A Breath of Fresh Air for Leading Aerospace Company’s Employees: AerFin Corporate Retreat at Plas y Brenin

After launching our exciting Corporate Retreat offering in the heart of Eryri (Snowdonia) National Park, we were delighted to welcome over 40 employees from a leading aerospace company in January. AerFin, based in South Wales, is a global specialist in providing cost-saving aftermarket support solutions to the aviation industry.

AerFin's CEO, Simon Goodson, said: ‘We're here to discuss how we kick off 2023, spend time getting to know each other, do some leadership development planning, and wider planning of how we will execute 2023.'

With Plas y Brenin being nestled amongst mountains, lakes, rivers, and coastlines, we can easily take teams to challenging places and offer real experiences to build resilience, teamwork, and trust. Our Corporate Retreats are a starting point for leaders who are ready to take a fresh look at their organisation and consider how putting people first can create a stronger and more profitable business.

Plas y Brenin was delighted to welcome the AerFin Team for their Corporate Retreat

A Program With AerFin's Objectives at Its Heart

Every company is different, meaning our retreats are entirely bespoke. CEO, Simon, shared AerFin’s long and short-term goals through a free consultation with our experts. This allowed us to create a program that used the outdoors to meet AerFin’s needs.

Martin Chester, International Mountain Guide and AerFin’s Retreat Organiser, said: 'We could have done a lot of contrived leadership development and team building exercises, but there’s a risk of that being artificial or cheesy. We, therefore, wanted to take the team out of their comfort zone and do some exciting activities in real places, letting all the good stuff happen organically. Plas y Brenin was the obvious choice.'

AerFin's Leader and Senior Management Teams getting out of their comfort zone in Eryri (Snowdonia) National Park with our expert instructors

Over the course of the three days, we provided various indoor and outdoor activities to test the AerFin team. This included team challenges to aid teamwork and communication; an abseiling session to enable both teams to work together; a review of the abseil activity against AerFin's principles; indoor climbing and bouldering to build trust; and an inspirational team walk and scramble in the mountains to explore leadership.

A member of the AerFin, said: 'Yesterday, you wouldn't have got me near an abseil tower, but I'm pleased to say I achieved it! I found it interesting and terrifying, but I feel fantastic now. It was a really good experience!'

AerFin's, Ben, getting belayed by his colleague on our indoor climbing wall

Amidst the activities, we included a series of talks to motivate and educate the teams. This included an inspiring Leadership Talk and Q&A from Deputy Chief Executive Officer at Vertical Aerospace, Harry Holt. We were delighted to welcome Harry to our Main Lecture Room:

'Laying out the direction for your team is pretty foundational. If you don't do that, you are not going to get far. But, if you are able to inspire your team to give more of themselves than they would normally give, then give that discretionary effort. That is the key to unlocking truly extraordinary levels of performance and subsequently, achievement.'

Ex-Chief People Officer at Rolls-Royce and Deputy Chief Executive Officer at Vertical Aerospace, Harry Holt, talks about leadership with AerFin employees

Our Unique Offering

When arriving at the centre, Simon voiced: 'My first impressions of Plas y Brenin were the stunning beauty and serenity of the place. After having a tour, I saw the outstanding facilities and got to meet the incredible staff.'

Our range of facilities are what us make us truly unique. Within a retreat package, we provide everything you need to make your stay convenient and comfortable. With our lake, on-site accommodation, spacious lounge and bar area overlooking Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon), hearty meals, indoor climbing wall, rolling pool, stores, drying room, and stunning venues on our doorstep, we have everything you need all in one place.

The AerFin Team was delighted to receive goodie bags on arrival, which featured a Welcome Card from the CEO, Simon; Plas y Brenin merchandise; and a Mountain Equipment beanie

Our world-class instructors also offer a unique experience. Simon voiced: 'The number one comment from the team was about the quality of instruction and the ‘quietly supportive’ leadership. They all felt incredibly looked after and really appreciated the support'.

The Result

Pete Catterall, Plas y Brenin’s Head of Instruction, said: 'We loved working with AerFin and watching them having strategic meetings to then intersperse with their outdoor activities was fantastic. We saw enormous amounts of trust being built between the teams, where you’ve got one of the Senior Managers holding the rope of another Senior Manager above a huge drop on their abseil. The team's bonding, resilience and communication were brilliant.'

