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

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Darkness & Light

Taking those first steps into the underground prompts us to think and define what we understand by darkness & light and what that might mean to us.

Dark is characterised by the absence of light, in darkness growth is stemmed and life struggles. It conceals and covers with a sense of oppression.

Light reveals the unseen, brings warmth to energise promoting growth and giving life.

Advent Sunday: Preparing for a Journey of Discovery

Advent is traditionally a time to prepare ourselves to celebrate a day in history: the birth of a baby named Jesus.

The season depicts Him in a manger, in Bethlehem about 2,000 years ago; but who is it we are preparing for and where is it we are looking to put Him?

The path may be steep .....

... the waters deep .....

... and the dark in need of much light .....

.... but we invite you to: put on your harness, helmet & lamp; push the boat from shore with paddle in hand; lace up your walking boots and join us on a journey of discovery.
For us, this year, our Advent journey will begin underground. It may not have been like that 2,000 years ago but we believe that in the darkness, of night and a cave like stable, something special emerged.
 Let the journey begin .....



Monday, 24 November 2014


2014 has seen me on a continued journey of challenges, but in very different circumstances.  Some of those challenges have been repeated ones, requiring new thinking and responses to generate positive change; others have been new challenges, embraced to build courage, strength and confidence to deal with the former.

 I would say one of my biggest ‘overcomers’ has been to conquer the overwhelming fear of drowning in deep water, something that I have carried with me since an early age. 

Although having the ability to swim in a ‘controlled’ environment, for me Centre Parcs pool rapids was very much ‘living on the edge’ and tentatively achieved.  To be in open water conditions was not a concept I had considered greatly.  A one off canoe trip seven years ago with the kids had been fulfilled with much hesitation and anxiousness … shore being kept well within reach, and no hurry to repeat the occasion!

The summer of 2013 had witnessed me refusing point blank to venture out on, what appeared to me to be, the dark waters of Llyn Gwynant, Snowdonia; a moment of general announcement that water and I were not well acquainted and this was likely to be the case for some time.  As for gorge walking, well that had even less of a chance of appearing on the ‘list of things I must achieve before I reach the age of 90’!!

So what happened?

A visit to the Lake District, by a friend from school days, in April of this year saw us offering a day of activity to her and her family … to be included in this, a time of canoeing!


As we made the journey to Ullswater, my mind was set that I would be remaining on dry land.  This thinking, however, had not taken into account my friends statement of, ‘I’ll go in with you Marion’!! This was a day for them to experience and enjoy, so how could I spoil that by not actively taking part? Realised or not, the challenge was set; another one of those dig deep, bite the bullet and take the plunge moments … thankfully not quite literally!

Buoyancy aids well and truly in place, we tentatively pushed off the banks of Ullswater and ‘tickled’ the waters lying close to the shore. Returning to firmer footings I found that there had been a sense of enjoyment from the sound of the quiet trickling under the vessel, and the gentle relaxing motion as we had ‘glided’ through the water.


The rest, as they say, is history.  Many outings since April have seen me paddle the waters of Derwent Water, Ullswater, Ellerton and Lake Bala; each one drawing me further away from the water’s edge into the ‘challenging deep’, progressing to the moving waters of the River Tyne.  Many of these journeys have been shared with Mr Tabb, who has guided, directed and instructed en route … a presence that has brought much safety and security.  Solo trips that have taken place have been on gentle waters and without hazard; that was until 2* training day ……

I had graced the waters of the River Tyne as co-paddler to Mal back in June. My recollection was that the rocks had overwhelmed the water and paddling near to shore was futile. For the canoe to come to life that day a big push was needed from the banks enabling the paddle to weave its way through the flow and be used to steer and control.  Not so, however, as the Tyne became our destination for training three weekends ago.  Where dry land had been our friend a few months before this was now submerged in water and the river flow seemingly much faster; not much of a push needed on this occasion to reach the water that would allow the paddle to do its work … and this time no ‘riding tandem’!

Already facing personal emotional challenges in day to day life, I was struggling to engage with the morning’s instructions and the difficulties they were presenting, a brief break for lunch was most welcome!  It was on the return to the water for the afternoon session that, for a moment, time seemed to ‘stand still’ and that fear of deep water once again wanted to rear its head. As I lost control and found myself sitting in the canoe, facing up stream, all I could do was frantically paddle against the rivers flow for dear life!  All the strokes that I had learned in my level one, and just minutes before was being taught how to apply in moving water situations, got lost in the moment of panic. Glancing behind, my mind was racing as to where I might end up! I needed to compose myself, refocus and trust in the help that was to hand to assist me to more controlled waters; and with buoyancy aid in place what was there to be afraid of!

‘Rescue’ successfully complete I was left pondering once again on the parallels of my outdoor experience with life itself. 

The challenges we face can often come out of the blue causing us to feel unprepared, inadequate and unequipped, subsequently undermining our strength and confidence.  We can become so overwhelmed by the circumstances that we can easily forget the most simplest of ‘common sense’ attitudes and actions to help us through.

