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5 ‘dangerous’ things you should let your children do!

Posted on August 9, 2011 @ 12:25 PM in Adventure

Do children have it better now than we did? 

It’s hard to know – their X Box 360 is better than my Commodore 64 and Harry Potter is better than Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures but did we have more real adventures, playing outside and only coming home when we were hungry!

With so much talk of a nanny state fuelled by crazy examples like children having to wear safety goggles to have conker fights in school it is just as well that Northern Ireland is full of dangerous outdoor activities you can let your children do.

‘Dangerous’ may be a bit tongue and cheek but there is not doubt outdoor activities have an element of risk.  However under the guidance of qualified instructors this potential risk is greatly out weighed by the benefits of self expression, a healthy environment and shared experiences with friends and family just to name a few.

Basically it will be so much fun that the kids won’t notice that it’s also great exercise and improves balance and hand-eye coordination.  So we thought we would give you a few ideas of how to take on such ‘danger’ in Northern Ireland.

Coasteering & Bouldering

Coasteering and bouldering are two action packed activities. They involve walking, scrambling, jumping, swimming and sometimes crawling, around the coast in coasteering, or for bouldering while ascending a river.

A wetsuit ensures that you stay warm at any time of the year; other equipment includes a helmet and a buoyancy aid. If you are a beginner, you can start off on easy climbs and jumps and build up to the bigger ones once you gain confidence.

 Mountain Biking at Blessingbourne Estate

Mountain Biking Northern Ireland

Take the kids and family for up to 4 miles of exhilarating mountain bike trails set within the beautiful grounds of the scenic Blessingbourne Estate in Fivemiletown. The trails are packed with numerous technical trail features such as jumps, berms, table tops and rock sections and cater for all abilities from families with older children to the more serious mountain biker. Also included is a ‘pump track’, which is an area specially designed for riders of all abilities to develop their skills.

Climbing

Don’t worry this won’t involve scaling cliffs and mountain sides – well not just yet.  Several activity centres throughout Northern Ireland offer artificial climbing walls and towers of up to 30 foot (10 metres) in height.  Helmets, harnesses, ropes and the helpful guidance of an instructor certainly make it easier.  Kids will have no fear – the question is will you be able to match up.

Surfing

Northern Ireland’s north coast offers excellent opportunities to get out into the surf.  Surf schools will teach on thick foam boards which will zoom along on the smallest of waves. 

The weather is no excuse for not getting out surfing. The use of modern wetsuits means that surfing is a year round sport, even in Northern Ireland! In fact our infamous weather adds to the variety of wave conditions, meaning you can never get bored as every time you surf there is a new challenge.

Horse riding

Horse riding schools and pony trekking centres in Northern Ireland offer easy access to this often expensively perceived activity.  For as little as £10 per lesson the kids (and you) can enjoy an adventure of saddle back through some of Northern Ireland’s most spectacular scenery.

Check out our Kids & Family Section for plenty more ‘dangerous’ activity ideas and events.

 

 

Latest comment posted by Honey on August 25, 2011 @ 2:28 PM

Boy that relaly helps me the heck out. Read more >

Chris Scott
Chris Scott

When not boring everyone about his little kids’ latest antics, Chris enjoys sailing and cycling, if only to offset his love of eating out and Marlborough Cabernet Sauvignon..

OutdoorNI.com does motor sports madness at Todds Leap

Posted on August 8, 2011 @ 5:55 PM in Adventure

OutdoorNI.com does motor sports madness at Todds Leap is the latest in our regular blog feature ‘OutdoorNI.com does…’ which is our opportunity to showcase the exciting outdoor activities available in Northern Ireland.

Chris Scott spent an action packed morning at Todds Leap near Ballygawley in Co Tyrone.  He had signed up for a 4x4 off road driving tasterexperience but got a lot more than he bargained for.

