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

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Where Feet May Fail

Sometimes during challenges in life and on difficult days it can be hard to find the words to write; you just have to let the pictures and the music speak!

Oceans Acoustic - Click to Play/View

Saturday, 27 September 2014

More on Dark Places

I was looking through my Cave & Mine log book earlier and made a quick review of the last 12 months. It was a surprise to find that a good 30 trips underground have been completed during this time with one caving trip for about every five mine exploration trips (proximity to the North Pennines has altered this bias in recent months) . These underground travels have taken us to North Wales; the Yorkshire Dales; the North Pennines & the Lake District.

From leading youth groups in Upper & Lower Long Churns; to personal deep exploration of North Pennine mines; to the vertical realms of abandoned Welsh slate mines - there have been a lot of dark places in the last 12 months. However, from seeing the faces of first time underground explorers as they overcome initial fear & apprehension; to the bonds of friendship that have been built with & amongst our regular underground explorers to the physical and mental challenge of a demanding expedition in the underworld the light has always triumphed and will continue to do so.

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it"


Thursday, 18 September 2014

Fanning the Flames

Here's another post from Marion after a couple of weekends' wild camping:

Two recent weekends have introduced me to the experience that is ‘Wild Camping’.

When this concept was originally suggested to me the thought of being out under the trees sent shivers down my spine; dark shadows, the rustle of undergrowth, a midnight ‘howl’ chorus, and bugs of all description taking advantage of exposed faces, all conjured in my mind! I may not be a celebrity, but the phrase ‘GET ME OUT OF HERE’ was hovering on the tip of my lips, even before the date was set!

We had been blessed greatly by the 2014 summer and it was not to disappoint as it continued to give us two beautiful weekends as the autumn calendar began to open its doors. Both micro-expeditions, subsequently found themselves in the idyllic surroundings of two of Cumbria’s ‘Northern Lakes’; the canvas had been lovingly painted to melt my anxious thoughts.

Our journeys commenced with open canoes laden with all that we would need for a night ‘under the stars’; flanked by welcoming mountains that seemed all but touchable, paddles began to glide through the gentle, crystal waters.

Words cannot do justice to the beauty and majesty of all that surrounded us; the ‘Artist’ had truly presented His creation in all its finery!

As vessels steered to dry land it seemed a shame to move from these waters, but our own creation story was required if we were going to find rest for the night!

Territories staked out, there was much excitement in the air as hammocks, tarps and (dare I say it) tents, along with survival, bivvy and sleeping bags, were revealed and carefully positioned; ‘lodgings’ in place it was time to turn our attention to the all-important matters of fire and food!


Bulrush, bow-drill, straw and kindling in place the first attempts to generate heat began. With bow-drill in full friction the emergence of smoke could be seen, the advancement to a more modern form of ‘fire-lighting’  however, was required to translate this into a spark … the fire steel was brought into play!

It was the next part of this process that had me transfixed, and spoke once again of life’s journey.  As the small spark took hold in the bulrush, the ball of straw that it was embedded in was lifted to the air to allow a gentle, consistent breath to be blown through it for the spark to be brought completely to life with dancing flames producing light, warmth and sufficient power to cook!


The image before me reminded me that many times through life we are asked to do things that maybe we have no qualification or any real equipping for, just the minutest amount of talent with a willingness to offer it for use.  Viewing this from my walk with Jesus as my saviour and friend, I could see those times when I have handed over the smallest of offerings in many areas (emotions, talents, time, relationships, financial resources etc) to God (sometimes hesitantly!!), for Him to breathe life into. What has happened next has, on many occasions, brought about something beyond anything that I could dream or imagine; my world lit up to bring change, transformation and the ability to achieve.

With the beautiful picture of ‘michelin man’ proportioned hands lovingly holding us and life giving breath being blown into all that we are and can be; camp camaraderie, around the now glowing fire, in full flow; I was ready to embrace my ‘sleepover’ with the stars and all creation … including the ones that were to crawl over my face in the night!!



Sunday, 14 September 2014

Second Open Canoe Micro-Expedition

September has got off to a very busy start, following an open canoe micro-expedition over the last weekend in August, both September weekends have been packed full of activity: another open canoe micro-expedition & a white water safety day. All of the events have been incredibly well supported and its been a privilege to spend so much time in the outdoors in so much good company! Similarly its been such a blessing to enjoy two fine, dry and warm September weekends!!

Mid-weeks have been busier than anticipated also with an unexpected day working in the fells and a full week lying ahead. So for now by way of a catch up here are a few photos from last week's open canoe micro-expedition.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Yesterday's Office

Yesterday's office consisted of a glorious September's day in what is quite possibly my favourite part of the Lake District - high level walking in the area close to Great Gable; Great End; Esk Pike; the Scafells.......... The actual route was Allen Crags & Glaramara via a lunch stop at Sprinkling Tarn. It was a privilege to spend the day with such a great group of folk in such a special area - very encouraging!

Approx: 8.5 miles; 2,875' of ascent

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Overcoming "Darkness"

Here's another post from Marion following a recent visit to Cwmorthin Slate Mine in North Wales:

Cold, dark confined spaces are not what I would class as one of those areas of ‘Hidden Beauty’ previously referred to, neither are they places that I have a desire to frequent.

