Meet the Attractions: Mendip Activity Centre
17th November 2023
North Somerset is home to many wonderful and unique businesses and organisations. This month, we’re delighted to introduce The Mendip Activity Centre
How did the Mendip Activity Centre start and how has it developed?
Mendip Activity Centre started as a small outdoor education company in the late 1980s. Since then, we have grown into one of the largest independent outdoor activity centres in the UK.
This year, we have welcomed over 100,000 visitors to our activity centre in Sandford to try our outdoor activities, stay in our family campsite and experience quality outdoor education and adventure.
Our instructors are the best in the industry and are all fully qualified and accredited. We pride ourselves on our vast range of experiences on offer from rock climbing on real rock to skiing, snowboarding and tobogganing on a dry ski slope; the 250-acre activity centre is a natural hub of adventure. Visitors can also try archery, air rifle, bushcraft, orienteering and caving. Our 18 hole disc golf course is one of only a handful in the UK and we deliver watersports on a private river just outside Weston-super-Mare.
We believe that outdoor education is more vital than ever before – which is why our primary focus has always been to deliver high quality outdoor education. We’ve worked with almost every school in the region delivering unforgettable school residentials, activity days and curriculum focused activities. Learning outside the classroom allows young people to build resilience, grow in confidence, be active and gain a greater connection with nature.
Why did you decide to base yourself in North Somerset?
‘Mendip Outdoor Pursuits’ was set up in 1987 in the spare bedroom of a house in Yatton by Jim Hayward the company’s founder. We soon outgrew the spare bedroom and moved to a farm house in Banwell, then to a large barn in Congresbury before finding our current 250 acre forever home in 2012 when we were invited to take over Avon Ski Centre and ‘Mendip Activity Centre’ was born.
The stunning countryside of North Somerset and the Mendip Hills AONB ensures this is a paradise for outdoor adventure with rolling hills, steep cliffs and undulating valleys. Wander across our land and you’ll find a thick, ancient woodland full of diverse habitats and rare grasslands, host to beautiful flowers, butterflies, deer and insects. We aim to preserve this wonderful landscape through sustainability initiatives and have recently employed an ecologist.
How do you attract talented staff?
In the 11 years we’ve been based here, our team has quadrupled in size to over 80 permanent staff. We have a proud tradition of developing and training our own team- in fact, the owner of the company, David Eddins, started work here as a trainee.
Each year, we provide training for over 40 outdoor instructors through our apprenticeship schemes and our industry-leading accelerated outdoor instructor training programme. This not only supports our own employment but also acts as a gateway into the outdoor-activity industry. Instructors trained here in North Somerset end up working all over the world.
We recognised that our team was our most valuable asset early on our journey: we help our team to find the right opportunities to grow and develop. As well as outdoor instructors, we have growing teams in catering and hospitality, administration, housekeeping, marketing and facilities. If you come to visit our site on any day of the week, you’ll find a friendly, positive and enthusiastic team ready to help.
What have been your biggest challenges?
The recent cost of living crisis has been tough! It’s forced us to innovate and diversify to meet the financial pressures. One success off the back of this was introducing tiered-pricing to ensure that there are affordable prices available for everyone; our discounted voucher sale has also proved popular.
Outdoor education hasn’t stopped throughout this crisis and we’ve continued supporting young people. We have delivered the Holiday Activity and Food (HAF) program supported by North Somerset Council and the Adventure Away From Home program, supported by UK Youth. The latter saw us work with both North Somerset Young Carers and the charity Black2Nature.
What are your plans for the future?
We want to become recognised nationally as an outdoor education training centre and continue welcoming schools, families and individuals to Mendip Activity Centre and the great outdoors.
Work has just started on accessible target sport ranges, thanks to funding from the North Somerset Council’s Rural England Prosperity Fund. In addition to this development, we are developing a new outdoor picnic area and an accessible viewing platform for the tobogganing slope.
We believe that the outdoors should be accessible to all regardless of ability or background. That’s why in 2021 we launched the Mendip Access Adventure Foundation, an independent charity focused on improving access to the outdoors for all.
What have been your proudest moments?
Working in the outdoors means every day brings pride as we support individuals and groups to challenge themselves and to expand their comfort zones.
Opening Mendip Basecamp, our family campsite, to the public in 2020 ensured we could survive the pandemic. In 2022, we were overwhelmed to win Silver Campsite of the Year at the South West Tourism Awards. This was a huge achievement just two and a half years after opening.
To find out more about the Mendip Activity Centre and the fantastic range of activities they offer, please visit www.mendip.co.uk