 


As a native of Fermanagh I have to confess I have often thought of Ballygawley as the roundabout on the way to and from Belfast.  However over the past while I couldn’t help but be enticed by the promotional machine of Todds Leap including Ulster Rally Sponsorship, an exciting new brand  and a seemingly endless stream of new activities. Could this quiet countyside village really have spawned one of Northern Ireland’s most innovative and exciting activities centres?

I had signed up for a 4x4 off road driving session and after a quick safety introduction I was behind the wheel of ‘Shane’ – each 4x4 is named after an past or present instructor – most people get things named after them once they have passed away, but I didn’t dare ask as I buckled up!!  Shane and I maneuvered our way along the track at a break neck speed of 5 mph whilst the instructor quietly built up my confidence. 

I would like to say that my speed improved but I continued to drive Shane like a granny on the way to shops albeit whilst I was negotiating sheer hill climbs requiring plenty of right foot to ensure I didn’t roll back from where we had just came.  I wouldn’t say it was high speed adrenaline (that would come later) but it was certainly the most fun I had had behind the wheel for a long time.  Todds Leap 8 miles of purpose built tracks are certainly challenging with each obstacle given innovative names such ‘Hamburger Hill’ or ‘Michelin Mountain’

4x4 is also a great way to see everything else Todds Leap has to offer.  I have to confess to losing track of the number of death defying activities available.  I have to say the only time Shane and I speed up was when the instructor pointed out the 30 foot high drop zone and the 500 metre long zipline.

On return to base I was casually asked would I like to try out the Hill Rally which is included in their Off Road Multi Activity Day package. Feeling confident after my 4x4 performance I of course accepted.  I have to say I was wasn’t feeling quite as confident a few moment later as I was being buckled into a bucket seat in a high powered land rover.  My previously calm and reassuring instructor changed from Jeykell to Hyde in an instant and became a crazed rally driver.  His last words to me as he pulled on his crash helmet were ‘if I say the words roll roll then hold on tight as we are going to crash’, from that moment on I was not waiting for the phrase ‘roll roll’, the white knuckles were fully on show as the jeep raced off towards the track.

We were quickly racing along at around 30 – 40 mph, which seems slow on a normal road but bear in mind I was struggling along at 10 mph on these tracks only moments earlier.

The jeep leaped from side to side only inches from a wall at one side and steep drop off on the other.  The crazed rally driver roaring in laughter as we blasted through a muddy puddle completely soaking me, I was careful not to make a sound so as not to excite him any more, he didn’t need any further encouragement!

Check out OutdoorNI.com's Rally & Off Road 4x4 Schools section for more motorsports madness.

Activity Provider:

Todds Leap
Ballygawley
Co.Tyrone
BT70 2BW

www.toddsleap.com
info@toddsleap.com
+44 (0)28 8556 7170

Cost:

Off Road Driving Experience: from £109 (driver + 2)

Multiactivity Days: from £45 p/p

Suitable For:

Recommended minimum age for the off road driving and hill rally stage is 8 y/o.

Pre-Booking required.

 

Latest comment posted by Charleigh on August 25, 2011 @ 1:26 PM

My hat is off to your astute camomnd over this topic-bravo! Read more >

Chris Scott
Chris Scott

When not boring everyone about his little kids’ latest antics, Chris enjoys sailing and cycling, if only to offset his love of eating out and Marlborough Cabernet Sauvignon..

Elaine ' Shooter' Alexander's Gear Reviews

Posted on August 8, 2011 @ 5:00 PM in Canoeing

If you are like me the first thing you will read before buying any canoeing equipment will be the gear reviews.  The opinion of fellow paddlers is much more important than any marketing spin the company can put on the item.

Having just returned from an epic 71 day solo circumnavigation of Ireland I caught up with Elaine ‘Shooter’ Alexander to find out what she though of the gear she used throughout the trip.

Elaine’s 1000 mile sea kayaking trip certainly tested all her gear to breaking point so there’s no better person to give a critical review.

