The secrets to a successful away day

River Dart Country Park is a unique location for team building exercises and corporate away days. Set in 90 acres of picturesque parkland, the park has everything close to hand; from high ropes and zip wires, to the River Dart and local caves. Stately home, Holne Park House, stands proud at the heart of the park, offering an impressive indoor setting for group work, refreshments and accommodation, as well as somewhere to debrief after the rigors of the great outdoors!

Corporate activities are coordinated by General Manager, Roger Sells. He says there is an awful lot more to a successful away day than letting people loose on the river in handmade rafts and hoping they somehow benefit from the experience! “You get out of an away day what you put in, especially in terms of preparation and enthusiasm. Having an experience team managing it for you makes a massive difference. And you can’t forget the important of the location and making the most of what it offers you.

“The great outdoors is the perfect training venue. This has always been the case but away days and team building sessions have definitely evolved over the years. There is a lot more focus on individual performance now than there was, especially in developing leadership skills. Fostering team spirit is an aspect that is also important and companies are recognising the value in developing the whole team together.”

Taking a team out of their everyday environment is so unusual for many businesses that it can be hard to know where to begin. Roger explains, “We start with our team taking a client brief so that we fully understand the expected outcomes. Following this, we design an individual program tailored to that organisation, its needs and the participants. We then walk the clients thought the proposed course and explain the purpose of the activities.”

Whether it’s taking to the water, climbing from tree to tree, exploring underground, or activities based in the more sheltered surrounding of a grand stately home meeting room, the one thing a visiting group needs to bring is the right attitude. “The company needs to support staff, address any anxieties and encourage them to make the most of the session. Those attending need to come with an open mind and be willing to take part. Absolutely it may push them outside of their comfort zone, but they will only gain from it!”

Roger and his team facilitate the activities and remain on hand throughout to ensure it all runs smoothly and safely. “We have more than 250 different tasks all designed to bring out different point such as leadership, management, helicopter management, communication, stress management and team building skills. We also tailor make our own task for different groups.

“Clients come to us for something different and to really push themselves in an environment where they know they will be well looked after. We are very accommodating in our approach and creative with our planning – we also have a proven track record for delivering excellence. This attracts a wide and diverse audience of clients, who all gain to stand something different from the experience.”

From national financial services firms, to local emergency service volunteers, the venue opens its doors to an array of organisations, all with unique challenges and needs. This month Holne Park House held a two-day team building and fitness training session for Premiership rugby team, Exeter Chiefs.

Rob Baxter, Head Coach of Exeter Chiefs, added: “Every season we like to take the squad to a different environment with the aim of challenging them in ways that we cannot achieve at our training base. We like this trip to challenge the players both physically and mentally, as well as testing their leadership and team work skills, whilst also having an element of fun.’

“I would like to pass on my appreciation to the team at the River Dart Country Park for the events they put in place for us. They were well thought through, was presented in real detail, was well marshalled and used quality equipment. Health and safety issues were correctly covered while still allowing a good degree of competition between the various teams.’

“Several players commented that it had been the best mini-camp they had done in pre-season.”

When the day is done, there is the chance to reflect and review the activity. “We work with the clients to make sure the learning outcomes have been delivered as intended; this is far more than a day, or few days, out ‘on a jolly’. Our aim is always that the whole party leaves with a sense of achievement, having accomplished challenging tasks asked of them and having learnt something new about themselves and their team.”

High Ropes
Exeter Chiefs
Team exercise
Pulling rope