Many instructors on Mountain Training courses are freelances. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Many instructors on Mountain Training courses are freelances. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

A fundraising page has been set up to try to support outdoor instructors whose work has dried up as Covid-19 hits the country.

John Brooks and Sam Marsland said the coronavirus pandemic has left many freelance outdoors professionals without income.

The pair, who are both instructors in the Lake District, have established the GoFundMe site with a target of £15,000.

They said: “Hardworking professionals in the outdoor industry are losing entire years’ earnings just as the season is about to start.

“This will and already has had big effects for those in the industry most of which are sole traders and currently there is no government help other than universal credit.

“This campaign is created to try and put some money back in the pockets of those guys and girls who have currently receiving no support from elsewhere.

“The guys and girls, who have kept you safe, shown you amazing places, taught you lifelong skills, inspired you, brought you closer to nature and given you and your family memories to last a lifetime. If you ever wanted to get these guys a coffee now is the time.

“Once we have reach the goal all funds raised from this campaign will go directly to freelancers from the outdoor industry via an application process to make sure the right money goes into the right hands of those who work hard every day in the outdoors, many with family and mortgages.

“For many years the outdoor communities has been brilliant at organizing themselves and rallying to all sorts of causes, we hope that you can do the same now.”

Mountain Training, the body that oversees many outdoor qualifications in the UK, said on its site: “As a network of mountain training organisations we have advised our providers to cancel upcoming training and assessment courses and this will be reviewed towards the end of April.

“This is because travel to and from courses, accommodation arrangements and a close-quarter learning environment are now difficult to justify in light of recent government advice.”

Graham Uney, who formerly worked as a Lake District felltop assessor. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Graham Uney, who formerly worked as a Lake District felltop assessor. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Graham Uney, a former Lake District felltop assessor who runs a business offering employment to freelance instructors on courses ranging from hillwalking to navigation and climbing, said the crisis for outdoor professionals has echoes of that endured during the 2001 foot-and-mouth disease closure of the countryside.

Posting on Facebook, he said: “In 2001 my walking holiday and mountain-skills business, Wild Ridge Adventure, collapsed overnight, leaving me with a debt that took me nearly 12 years to rid myself of.

“Now in 2020 the coronavirus looks like doing its damnedest to put an end to my current business. I have to make decisions about cancelling the various mountain training courses that I’m offering over the next few months. There’ll be no financial help whatsoever from the government, the same as none was forthcoming in 2001.

“My decision to cancel courses will also have an effect on the staff I use to work on those courses with me. They are freelance, and no doubt they are currently having work cancelled by other providers even as I write. I chose these people to work with me because they are lovely folk, and are frankly brilliant at what they do.

“If I cancel work for them I will feel like I am letting them down.

“Difficult decisions to be made, and hard times ahead. Once my decision about the future of my courses has been made, I might just vanish into the hills for a while.

“And these are the decisions faced by hundreds of other outdoor providers. I wish them all luck, and hope that everyone does the right thing.”

Mr Uney has decided to cancel all his planned Mountain Training and National Navigation Award Scheme courses until the end of May, with a review at that stage of the coronavirus situation.

He said: “I personally believe that it would not be right for my business, my clients, my staff, my family, or the families of my clients and staff, to put them at unnecessary risk. I hope to come through this, as does every small business, and we’ll be even stronger on the other side.

“But for now, I’m going to spend some quiet times in the hills.

“There’s lots of folk commenting that those of us who work as outdoor instructors will be able to claim grants to help us through the problems associated with coronavirus. I’ve looked at what’s on offer and this seems to be only available to those who pay business rates on property.

“Most of us who work outdoors don’t pay business rates as our businesses aren’t linked to property, so can’t claim.”

Anyone wishing to donate to the new fund can do so online at the GoFundMe site.

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