Hello, my name is Mal Tabb.
Thanks for visiting our web pages. Marion & I operate a small outdoor activity organisation called Canoes, Mountains & Caves. We provide activities for: adults, young people, schools, charities, families & individuals. A key aspect of our work is the provision of a "Community Programme" which is offered free of charge to participants. If you think we might be able to help please don't hesitate to contact us, you can find out more about what we do on our main website www.canoesmountainscaves.com

Friday, 24 January 2014

Mine Exploraton: Ballroom Flats, Smallcleugh Mine, Nenthead

On Thursday night I led a trip on behalf of the"In2venture Community" to Ballroom Flats in Smallcleugh. There are pictures and a short write up on the In2venture website

I took some extra lighting into the mine for this trip to try to improve photo quality & to experiment with whether it gave enough illumination to begin to play around with video. On reviewing the results it appeared to offer some improvement on recent attempts.

There's a link below to my YouTube channel where there's a short, quite comical, video from the latter end of the trip:

  Click here for video 

Hard Days

From posts in recent weeks & months its not difficult to work out that a lot of difficult stuff has been going on of late on the work front. This has been compounded by injuries, occurring, in the outdoors, to close friends and colleagues. Firstly, Ferg took a fall while bouldering back in August & broke both ankles. He needed surgery and is still some way away from full recovery. I wasn't around for Ferg's injury so cannot comment in detail. Yesterday, Graham took a lead fall whilst climbing at Headend Quarry, North Cumbria. I was belaying him at the time but he hit he ground and sustained nasty fractures to his lower right leg that will require surgery today. Thankfully, both have survived what could have been much worse injury - I'm massively grateful for this. However, for the sake of learning I've written an account of Graham's day below:

Graham & I have been climbing in one way or another for many many years, much of this has been on indoor walls & top roped climbs on outdoor crags. Both of us had decided to have a "big push" this winter in order to improve our personal lead climbing skills. Yesterday was our sixth or seventh outdoor outing of the winter, we've had indoor sessions as well. Its been wet in Cumbria and much of our climbing has been dodging showers in cool, chilly conditions.

It had been raining when we arrived at Headend yesterday and the rock was a bit greasy. We did consider whether it was worth a climb but felt that we'd been out on worse rock & maybe one or two easier grades would be fine, the discussion concluded with Graham saying: "Seeing as we're here I'm going to have a climb". He set off on a V Diff that we have both climbed with ease before. Placing a cam as the first piece of protection; a nut as the second and I'm not sure what he placed just a metre from the top. However, after climbing past the top piece of protection, a height of 8m from the ground and complaining of cold, numb hands, he slipped and fell. I recall the system tensioning in my grip as the top piece of protection took Graham's weight & then feeling that split second of horror as it "popped free" from the crag & he came hurtling down. As Graham hit the ground there was the beginning of some more tension coming on to the rope as the second (nut) appeared to come into play but it was too late. Graham was on the ground, writhing in agony, his right leg badly mis-shaped. I knew instantly it was broken & feared worse in the form of possible back & neck injury.

I told him his leg was broken, checked he otherwise "felt okay" and ran quickly to a slightly higher vantage point where I could still see him and also had a mobile signal for the 999 call.

For all "knockers" of the NHS I can only say that from start to finish the medical evacuation process was superb. Its very special when from an isolated location you can make a phone call, within 15-20 mins have a qualified paramedic take over the care of an injured casualty; make the decision to stand down the heli-med team that has already been despatched; consider the option of a mountain rescue team & within two hours have an A&E consultant presiding over care. North West Ambulance Service; Cumberland Infirmary - first class Thank you!!

Reflecting on all those years of Outdoor First Aid Training ......... Lots of enthusiastic and well intentioned input from trainers has been well appreciated. However, with the potential of spinal injury, in this instance, I will never forget the clearest of instructions from the Ambulance controller: "Is he on his back? (Yes)... Do not touch him, I repeat Do not even touch him unless he begins to vomit or lose consciousness. Do not attempt to splint. Just observe and if anything changes tell me" The reality of the First Aid message in real life (which to be fair has come much more to the fore in recent years) is get professional help as quickly & efficiently as possible. I guess this is what really makes a difference, there wasn't really an awful lot I could do for him in this situation.

Anyway, two days on Graham has just been discharged from hospital after orthopaedic surgery (pin & plate) he's doing well and although likely to be off his feet for 6-8 weeks is expected to make a good recovery.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Solway Coast: Skinburness

So far its been a poor winter in the local fells, wet & mild has been the general pattern - I've hardly ventured out with half days climbing between the showers; mine exploration & some canoeing generally offering better options. The element of work that involves consultancy rather than outdoor instruction has also been extremely busy and stressful over these last few months.

The weekend just past, which I referred to in my last post, was a final gathering at Blaithwaite House of the staff and volunteers who comprise the charity In2venture. It was indeed a special occasion to catch up with good friends and colleagues from across the North of England. The Sunday morning of this weekend traditionally has seen a wander up one of the local fells, however, this year the plan was abandoned in favour of a coastal walk on the Solway.

