IT'S THE WEEKEND: The Great Outdoors - How Wales is selling itself as the place of extreme sports
9:05am Sunday 2nd March 2014 in News
Wales is selling itself as the land of extreme sports to attract visitors. HAYLEY MILLS takes a look at what's on offer for those who like a little edge to their Great Outdoors.
EXTREME sports play an important role in the Welsh economy bringing in £175m annually.
The Great Britain Tourism Survey tells us that extreme sports are undertaken by 625,000 people who stay in Wales annually to take part in such activities, with related expenditure of £125 million.
The survey also indicates these activities are undertaken on some 1.5 million day visits to Wales annually, with related expenditure of some £50 million.
A Welsh Government spokesman said: “With our extensive coastline and dramatic, varied landscape Wales is a great place to enjoy outdoor activities and extreme sports, and we now have many facilities to offer visitors.
“Exploiting the market for both beginners and regular participants alike is a key part of our tourism marketing strategy.”
Gwent is becoming a hot spot for those seeking an adrenaline rush as a range of extreme sports are easily accessible on our doorstep.
People can enjoy soaring thousands of feet above the Monmouthshire countryside with Abergavenny paragliding instructor, Steve Milson, who has been paragliding for 25 years.
Mr Milson, who runs a teaching school Axis Paraglider, can regularly be seen launching off the Blorenge mountain either in tandem with a student or on his own.
He said: “The modern paraglider has opened up the skies to thousands of people from all walks of life, right across the world. It’s a sport that unites people’s differences and gives them a common interest.”
Mr Milson, who is the safety officer for the South East-Wales Hang Gliding and Paragliding Club, said South Wales is one of the best spots in the UK to fly.
Mr Milsons’ company is the only Welsh company to offer a parahawking experience, and he is regularly seen flying in the company of Birds of Prey.
A paragliding flight normally lasts around 20 minutes but those who want to become a pilot can sign up to an eight to ten day course to become a solo flyer.
Mr Milson is also registered to take people with disabilities on a tandem paraglider using a specially-adapted harness.
The BMX Circuit in Parc Bryn Bach in Blaenau Gwent is a National Standard BMX Circuit and is the only one of its kind in Wales.
The purpose built track is for both experienced riders and anyone who wants to try out the sport.
The circuit is 400 metres long and includes a range of different sized jumps and berms.
Within the BMX Circuit is a newly built Pump Track. This allows riders to perfect their riding and jumps skills before they move onto the more difficult track.
Parc Bryn Bach has a range of adult and children’s bikes available for hire from BMX and mountain bikes to tandems, trikes, child carriers and wheelchair friendly bikes.
The National Diving and Activity Centre in Chepstow have hosted a whole host of extreme sports that push participants to their limits.
UK Bungee hosted a 400ft Bungee jump at the centre offering people the change to jump 400ft.
People were raised up to the top of a 300ft crane over a 100ft quarry before taking a leap of faith.
The Wire at the National Diving and Activity Centre is one of the UK’s longest, tallest and fastest zip slides, running the 700 metre length of the Quarry.
Launch yourself from the 70m high cliff edge and speed along the length of the 80m deep flooded quarry, reaching speeds of up to 40 miles per hour.
Those looking to get a bit closer to the water in the quarry can have a go on a fly board that see people hovering above the water.
You can also take a splash by learning to free dive with Saltfree Divers who run beginner’s courses
The entry level freediving course, suitable for total beginners as well as experienced freedivers who don’t yet have a formal qualification.
It purpose-built freediving platform is the deepest of its kind in the UK and a fishfinder is used to watch divers underwater in 77m depths.
If taking a dip if not your thing, then why not learn to walk on water in a giant transparent ball.
The Water Walking activity takes place at the National Diving and Activity Centre, and after a quick demonstration you can enjoy a session in the open water.
Launching this March is a Segway experience at the National Diving and Activity Centre.
Gliding on a Segway, a two-wheeled, self-balancing vehicle, feels like nothing you've ever experienced.
Segway Active have nearly finished building its brand new track with varying terrains that will give anyone who tries it a thrilling experience.
Want to try caving, then just north of Chepstow, people can explore Otter Hole, a cave that runs from the banks of the River Wye under the Chepstow Racecourse and onwards.
Due to its importance as one of the finest examples of decorated caverns in Europe access is restricted and is managed by the Royal Forest of Dean Caving Club.
Pontypool Ski Centre boasts a 230 metre main slope, a novice/beginners area, a Poma ski lift, sprinkler system and mogul run.
In addition, it also runs its own snowboarding school from novice to expert.
Gwent's most popular tourist attraction is Cwmcarn Forest Drive.
There people can enjoy mountain biking on it trail that offers testing climbs, swooping descents and demanding technical sections within its 15.5km of singletrack through a landscape once scarred by coal mining.
Two new mountain bike trails opened at Cwmcarn Forest Drive last month.
Cafall and a new downhill trail were added to the existing Twrch Trail and Y Mynydd downhill trail.
The new routes are part of the Cognation project hich has heavily invested in mountain biking throughout South Wales over the past three years.
It has led to South Wales earning a reputation as one of the leading places to ride in the United Kingdom.
The Cafall cross-country trail offers a different experience to riders with technical challenges that takes in different views including a fantastic view across to Twmbarlwm.
The new downhill trail is less extreme than the current one and will allow mountain bikers of an intermediate level to ride comfortably.
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