. Normal protocol is for only one person at a time.
  • Gorge Scrambles / Canyoning:  Venue choice to either be easy enough to not require any spotting and so keeping 2 m distance or safeguarding done via rope so climbing is possible with 2 m distance from the instructor and others. Extra washing of hands needed for possible shared holds.
  • Sea Level Traversing:  Distancing can be kept to 2 m at all times along the rope clip line course. Extra washing of hands needed for possible shared holds.
  • Coasteering:  Swimming in the sea possible with 2 m distancing.  Moving over land would need to be easy so not to require spotting or on a rope (see sea level traversing).
  • Abseiling:  Safety can be done at 2 m distance.  If a participant is able, attachment to abseil is possible at a 2 m distance from the instructor.
  • Underground Mine:  Walking only trip and roped clip lines are possible with 2 m distance on standard mine trips. Extra washing of hands needed for possible shared holds if using roped clip lines. Mines like Wrysgan are well ventilated. 
  • Surfing: In the water 2 m distancing possible for participants.
  • Camping / DofE Expeditions: All participants to be issued with individual mountain tents for solo camping but pitched within a similar area with safeguarding consideration.

The required extra hand washing when running water is not possible will be done using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

If an incident or emergency occurs then a participant on activity could incur close contact with the instructor.  If distancing has to temporarily be less than 2 m, a side by side position should be adopted in preference to face to face. Incidents such as a standard capsize rescue or a helping a participant having difficulties clipping on to a rope can be performed in short time with minimal time close to an instructor.  In the government document close contact as part of track and trace is defined as being within 2 metres for 15 minutes or 1 minute within 1 metre while face to face and having a conversation, being coughed on,  or skin to skin contact.  Regular incidents, like the example of capsizes or rope clipping, would be rectified in a minute or two and not necessarily required face to face contact. If assistance is required clipping and un-clipping from a rope, this can be done with a mask for the instructor and extra hand washing before and after.

Should first aid need to be administered this will take preference over social distancing.  As a consequence face masks will be used to limit the spread, disposable gloves, apron and choosing side to side stance when possible.

We will keep up to date on the current guidelines, and are signed up to be notified of any government updates as and when they are published. 

Accommodation safety

use of the centre, dormitories, dining and food under Covid-19 precautions 

Our accommodation is open with shared toilets and dinning space possible under social distancing.  

Our basic safety precautions are listed in ‘effective infection protection and control’ and will be enforced for anyone using our accommodation.  Of particular note will be the thorough cleaning of all commonly touched surfaces with detergent or bleach between groups staying or for groups we help manage on a daily basis while they are staying.  For such groups that we will help manage in the accommodation, we have also considered safety under the advised 2 m social distancing to minimise the airborne transmission of the virus .

All groups always have exclusive use of their booked accommodation, so no mixing can occur with others that are unknown within the accommodation.  

General Movement: Entering or exiting the building will be controlled to keep 2 m separation.  This would mean only small numbers of people waiting to move through the entrance areas with separate doors for movement in and out. Currently any communal spaces are only to be used by the same household.  A degree of patience will be required to keep distancing around the centre. Windows and doors around the centre will be opened to increase ventilation, as it is shown this reduces the aerosol transmission of the virus. Using the open field space during any downtime will be encouraged.   

Dormitories: One person per dormitory will be the safest option or only household members within a dormitory.  The next option, with further relaxation, would be beds being 2m apart which in effect means a maximum of 2 people sleeping in most of our dormitories.  If those staying can be managed to stay 2m apart while entering or leaving a dormitory, then using bottom bunks only which are each screened off to create pods could be an option.  Your sleeping preferences and what will work for your group will be discussed beforehand. 

Dining: If you have chosen a catered option, indoor dining will be possible when spaced at 2m, this may require multiple sittings to reduce numbers in the dining hall at any one time.  We do also have the option of a large covered area for outdoor dinning.