Having lived in and around this area over the last eight years I've often alluded to how underrated this stretch of coastline is - it really doesn't get the attention it deserves with its beaches & dunes; views of the lakeland fells to the south; Dumfries & Galloway to the north all under the canopy of a big big sky - very impressive. I once saw an exhibition of art inspired by this coast in Priest's Mill coffee shop, Caldbeck. Unfortunately I didn't buy any of it which was a mistake as I've seen little which is as good since.

On Sunday we parked in Skinburness & walked out to Grune Point, I believe there is a worthwhile sea kayak trip up the coast to this area? There's lots of World War 2 artefacts still to be seen as a reminder of the role played by the RAF's coastal command in the area. The debris from recent Spring tides and Atlantic storms could be seen in some quite unbelievable places as we strolled around "the point" at low tide. Not much wildlife to be seen this time but I understand this can be of interest at times, maybe we were too big a group?

Thanks to Marion Blakeman for today's photography!

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Blaithwaite House - The End of an Era

Blaithwaite House has served the North of England as a Christian Centre for over 40 years. The property is owned by the Donald family and Dennis Donald has dedicated much of his personal ministry to presenting Blaithwaite House to the public as place where warm Christian hospitality can be expected and enjoyed; its been a place of prayer; healing and restoration and is held in the deepest of affection by many.

"The House" has been organised and managed in various ways over the years and I will be forever grateful to Dennis Donald for the opportunity given to me to take over from David & Ann Bowie in 2005-2006 and live in the Coach House as Centre Manager for the next seven years. It was a most challenging but rewarding season of life. I went to Blaithwaite House as part of In2venture's contribution to the life & ministry of the Centre. As such I feel able to express my personal opinion with conviction and say that without In2venture's presence at Blaithwaite there would undoubtedly be no Christian ministry taking place there today - the Centre would simply not have survived the combined impact of the recession & decline in its traditional Church clientele which have been a feature of the last decade. In2venture brought schools; a new outlook and the chance to survive to Blaithwaite.

Sadly, the Donald family have chosen to end In2venture's lease at Blaithwaite from April 2014. In my opinion this is a sad time which will likely see the end of Blaithwaite's life as a primarily Christian Centre. I acknowledge that there might still be a warm welcome & that some folk will continue to hold it in prayer but for me the heart that has powered it for decades already beats more faintly, almost imperceptibly. Although having left Blaithwaite for some 18 months myself I do hold the view that this latest chapter of change has been tinged with words & actions by people that I have held in the highest regard, that may one day be looked upon with regret and remorse.

So, this weekend sees the last gathering of "Team In2venture" at Blaithwaite. It'll be good to catch up with the folk who have been the soul behind that beating heart during In2venture's time. It will be appropriate that much of In2venture's future direction will be determined over the weekend, a future which glows brightly with hope and a determination to continue to inspire the people of the North of England & beyond but balanced by an appreciation of the real challenges faced by the Charity. For me, although there will be more events to attend at Blaithwaite this is the one that  will see my final farewells to a place I have loved dearly since the first time I visited in 1996 - its the end of an era.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

One Year On......

A few images from a stunning morning in the Lake District....................................

Brownley Hills, Deep Exploration: Shale & Water!!

The "Church of the Outdoors" has always offered great fellowship to me, with this in mind it was good to catch up with Paul Rich (who I see quite often); Dave Baines (who its always an inspiration to see, even at just a couple of times a year) & Graham Derbyshire (it was the first time I've been underground with Graham) - for a deep exploration of Brownley Hills mine at Nenthead. The aim of the trip was to venture into the further reaches of Gudamgill Burn Vein & Brownley Hills North Vein.

First off, after entering the mine we took a short diversion to point out the Brownley Hill - Nentsberry Haggs connection to those who hadn't seen it before. 

Back to main crossroads, it was straight ahead into the deeper reaches of the mine, past the watery Rampgill connection; on to (at least in my mind) the distant connection back to the blue pool & on & on through increasingly deep, cold water & ever more unstable shale. Awkward crawls, taking care not to touch the sides or roof, scrambles over roof falls; loose shale falling on occasion from the roof; sections of stone arching bulging under the weight of what lay behind them, until eventually we made the call to turn back.

It had been an exhilirating deep trip into the mine, we topped it off by making the connection back via the blue pool thus making a round trip for future visits & after some further "ratching" about around a climb close to the crossroads we ultimately exited the mine after a four & a half hour trip.

Thursday, 2 January 2014


Happy New Year to everyone - wishing you all the very best for 2014!!

A big thank you for taking the time to read these pages & sharing in my journey through the last year, its a journey that will continue through the coming year with much that is unclear & unknown at this time so hopefully it will be an exciting & rewarding one! Please keep reading, keep in touch & watch this space!


PS. Its been very much an office based Christmas & New Year so far, the shortage of outdoor posts being due in part to a move of the "Home Office". Progress to date is below....

Burning Midnight Oil Tonight Re-Locating The "Home Office"