Even for those on a Christian journey it can be easy to get caught in the ‘flow’ or ‘storm’ of a situation and momentarily find ourselves floundering almost without hope, forgetting the promises that Jesus has shared with us. A false panic setting in blinding us to the truth that we are not on our own in this ‘journey’, that Jesus is with us; bringing others around us that He can use to assist us to ‘calmer waters’ with spoken or written words of encouragement, instruction and direction; and like the buoyancy aid, bring directly Himself a peace that all will be well, even in difficult times. 

As the words of one of our wedding songs puts it:

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Friday, 21 November 2014

A Week on the Water

Its been an exceptionally busy time of late with much of it being spent in canoes & kayaks, which is never a bad thing! As well as being busy with the paddle the camera was also out on several occasions to capture some of the white water & journeying action - hope you enjoy the results!


Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Canoes Mountains & Caves: Inspiration in the Outdoors

Ben Wilson prepared this excellent video of a recent Canoes, Mountains & Caves visit to Stoneycroft Ghyll in the Newlands Valley. It runs for just under 2 minutes and really is worth a watch - we hope you find it "An Inspiration"

Thanks for this Ben!

Click here to view on YouTube

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

On the River With Friends

We had a day out on the river, in open canoes, with friends on Saturday. The river in question was the River South Tyne & the friends ranged from long established - the kind with whom a long passage of time can elapse but when you meet up again its as if that that passage of time is no barrier to conversation - right through to much more recent friends.

The weather was kind to us: it was a mild, dry autumn day and the river level suited our purposes ideally - not so low that boats were continually needing to be pushed off rocks; not too high for the skill level of some of the less experienced canoeists in the group. It was a really pleasant time. As we were working in the area the following day we stayed the night in Corbridge - the Black Bull is a highly recommendable spot for somewhere to eat!

We had the GoPro out for some of the best bits, you can view the video on YouTube below.


Click here to view on YouTube

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Remember, Remember

Our first week back in the office and by definition back in Cumbria has seen many of the hallmarks of Autumn proper: a frosty, foggy start on Tuesday and a stormy, showery, chill day today. Maybe, though, a fine dry Bonfire Night was the best reminder of all that Autumn will shortly transition to winter? After fireworks & barbecue in Cambridge over the weekend we opted for a fire, food and fireworks in the garden, we were joined by my youngest daughter and it was a really pleasant evening. In many ways it sees the end of a period of relaxation and leisure draw to an end as an incredibly busy spell of work in the outdoors begins on Saturday and stretches through with little interruption until the end of the month: there'll be much time spent in Canoes; climbing mountains & exploring caves. Please keep checking back with us over the rest of the month for updates!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Time Off .... Re-Connecting...

The month of October ended with a weeks holiday: No canoes; no mountains; no caves. Instead we took a road trip heading in a generally southerly direction: visiting family, relaxing and enjoying life. Despite not venturing into some of the country's recognised "outdoorsy" areas we were keen to keep at least an outside theme to everything we did, this was helped tremendously by temperatures never falling below the high teens and on two days topping twenty degrees and all at the end of October!

The forests at Delamere, in all their autumnal, splendour provided a pleasant afternoons walk, I'd never visited the Hatchmere and Blakemere Moss side of the road before. My Mum & Dad enjoyed being out there immensely as we gathered "stuff" from the forest floor - the pine cones oozing with resin were a real highlight of the foraging.

Cambridgeshire's leafy lanes provided a similar environment for relaxed family time with my eldest daughters & grandchildren - all good fun. The running shoes even came back out again for the Lode 5k with son-in-law & six year old grandson, unfortunately it did rain on race day!

Sandwiched between all of this were an enjoyable couple of days spent in the Midlands to visit Marion's cousin & sister: a day in the National Forest kept us outside albeit on a more commercial footing at "Conkers", we paid a similar visit to Mountfitchett Castle as we continued south. The waters; clays; stones & sand of the "Barefoot Walk" having a marked therapeutic effect!!

Friday saw the antithesis of our normal existence, a day in the capital, which in many ways prompted this post. It was, in fact, a most enjoyable day with many highlights not least the poppies at the Tower of London. However, the abiding memories are of: jam packed tube trains; a surging tide of people on Oxford Street; grid locked streets with blaring car horns and an endless soundtrack of sirens. Person upon person with smart phone in hand, plugged into headset and jostling for the same square metre of pavement but with minimal eye contact and even less verbal communication between one another. Sobering, thought provoking.

Heading into a "busy" November there will indeed, weather permitting, be mountains & caves but there will also be much time spent in canoes and on occasion it will be an absolute pleasure to journey in these craft on lakes & rivers using them in their purest form to connect with the created environment around us. To coin a recent phrase:  Canadian canoe journeys are always special; they have a unique ability to purge the spirit of the unwanted static that accumulates in our technological lives"

Looking forward to it!