The Boat  

Elaine paddled a Valley Etain LV

Good Points: Comfortable, stable, watertight, handled well and was quick in a headwind.  The layout and design of the hatches and the removable storage was great, as I said earlier no water ingress on the complete trip.  The boat was quick, responsive and a pleasure to paddle.

Negative Points: When the kayak is fully laden it will need the addition of a keel strip, as launching and landing on a solo trip means it can be prone to damage easily. 
I also had some issues with the skeg and the cable getting kinked- I am more of a rudder paddler (and this could be where the fault lies), but when the cable is damaged it can leave the skeg unusable- not great when you are on your own.

 Overall Review:  Overall the Valley Etain LV was a great addition to the trip, it was a comfortable boat that reacted well in all that was asked from it.  The negative points could perhaps be more to do with how I actually used the kayak, however I think that Valley perhaps could also consider the points I have raised and definitely look at the design of the skeg cabling and the keel strip.

I would highly recommend the kayak, and the service from Valley- any replacement parts or advice was given or sent without question and immediately.  My thanks go to them (in particular to Jason and Andy), for their support on this endeavour.

The Paddle 

Elaine used a Full Carbon Composite Lendal Touring Paddle, Kinetic Touring Small blades, Straight Shaft (smaller circumference), STD grips.

Good Points: Comfortable, durable (I think they are indestructible!), light, nice to handle, They were one piece, and this actually ensured they were stronger and lighter – something I would say anyone thinking of doing an expedition like this should consider. 

Negative Points: Hard to actually pick something, but one thing I would have loved these paddles to feature, is the rubber drip ring to stop water running up the shaft – Petty I know, but on a 1000 mile trip it is these little things start to get to you!

Overall Review:  The paddle was another great addition to the trip- there was the right level of flex to ensure that with every stroke you could feel the power transfer, it was comfortable in the hand, and thankfully as I am pretty small, I had asked for the smaller circumference shaft.  Thankfully I never had to use the splits, but on review they seem more than adequate and suitably strong.

The Waterproofs

Elaine wore a YAK Buoyancy Aid –Tahu , PEAK Storm Dry Bottoms, and YAK Conquest (Long sleeve), YAK Fusion (Short sleeve) cags.

 

                                                   

YAK Buoyancy Aid –Tahu

Good Points: Comfortable, pockets well placed and sized.  No damage after continual daily usage to zips, webbing or fabric. 

Negative Points: None

Overall Review:  A fantastic piece of kit, ideal touring buoyancy aid- would highly recommend this to any paddlers.

PEAK Storm Dry Bottoms

Good Points: Reinforced fabric socks under which I wore neoprene socks.  These were waterproof and comfortable for approx half of the trip (they were used 80% of the trip).

Negative Points: During the second half of the trip, as the bottoms were no longer fully waterproof (water ingress came from abrasion damage due to sand trapped in and around the seat), it meant that at the end of every days paddling I had to completely dry out my kit 

Overall Review:  Overall these bottoms were grand, they were used almost for the entire trip – even when there were some leaks.  The damage came about through no fault of the manufacturer, instead it came from their use in a pretty hostile environment.  I would recommend these bottoms.

YAK Conquest (Long sleeve), YAK Fusion (Short sleeve) cags

Good Points:

Conquest - comfortable, warm, durable and well designed.
Fusion - light, comfortable and well designed

Negative Points:

Conquest- Wrist seals were too loose meaning that my arms were continually getting wet, until the use of good old duct tape!
Fusion- After only two weeks of use the Cag started to fall apart under the arms, and some of the stitching on the front started to disintegrate.

Overall Review:  Over all they were totally different, the Conquest as it is designed specifically for expedition paddling was great, although the wrist seals were quite loose.