With this in mind, you would think that a day trip for mine exploration would be the last thing on my ‘holiday’ itinerary.  It is something, however, that in August last year (2013) I was somehow persuaded to take part in. Although not a confined space it was cold and dark; somewhat intimidating and fear imposing with a traverse that left me suspended in a void of epic proportions (exaggeration or not that’s how it presented itself to me!). The trip’s only appeal was the fact that I was entering this experience not on my own but with a number of other people, who unlike me, seemed to be seeking the ‘thrill’ of the ‘underworld’!  

Returning to Wales this year, it was suggested that an underground trip should be included on the list of activities to offer.  With our ‘Community Holiday’ underway, and with a day to spare, Mal and I found ourselves heading for Cwmorthin Slate Mine; time to dig deep, take a deep breath and compose the tremble within.

The limited light of our head torches didn’t help much to illuminate the relatively spacious entrance tunnel or the descent along the incline plain; the darkness was appearing ever more threatening and overwhelming.  Not far into the mine, having passed over our first very modest traverse, we landed at the head of a chasm of nothingness; before us a 60ft abseil to ‘nowhere’; my mind-set in tatters!

Irrespective of Mal's gentle encouragement and reassurance of safety, I could go no further, the elements had beaten me and I urgently needed to retreat.  Retracing our steps the smell of air and the light of the outside was welcoming and comforting.

Pondering on the content of our hour’s activity, conversation was deep. We likened the situation to those times in life when worlds are shattered by events beyond our control and we find ourselves in those difficult, ‘dark’ places of life with seemingly no-where to go, no-where to hide and very little hope.  Those times when we need to rely on the ‘light’ to help us understand our surroundings and to see the steps forward clearer, rather than allowing the darkness to absorb us. 

I needed to ‘happen’ to Cwmorthin rather than Cwmorthin ‘happening’ to me!

The week rolled on, and with new visitors joining us on camp looking for an ‘extreme’ experience, I found myself bringing the idea that they might find the challenges of Cwmorthin enough to fulfil their desires; could I believe I was saying these things? No, but sometimes you have to be determined to achieve, so to Cwmorthin we were headed!

As the 6 of us kitted up there seemed to be a buzz in the air, for me encouragement and strength in numbers; although the mine opening would have been better served with less of an ascent, here was potential for enthusiasm to abate.

The walls of the mine seemed much more visible as we made our way through. This could only mean that the gaping voids would also be more apparent; as the 60ft abseil loomed my only option was to close my eyes and hope for the best!  Pushing away from the ledge I was launched into the chasm that just 2 days before I had ‘run’ from.  The contact with solid ground brought a sigh of relief, but there was no time to feel comfortable as a short distance away, in the dim light of the head torches, could be seen what is known as the ‘catwalk’. With a sickening feeling beginning to develop in the pit of my stomach it was my turn to interact with the 6 inch planks of wood that perched on the old miner’s metal spikes in the middle of an approx. 90ft chamber.  Encouraged greatly by those around me, making sure ‘cows tails’ were in place, I tentatively started my ‘walking in the air’ journey; the sickening feeling increasing as the planks ran out into footholds of only metal spikes!

Half-way through, with a broken bridge to be negotiated and two more abseils to be conquered I was thankful for the continued quiet words and inspiration of those who went before me. Finally landing deep in the mine, I was ready to lead the ascent up the incline plane back out into the warmth and brightness of the sun.

Feeling accomplished in the ‘happening’ to Cwmorthin, my mind took me once again to ‘moments of life’ and how in those areas victory too can be known as we surround ourselves with the right friends who can bring light and encouragement to see us through. For me that has included ‘chatting’ with my friend Jesus, who directly and through other people helped me to see the ‘opportunities’ of life in a new light, to find and reach that warmth and beauty once again.

Monday, 1 September 2014

The Song of The Paddle

Upon moving to Cumbria, nine years ago, as a very enthusiastic open canoeist the open canoeing sadly became a seldom practised art. Caves; mine exploration; fell running but more than anything the rigours of managing a large Christian Residential & Outdoor Activity Centre took over. The open canoeing has been largely on hold, until this summer where there has been a marked resurgence with many days spent afloat in the Lake District; North East & North Wales - this is a good thing! I would even venture as far as saying that this weekend whilst on a short "micro-expedition" I began to hear the Song of the Paddle again for the first time in all those years. I do love and wholeheartedly agree with this quote from Bill Mason:

"Some people hear the song in the quiet mist of a cold morning; others hear it in the middle of a roaring rapids. Sometimes the excitement drowns out the song. The thrills become all that matter as we seek one rapid after another. Sleeping, eating and living outdoors become something we do between rapids. But for other people the song is loudest in the evening when they are sitting in front of the tent, basking in the camp fire's warmth. This is when I hear it loudest, after I have paddled and portaged for many miles to some distant, hidden place."

Our miniature expedition this weekend contained many of the elements of the "perfect" open canoe journey: Fine weather; open water; a river; an overnight camp; campfires; outdoor cooking; sleeping under tarps and whilst there are many pleasures in solo open canoeing the company of good friends is an equally special ingredient.

Plans for the next journey are already in hand, river trips for the autumn are in the diary and thoughts of a big trip in the far north next Spring are slowly fermenting in the mind. Hope you enjoy the photos & are inspired by thoughts of journeying in the outdoors using this unique vehicle.

Thanks to Adrian Wintle for the "header photo" to this post.