As lockdown restrictions started to ease this summer, The Adventure Connection team were keen to: a) get together for some bonding after four months of home working and b) pack their bags for a well overdue adventure!
Normally used to flexing their passports many times in a year, this trip took our intrepid team on a relatively short journey down the M4 and into the Cotswolds for some activities and an overnight stay in Shepherd Huts.
“Paddington to Pint in 90 minutes” as Active England Tours (our local DMC) like to boast!
You might be asking yourself why you would book and organise a UK adventure through a DMC; as well as wondering how it all went. Read on...
The Adventure Connection seeks out suppliers of travel experiences who are truly passionate about their region. Such suppliers know the best places to visit, the quieter routes for walking and cycling, and they love to show off stunning landscapes and support other locally-run businesses. All of this creates a sustainable travel experience and a more in-depth appreciation for the area visited. Active England Tours ticks all of those boxes and fits with the current trend of tour operators introducing domestic products to help future-proof themselves in the COVID19 new normal.
We know what makes a great DMC and we often experience suppliers first hand to get a true understanding of what they offer and their professionalism. Using a DMC within the UK may seem counterintuitive after all we know about our own country? Or do outbound operators actually know the world better than home? And do they have the local networks of ancillary suppliers, the relationships and deals with restaurants, hotels etc?
So why spend days and weeks trying to research tours and strike deals yourself (while staff are furloughed and thin on the ground) when Active England spend all of their time curating tours and always start with the flexible premise of matching your clients’ needs? The work is already done - the same as when you select a DMC overseas
The Cotswolds is the area where Active England tours were born with the Southwest being their main area of operation - as well as some new tours in the Lake District.
Greeted on arrival by Operations Manager, Frances and guide Jago, we soon realised this was going to be both a full day of adventure as well as a relaxing experience.
We were shown to our Shepherds’ Huts and Water Tower (Mark was the lucky one to be sent to the tower!)Set within the grounds of the Cotswolds Elemental Sculpture Park, this 10-acre forested site is home to dozens of unique, interesting and exquisite sculptures and is a tranquil place to wander and relax. The site is owned and run by Jago’s family and is used as Base Camp on many of Active England's Glamping trips.
Once we were settled in, Frances gave us a thorough initial briefing on the day ahead and the now all-important COVID19 procedures before we headed off to start a leisurely morning walk.
The next few hours were spent walking through the stunning Sapperton valley on a diverse route that took us up hills, through forest, along valleys, dry canals and across open fields. It felt very remote and tranquil. In fact, we barely saw another soul until we spotted Jago ahead of us in a butterfly meadow with a picnic blanket and much-needed snacks at the ready for us!
We continued our circular walk and ended at The Bell at Sapperton, a traditional Cotswold village and a very good pub. It was many of our teams’ first visit to a pub since March. There is nothing better than a cold beer and a meal in an English pub after a long walk in the countryside!
In the afternoon we headed to the Cotswold Water Park for a Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) experience. Active England have a range of multi-active trips which include kayaking, SUP and wild swimming. This gave us a taster of how relaxing being on the water can be. Locations for multi-sports trips that include SUP or kayaking are the River Thames, the Cornish coast and the Lake District. The afternoon ended with most of the team getting a bit too confident on the boards and the inevitable dunking (the jury is still out as to whether the 19 degrees centigrade water is classed as tropical!).
And then it was back to basecamp for a fire pit BBQ and stories around the campfire. We had a thoroughly relaxing evening hosted by Frances and Jago with fireside chat, stargazing and a beer fridge (plus an outstanding cake made by Jago’s sister!). We all retired to our cosy Shepherds Huts for a great night's sleep and a hearty breakfast in the morning. We were all sad to leave this short taste of the many things that Active England has to offer.
A great DMC is made by its people and the unexpected moments. Both Frances and Jago were truly outstanding, both with adventure travel in their hearts. They are passionate about what they offer and their enthusiasm and knowledge of the area came through constantly, as well as making us feel safe and in great hands.
For an introduction to Active England and to discover their range of tours or work on a bespoke itinerary to suit your clients please contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org or find out more here:
Emily Bailey, Business Development Manager, The Adventure Connection and Natural Britain.