Outdoor activity providers

Paddle boarding on Lake Windermere at Fell Foot, Cumbria

We've worked with outdoor activity providers to develop a new approach to managing events and activities.

Find out how we're working together to protect precious landscapes and amazing wildlife.

We've created a scheme that prioritises the conservation needs of the land we look after while recognising the requirements of individual providers and the wide range of activities they offer. 

Visitors taking part in a trail running challenge at Cheddar Gorge, Somerset

Does it apply to you?

Outdoor activity providers host a number of planned activities and events for groups of people on land that is solely or partially cared for by the National Trust. These include organised cycle rides, group running events, charity fundraisers, triathlons, sponsored walks, outdoor festivals, rock climbing and gorge walking.

Gareth Field, project manager of the Active Outdoor Providers Scheme, says: 'Whether they are a lone rock climbing guide or the organiser of large outdoor festival we want to encourage outdoor providers to use the land we look after.

'These providers allow more people to experience the magical landscapes and wildlife we care for. Our new approach aims to strike the right balance between protecting the precious land we look after and allowing people to enjoy it.'

What has changed? 

Previously all providers wanting to host activities or events had to have a licence. But this 'one size fits all' approach wasn't always appropriate for the breadth of activities offered. So we listened to feedback from providers and other industry stakeholders and worked with them to develop a scheme that is more flexible.  

How will it work? 

The Active Outdoor Providers Scheme establishes four possible ways of working between the National Trust place and the outdoor activity provider. 

Providers wanting to run an event or activity should contact the relevant National Trust place to discuss their options with a member of staff. The environmental impact of the activity/event will be assessed and one of the following ways of working will be agreed. Here, we've also provided some real-life examples to show how the different approaches work. 

Business as usual: This is when a small provider such as a rock climbing guide brings a group of up to three people to an area on an ad hoc basis. The impact on the environment is very low so no specific action needs to be taken other than normal visitor safety. 

Working together to protect landscape: This is when a provider organises regular events for large numbers of people (a group of trail runners for instance) on land where parts of the footpath might be fragile. An informal arrangement will be made between parties to address conservation concerns. This may involve changing the route or helping to repair the land. 

Formal permission for use granted: This would apply to events such as a trail race that occupies a section of land from start to finish and is promoted by the National Trust. In this instance we would draw up a formal agreement outlining responsibilities and requirements. 

Commercial agreement: This would be drawn up for outdoor festivals and other events featuring stands run for commercial purposes. Such agreements are signed by the relevant parties and normally need to be tailored by our legal team. 

What next?

We are currently training our staff and aim to start rolling out the new scheme in the summer of 2019. 

Currently your first point of contact for queries is AOPS project manager, Gareth Field. Email him your questions: aops@nationaltrust.org.uk.

Do you have more questions?

Put your questions to Gareth Field, the project manager of the Active Outdoor Providers Scheme at aops@nationaltrust.org.uk, or read the FAQs below.


Why should I talk to the National Trust about where and what I do as an activity provider?

We want to help. By talking to us, our teams may be able to give you more information about the land you use or plan to use. This could lead to a deeper knowledge of the place that could enrich your participants’ experience. Talking to us could also help reduce the level of impact your activity might have on the land.

You may require permission to access the site or use a particular piece of land. Talking to us could prevent you being liable to prosecution from statutory bodies. For example, if a site has a designation on it, like a SSSI or SAC then any person caught damaging that place is liable for prosecution from Natural England.

Is this just a different way of trying to license all activity on National Trust land?

No, not everything needs a licence. For a lot of activity we don’t need to give any form of licence or permission for the activity to happen. We cannot and should not be licensing a lot of activities. The new Active Outdoors Providers Scheme (AOPS) is a framework and a process to help our teams assess the best approach when working with third party providers working on National Trust land. 

How can we trust you?

Hopefully you’ll see this is about protecting the environment you work in. We want to create positive relationships that protect the landscape and preserve its use for the future.

Who do I need to talk to about delivering activities on NT land?

Currently your first point of contact for queries is AOPS project manager, Gareth Field. Email him your questions: aops@nationaltrust.org.uk.