A happy team following a walk and scramble in the mountains, only a stones throw away from the centre

Are You Ready to Advance Your Team?

We are so excited to see this area of Plas y Brenin grow. It's fantastic that companies are now recognising the importance of giving employees the opportunity to connect away from the office. A focus on employee mental and physical health is key to any corporate strategy.

Would you like to bring your team on a journey at Plas y Brenin? Download our Corporate Retreat brochure today or get in contact with our team by calling 01690 720 214 or emailing bookings@pyb.co.uk.

Photo Credit: Jake Webb Photography & Videography

10 Tips for Staying Warm on the Water

Being cold sucks! There’s nothing more miserable than the sting of the cold hitting your hands making your fingers throb or being so unbearably cold that you just can’t focus. Here are 10 top tips for staying warm on the water, from our Senior Paddlesport Instructor, Chris Evans:

I’ve been on the sea in perfect flat calm northerly winter conditions, bringing little to no wind and breathtaking views. I could take this all in because I was warm enough. I’ve also had days on the water that were memorable for the wrong reasons, I didn’t want to be paddling because I was painfully cold due to incorrect layering, fuel or neglecting extremities.

Here are a few suggestions to avoid the sting of the cold and enjoy paddling in all seasons.

1    Get your layering right!

Do you naturally run hot or cold? More layers if you run cold, fewer if you run hot.

2    Don’t forget your feet!

It’s our natural connection point to the earth underneath us, so make sure there’s adequate insulation from the ground temperature as well as enough ankle and foot support for the environment.

3    How much are you doing during your paddling session?

A sprint-around, training session will need fewer layers than a social float. I find I need more layers when coaching than I do when personal paddling for example, as I spend more time sitting around.

4    Fuel up properly

On the coldest of cold days, think about hot food and drink rather than the buoyancy aid Mars Bars (other confectionery is available) that may have frozen. I’ve heard horror stories of dental work needing doing after a frozen BA chocolate bar! This could either be for when you’re off the water (only out for a short period of time) or in flasks with you.

5    Stop in sheltered spots

An obvious one (however I do still see it), is it’s colder in the wind than it is out. Finding that sheltered spot to have your above-warm lunch is always a winner (under a canoe works quite well).

6    Keep the blood flowing to the extremities

We’ve all felt the loss of dexterity in digits due to the cold and have all then tried to do a simple task like opening a zip. That stinging sensation can be avoided with simple movements of the extremities to minimise the loss of blood flow. ‘Shaking out the cold’ or ‘playing the piano’ works quite well.

7    One way of keeping the dexterity in your fingers is to use gloves or pogies

My preference here is pogies, as you can keep a natural connection and feel to your paddle with the pogie creating its own ecosystem. I do find them clumsy on the river, so I slide them into the middle of the paddle when it gets technical and put them on when the river chills out.

8    A helmet with holes in is much colder than one without, if yours is one with vents then think about a neoprene skull cap

Woolie hats when a helmet isn’t needed are a must on cold days and they drown out the mocking calls of the stubborn who believe that they don’t need pogies….

9    Get changed in the warm and dry

Putting on at least your thermals at home means you’re minimising the time spent changing in car parks, arguably the hardest part of paddling in cold conditions.

10    Carry spare layers if you’re out for the day

Consider a go layer and a stop layer. Go layer is one to add if you’re still moving and the stop layer needs to be substantial enough to keep you warm if you have to stop for an extended period of time. Boat fixing for example.

We hope you found Chris' tips useful. For more advice and the latest paddle news, make sure to sign up to our paddle newsletter and follow our paddlesports Instagram! You can also learn all about our courses here, from introductory courses all the way through to NGB.

Special thanks to our incredible sponsors, Peak PS, who help keep our instructors warm on the water.

Kendal Mountain Festival's Official Skills and Training Partner

Kendal Mountain Festival is a celebration of outdoor culture, bringing together adventurers, filmmakers and lecturers to inspire more people to explore, enjoy and represent mountains, wilderness and their cultures.

