Last week, eight daring veterans descended on the Llandudno centre for a week of challenges and adventure. The Blind Veterans UK adventure week takes full advantage of the stunning and dramatic scenery for a week of activities including abseiling, canoeing, high ropes, climbing and even skiing!
On Monday, the veterans were transported back to their military experience with field crafts. It was a great way to get to know each other through outdoor activities, building shelters and making fires – the group even made a video diary to document their experience. In the afternoon, the group went for a sailing experience in Angelsey.
The first day of the week was relatively restful compared to what else was in store! On Tuesday the Senior Management Team of the Llandudno centre got in on the action. The morning saw the group abseiling and climbing around the breathtaking Llanberis area at the foot of Mount Snowdon. The addition of extra staff members meant that more veterans could climb at the same time.
The afternoon was a real test – the veterans canoed in very chilly water, with temperatures of just 5 degrees. Nevertheless, there were smiles all round. In the evening, the group enjoyed a well earned dinner.
Wednesday held an activity which would intimidate even the most daring! The group visited an activity centre named Tree Tops for a morning of high ropes. With heights of 50 to 60 foot, the challenge was just as much for the guides who could more clearly see how far away the ground was! Activities such as this show how important skilled sighted guiding is, at these heights members must put their complete trust in their guide.
The real highlight of the week was skiing! The group didn’t scale Mount Snowdon but instead visited indoor ski centre Chill Factor. With great support from organisation Disability Sports UK, less experienced skiers received fantastic instruction and it inspired activity week participant Stephen Thomas to join the Blind Veterans UK skiing club. Activities Team Leader Mark was pleased to be joined by experienced skier and blind veteran Chris Francis that week, as they took full advantage of the slopes, doing some ambitious skiing and showing the group how it’s done! The day did not end there though, in the afternoon the group visited Air Kicks, an indoor skydiving centre. Air is blown into a huge cylinder to mimic the experience of skydiving.
Sight loss can mean a loss of confidence for even the most simple tasks such as moving around your house or going outside; Adventure Week demonstrates the great leaps and bounds taken by blind veterans, their bravery to try out these new and daring activities is really inspiring.
A particular veteran who felt a real transformation throughout the week was Chris Francis. He travelled from Suffolk to North Wales for the adventure week with high hopes for not just new experiences but rediscovery too.
Chris had made his living from his physicality, he joined the RAF as a Physical Training Instructor and then as a qualified parachutist he joing the RAF parachute display team. When Chris left RAF he set up a parachute school, teaching all over the world. He continued to have a very physical job when he joined the Metropolican Police and still taught parachuting in his spare time.
“When I lost my sight, I lost who I thought I was”
But Chris’s experiences at adventure week have helped him reaffirm himself.
“You come away from the week thinking – yes, I am the person I always thought I was. There’s no use hiding, you just have to jump straight in!”
Watch Chris speaking more about his experience at Adventure Week here.
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