I was very disappointed with the Fusion, perhaps it was due to the level of usage or due to the salt water, but in my opinion this Cag should have stood up to the usage quite a bit better than it did.  I was again impressed with the level of service from the manufacturer-YAK, they replaced a Cag at the start of the trip immediately and without question.

The dry bags

Elaine used EXPED – Fold Dry Bags

Good Points: These dry bags stood the test fantastically well; they were used and abused on a daily basis, pulled in and out of hatches and thrown down on different surfaces

Negative Points: None with these- however I also had some Trek Mate and Decathlon dry bags, these were not as durable as the EXPED bags, in fact the Trek Mate ones totally fell apart! 

Overall Review:  As I had a range of sizes in these, I had the right size for the right use; they were hardwearing though light, tough and dependable.

The Trolley

Elaine used a RUK Kayak Trolley

 

Good Points: Paddling solo, these are an absolute necessity, unless you wish to remove all kit in total before transporting from the slipway to campsite!  Easy to assemble and disassemble ensuring easy stowage in one of the hatches, and surprisingly strong.

Negative Points: The wheels are too narrow for effective use in sand.  Also, carry spare pins as if these get dropped, damaged or lost then the wheels are useless!

Overall Review:  As stated above this is an essential piece of kit- they worked well and were dependable, my only negative point was their use in sand, however I can understand that to increase the wheel size would possibly make them hard to store in the hatches- therefore the trade off.  Also definitely carry spare pins.

The Tent

Elaine slept in a Karrimor Ultra LiteTent

Good Points: Easy to set up and take down even in poor conditions.  Good storage space inside.  This tent took a lot of abuse and didn’t let me down.

Negative Points: In a gale force wind the main pole snapped, although no tent could have stood that particular night without receiving some level of damage.  Also at the end of the trip the ground sheet was no longer waterproof, again due to continual usage and wear and tear. 

Overall Review:  A great tent, and not that expensive. 
Considering that I used this same tent on my trip around Ulster last year, I was well chuffed with the service it continued to give on this trip.  Even when the main pole snapped – it had a repair kit that included a tube that repaired the pole ensuring the tent could still be used.  Also the fact the groundsheet started to leak was due to the level of abuse this tent has received.   I would give this piece of kit full marks.

The tracker

Elaine used a SPOT messenger GPS Device

 

Good Points: Simple to use, added that bit of security and peace of mind to me (and my family).

Negative Points: Must be facing the sky to transmit so needs to be on deck of boat somewhere.

Overall Review:  A fantastic piece of kit, worked well throughout the trip.  The ease of setting up and integration within the website ensured that this became one of the most important aspects of the expedition- especially for any followers. 

This meant that they could see my location and distance traveled, also I could load up photos or video and link them to their location on the map to give followers a better feel for the expedition.  The added safety feature of the emergency button also meant that if I had got into any difficulties then up to 10 contacts would get immediate notification and start making enquiries (hopefully!)

The Radio

Elaine communicated with a VHF Radio Cobra Marine MRHH325


Good Points: Handy to have this on the trip to add that level of security, Battery life seemed to be good, and the device was easy to use. 

Negative Points: Coverage was intermittent, although I believe this can be the problem with any VHF radio.

Overall Review:  This piece of safety kit is essential to have- and to listen to the communication at ports and harbours added a new perspective and a valuable insight to the coming and going of larger vessels.  It also meant that weather forecasts were easy to receive and sometimes the banter with coastguards was good company.

 

To find out more about Elaine 'Shooter' Alexander's trip see www.canoearoundireland.com

 

Latest comment posted by Axel on August 9, 2011 @ 6:12 PM

Thanks for the open gear review. From personal experience I know how difficult it can be to comment on sponsored equipment that did not perform well. And a joy when the equipment is working at/above ... Read more >

Chris Scott
Chris Scott

When not boring everyone about his little kids’ latest antics, Chris enjoys sailing and cycling, if only to offset his love of eating out and Marlborough Cabernet Sauvignon..

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