Scaladale youth activities centre is ready for a soft-re-opening in July as Lewis and Harris Youth Clubs Association take careful steps back to post-virus normality.

The first activity that will bring the centre back to life will be a revised and socially-distanced version of the National Lottery-funded young leaders programme.

Twelve young people aged between 14 and 18 from across Lewis and Harris were selected in September 2019 for their attitude towards leadership, team working and enthusiasm for the outdoors. They’re taking part in a three-year programme which has so far included all of the outdoor activities that Scaladale delivers through taster days, and they have had training in mountain bike instructing and outdoor first aid. Unfortunately, their accredited training has suffered due to the pandemic. Soon after they all completed their first aid training, activity was suspended due to lockdown. Many of them would have achieved their mountain bike assistant instructor certificate by now but instead, like everyone, they’ve been confined to home-based activities.

Now their training is to be resumed, with activities delivered in socially-distanced groups of four instead of the whole group of 12 as before. Scaladale centre manager Kate Lewis said: “We will start with socially distanced kayak training, working with just four of them at a time, but ensuring that we see them all regularly.

“They will learn all the basic kayaking techniques, as well as group management and foundation safety and rescue. We will be preparing them for assisting on Scaladale activity days and making the appropriate industry-recognised qualifications available to them wherever possible.

“The young people will also gain experience of assisting on climbing sessions later this summer, as this is another activity that Scaladale can safely offer within the current COVID 19 restrictions and guidelines.

“The Lottery have funded the first year of their programme, but we intend for them to continue next year by volunteering on real sessions. This way they get lots of valuable experience, which, coupled with their new qualifications, will mean that we can begin paying them to work for us in their third year.

Our current full-time instructor, Calum Blane, was once a Scaladale young leader and our seasonal instructor last summer, Finlay Emmott, also started through the programme.

“We are currently seeking funding to start another YL cohort for next year. We think home-grown instructors are the best instructors and it also fulfils LHYCA's aims perfectly, engaging our young people in our amazing environment here in the Hebrides and teaching them some exciting and fun ways of making a living from it.”

The picture shows the young leaders during mountain bike training in the grounds of Lews Castle in February this year (LHYCA).