The kitchen and dish washing area will only be accessed by kitchen staff if a catered option is chosen.  Meals will either be pre-served onto plates by kitchen staff or served in the dinning area to be collected individually at distance. Kitchen hygiene will be maintained as recommended by the Food Standards Agency for safe food preparation during Covid-19. If self-catered, then access to a designated kitchen is only possible under social distancing between members of different households.

Toilets / Showers: Extra cleaning of surfaces will be carried out in these areas. Lids to be closed when flushing, to minimise airborne contamination. Many toilets and shower areas are individual closed spaces.  The main centre open toilet and shower block will have a limit of two people at a time in the open space and around the sinks will be enforced to maintain social distancing.  Due to less people staying in dormitories, there will be less demand on the toilets and showers. 

We will keep up to date on the current guidelines, and are signed up to be notified of any government updates as and when they are published.

Arete Main Centre Large Group Accommodation
activity transport post covid-19

Transport Safety

use of own vehicles, walking and minibus to access venues, and coaches under Covid-19 precautions 

Our basic safety precautions are listed in ‘effective infection protection and control’ and will be enforced for anyone using transport.  We have considered safety under the advised 2 m social distancing to minimise the spread of the virus . Of particular note will be the thorough cleaning of all commonly touched surfaces with detergent or bleach in between groups using transport. 

While at the centre there are many activity venues that could be accessed through walking or cycling from the centre. This would eliminate or minimise the need for any extra minibus transport to be considered. For family activities it would be easiest if individuals use their own vehicles with instructors travelling separately.

This follows the government passenger safe travel and guidance for operators. 

Coach Travel: We would recommend using companies that have a thorough cleaning regime before groups use any coach.  The driver would always be maintaining 2 m distancing, with the added safety of facing away from passengers.  All seats would face forward to avoid the riskier face to face contact, with the possibility that a degree of screening can occur between rows of passenger seats. Keeping neighbouring seats vacant will increase social distancing, so booking extra coaches as distancing requires. Using coaches with air circulation that bring in continuous fresh air with hepa filters further dilutes the airborne virus and reduces the risk of spread further. This is the same principle that reduces airborne virus transmission in current operational flights.  Current government advice advises on using face masks if in confined spaces to reduce the chance of passing on the virus to others. Facemasks to be worn by all travellers, unless someone is exmpt under medical grounds. The International Road Transport Union have a Covid-19 coach driver safety checklist.

Minibus Travel: If minibus transport is needed to access activity venues all high touch surfaces would be cleaned to kill the virus before use. Spacing would be maintained between each passenger and the driver when embarking and while seated.  This would mean multiple minibuses being used or running drop-offs. Windows would be opened to increase ventilation diluting any airborne virus, without creating a powerful wind tunnel through the vehicle.  Hand washing before embarking or after exiting the vehicle. On current government advice, face masks to be worn on transport to reduce the chance of passing on the virus to others.

Schools: New guidance has come out for pupils using transport when travelling to and from school.  We will be able to follow this guidance,which will be made easier  when pupils are all within the same school bubble.  Those Welsh primary schools attending would have social distancing relaxed if the are under 11 according to Welsh Government guidance.  The driver and adults will still have 2 m separation, cleaning regime before use, ventilation and hand washing before and after being transported. 

We will keep up to date on the current guidelines, and are signed up to be notified of any government updates as and when they are published.S

Booking Courses

for activities, accommodation & residentials post Covid-19 lockdown

We are currently taking bookings for all future courses. Please contact us to discuss your preferred type of course and dates, so we can then provide you with a competitive quote.

We are closely following the current government advice and are fully aware that depending on developments in the UK and Wales, you may need to subsequently cancel your booking due to the Covid-19 pandemic. If this is the case we will be sympathetic to your individual circumstances. If Arete Outdoor Centre cancels the course you will receive a full refund. 

We recognise that these are unsettling times and would like to reassure you that the safety and well being of our customers is our priority.

stand up paddle board