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. Accommodation open from 11th July 2020. Unlimited Welsh travel from 6th July.

As Wales now emerges from lockdown, we have highlighted below measures that will be in place now that we can offer our activities again.  We believe we can still easily run our activities without effecting the adventure or fun.  It is proposed by Welsh Government that we can provide accommodation again from 11th July 2020, as long as it is self contained for households. This will reduce our capacity through needing to designate an individual toilet and shower to each household. So please contact us about your upcoming accommodation and activity needs.


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 protocols below are subject to the government firstly relaxing the lockdown rules that are currently in place, and based around the government advice for schools to safely re-open once the five key tests have been covered.

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.  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).

It is currently possible, as of 17/06/20, to offer 1:1 instruction and to groups consisting of just household members in Wales but only when they are taking place in their own local area.  From 6th July anyone in the UK will be able to travel into Wales, though not stay overnight (overnight stays proposed from 13th July).  More scope to provide activities to a wider audience will be possible once the government allows groups of unrelated people to meet in the outdoors. 

For any of the group scenarios the following activities could take place safely with 2 m social distancing, incorporating any of the extra notes.  It is expected, following English and Welsh Government school guidance, that this is generally expected for secondary school pupils or older.  

Primary Schools Only: Under current English primary school opening proposals that pupils stay within groups of 15, when the government accepts social distancing won’t be easily adhered to, there is more scope for activities within these bubbles of 15.  Welsh schools recommend groups of 8 or less primary pupils maintaining distance as much as possible. Instructor interaction will still be limited for each activity as outlined above.  Pupils though will be allowed to come in closer contact with each other.  This will enable us to show them how they can safely help and assist each other on the activities.  More group games will also be possible.

  • 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.

All the above actions will only be made possible when government guidelines allow. 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. In due course more detailed individual activity risk assessments will be published on reducing the spread of Covid-19.

Accommodation safety

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

On the 19th June 2020 it has been proposed that Wales expects self-contained accommodation to be legally open from the 13th July 2020. As a result we can now take accommodation booking from the 13th July onward. We expect more guidance from the Welsh government shortly as to the rules around being self-contained.  

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 .

As lockdown eases, the first possible safe option will be providing accommodation to individuals followed by groups consisting of just household members. Once the government allows groups of unrelated people to meet, under social distancing, we can look into providing accommodation for mixed and school groups too.  

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. Any communal spaces will have limits on the number of people that each can hold at any given time.  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, initially under the Welsh self-contained rules any meals would be delivered to rooms or single households using dinning areas. When government guidelines allow dining room seating will be socially spaced, this may require multiple sittings to reduce numbers in the dining hall at any one time.  

The kitchen and dish washing area will only be accessed by kitchen staff if catered option is chosen.  Meals will be pre-served onto plates by kitchen staff. Kitchen hygiene will be maintained as recommended by the Food Standards Agency for safe food preparation during Covid-19. If self-catered, then initially only one household will be able to access a designated kitchen under the Welsh Government self-contained guidelines.

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.  Initially each household will be designated their own toilet and shower, under Welsh Government self-contained guidelines. When guidelines allow,  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. 

The government hasn’t offered any specific advice for residential schools as of yet.  We are currently also monitoring the advice from the Boarding Schools Association.   

All the above actions will only be made possible when government guidelines allow. 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. In due course more detailed accommodation risk assessments will be published on reducing the spread of Covid-19. 13

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. 

The protocols below are subject to the government firstly relaxing the lockdown rules that are currently in place, and based around the government advice for schools to safely re-open once the five key tests have been covered.

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.

When vehicle transport is allowed in Wales, for other than essential travel, initially the easiest option to safely manage is clients’ using their own transport.  It was proposed on the 19th June that travel restrictions in Wales will be lifted on the 6th July 2020.  This could be for travel to activity venues or to arrive at the centre.  Instructors would travel separately in their own vehicle. 

If individual vehicles or a drop off to the centre isn’t possible, then Covid-19 safety on coach or minibuses travel is outlined below.  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. 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. The spacing of 2 m 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 with hand washing before embarking or after exiting the vehicle. Current government advice advises on using face masks if in confined spaces to reduce the chance of passing on the virus to others.

Primary Schools: Those English primary schools with pupils attending from the same bubble of 15 or less that mix in school, then being closer to each other on any transport will be less of a safety concern.  The driver will still have 2 m separation, cleaning regime before use, ventilation and hand washing before and after being transported. 

All the above actions will only be made possible when government guidelines allow. 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. In due course more detailed transport risk assessments will be published on reducing the spread of Covid-19. 

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