We were delighted to attend this year as the Festival's Official Skills and Training Partner. Our vibrant tipi was based in the heart of the legendary Basecamp Village; a social hub for brands to bring their story to life amongst people that love and cherish the outdoors. Ticket sales were over 25,000, which was up from 20,000 last year with a brilliant broad reach of disciplines within the outdoor industry represented.

Following an amazing weekend, we want to thank the incredible people that made it happen.

Bringing Our Tipi to Life

Whilst our cosy tipi was by no means our instructors' natural environment, it gave us the perfect platform to capture our passion for the outdoors. It was a place where we could catch up with old friends and make new ones. Shout out to Alex from Covered in Style for supplying our wonderful tipi and Colin Holden Design for creating such a magical space.

No details were missed, from the foliage and slate archway to the hanging lit-up kayak. We used an array of colourful kit provided by our lovely sponsors to dress the interior. Thank you to Mountain Equipment, Peak, Scarpa, Petzl, DMM, Fjällräven, O'Shea, Edelweiss, Deuter and Evolution Bikes.

Our team getting ready before opening our tipi doors!

Our Talented Speakers

With the help from our qualified instructors, Mountain Equipment athletes and other external speakers, we provided our top tips on how to plan anything from your first solo adventure, weekend camping trips with the family, to bigger expeditions abroad.

A massive thank you to Jake Webb for capturing the whole event and to all of Friday's speakers:

It was a pleasure to welcome founder of Peak, Pete Astles, to discuss his story with 'Peak Sewn Friendships'
Harrison Ward's (Fell Foodie's) live vegan cooking. Delicious samples were included!
On Saturday, it was great to see our tipi full to the brim of adventurers wanting to listen to our speakers, which included Mountain Equipment Athletes Dave MacLeod and Tom Livingstone. Thank you to:
Tom Livingstone's 'UK Skills to Big Hills' with Plas y Brenin's, Lou Beetlestone
A full house for Dave MacLeod and Dave Evans' talk: 'How to Improve as a Rock Climber'
The Sunday was all about winter! With our Scottish Winter courses approaching, we wanted to provide you with the knowledge for you to stay safe in the icy conditions. Thank you to:
Plas y Brenin's, Rich Gentry and Will Nicholls, kick off our Winter Day with 'Avalanche Awareness'
Plas y Brenin's, Matt Stygall, tells us why winter is ace!

If you would like to view speaker presentations, you can view some of them here.

Live Scribing with Chapple Cartoons

We wanted to capture our talks in a powerful and memorable way, and we are delighted with the outcome. The amazingly talented Caroline from Chapple Cartoons joined us with her giant canvas for a day of live scribing. We loved watching the drawing evolve throughout the day, and even incorporate your own messages into the illustration. We can't wait to showcase the canvas here at the centre.

The finished piece! Saturday's talks incorporated into one huge canvas by the talented Caroline from Chapple Cartoons

A Full Tent for Mappy Hour

Mappy Hour... think free beer, an Augmented Reality (AR) sandbox, mingling, and maps. Lots of them!

We loved hosting our first Mappy Hour sessions with the help from Ordnance Survey (OS) and JBA Trust. It was great to see so many adventurers in one place, hanging out over beer that we created especially for the festival. You got to design your own landscapes through JBA Trust's AR Sandbox; an interactive visualisation tool that shows how topography affects water moving through catchment. We also saw your competitive side through some map-related competitions that had some fantastic prizes up for grabs.


Night Navigation and eBike Sampling

Some very keen folk braved the elements to sample the delights that the Lake District had to offer through our Night Navigation and eBike Sampling. Thanks to Plas y Brenin's, Iona Pawson, James Bruton and Chris Evans, for heading up the sessions, and to Specialized Bicycles for our Turbo Levis and Exposure Lights for supporting the event and supplying the very best lights for the job. We were delighted to give away a superb Exposure Diablo MK12 as part of our bike competition, kindly donated by Exposure Lights.


Relive the Festival Online

We would like to thank the Kendal Mountain team for such an inspiring and community-led event. We hope that sharing our stories encourages more communities and young people to get active in the outdoors. You can catch up on the festival online through the Kendal Mountain Player. Looking ahead, we are excited to join Kendal Mountain Festival for the 2023 UK Festival Tour, packed with new speakers and films to see. If you'd like to know more, sign up here!

Thank you to everyone who came to see us. Until next time...