He’ll be able to answer any questions you may have beyond the information available here. We are training local leads during the winter of 2018/19. We plan to provide more information on our website in the spring. From spring 2019, you’ll be able to make contact with the local property, talk to the AOPS property lead and discuss what you're doing.

The staff I have talked to have said I can't run the activity. What do I do now?

Hopefully they have explained why, and have been clear about the risk of the activity to the place and/or the wildlife. We hope you understand this, and work with the local staff team to find another venue where the activity could happen.

I don’t need your permission to use your land for activities

You do need the landowner’s permission for when you:

  • want to occupy a piece of land;
  • access a piece of land or water without a right of access;
  • to do an activity within a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) that isn’t on a Right of Way;
  • due to local by-laws, some activities on common land also require permissions.

I don’t do any damage to your land, so I’m not involved in this

You may not think your activity has an impact on the land but the effect of your activity along with all the other providers may have a cumulative effect.

Some impact is not seen. For example, the spread of invasive species between water courses cannot be seen but can have a catastrophic effect on the new watercourse.

Weather can play a huge part in the risk to the environment, if there has been heavy rain you may cause more erosion than if dry.

Why should I support you?

We are a charity founded in 1895 by three people who saw the importance of our nation’s heritage and open spaces and wanted to protect them for everyone to enjoy.

In 2014, there were 55 million visits to historic sites in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and an estimated three billion to coast, countryside and parks. More people than ever before visited the places we look after; there were more than 20 million visits to our houses, parks and gardens and an estimated 200 million to our countryside and coast. Taken together, we think this shows how much people continue to enjoy and value historic, beautiful and natural places today.

There’s also been a fantastic boom in outdoor exercise and events in recent years. An increased impact to the environment is inevitable. We recognise that there are a huge number of outdoor providers who are, like us, concerned about damage caused to the environment by an increased use of the outdoors for organised recreational activities. We know that we share values and the goal of helping people access and enjoy the benefits of being in the great outdoors.

We want to work with you for a healthy and beautiful environment.

For more information on how we are working towards this ambition read more here in our ‘Playing our part’ strategy (pdf)

Is this scheme aiming to stop activity?

In principle, we want to encourage people to use our land. 

We want to welcome and encourage providers – from independent instructors to large-scale event organisers. It enables more people to enjoy National Trust places. It’s why we’re here and is a key part of our strategy.

Our primary role is to protect the land while providing access. Impact and conservation is our priority when we’re considering and setting up relationships with third-party providers. 

How much am I going to be charged?

You may not be charged if we need to give permission and create a licence. Where licences are applicable, these will be bespoke and created in response to the individual requirements of the activity taking place. This is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach. 

We will charge for services we provide and where our charitable resources are used by providers. For example:

If the event needs consent from Natural England we may charge for staff time to apply for this consent. 

  • Where our teams may have to open up access to land for an event; their time will be charged for.
  • Where our land is used wholly or in part to deliver an event, we may apply a hire fee for the use of the land. 

The above examples are not exhaustive.

I have an agreement, do I need to rearrange this?

No, continue as usual.

Will you want to check my insurance and risk assessments?

Unless we enter into a formal agreement with you, we don’t need to see your insurance or risk assessments. These are for you to ensure you have done to a suitable and appropriate level.

Why should you tell me how to run my activities?

For activities in the countryside, we are only interested in the safety of the land. You are the experts in delivering your activities. We have no intentions of telling you how to run them. 

However, we may be able to share knowledge of recognised hazards on the site you use or plan to use, so you can plan accordingly.

If you are delivering activities to our customers, we may want to work with you around our levels of service and our expectations, but the safety and activity specific systems is for you to deliver as the experts in that area.

You’ve not answered my question. Where can I find out more?

If you have any queries regarding the new scheme and how it may affect you, contact project manager Gareth Field at aops@nationaltrust.org.uk.

Gareth is your first point of contact until the property leads are fully in place. We plan to update local information in spring 2019.  

Do you have more questions?

Put your questions to Gareth Field, the project manager of the Active Outdoor Providers Scheme at aops@nationaltrust.org.uk.