Smudge Smith does Adventure Week at Llandudno

28 July 2017 10:00

Involving extreme and challenging activities, Adventure Week gives our blind veterans a chance to test themselves in the beautiful and varied scenery of North Wales.

It’s an opportunity for our veterans to meet one another and gain new skills and confidence. It also provides an environment for them to increase their fitness.

Adventure Week this year was a five day extravaganza, taking in challenging activities including climbing, paddle-boarding, buggy driving, tandem cycling and rafting.

Large group shot of blind veterans participating on Adventure Week about to start paddle boarding

One of the veterans who attended was Nigel “Smudge” Smith. Smudge, on the right in the photo below, joined The Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment, age 17, in 1976 and served with them until leaving the service in 1989.  He served in many countries around the world including Belize, Germany, America, Canada and Cyprus.

He started receiving support from Blind Veterans UK in 2014 after being diagnosed with an hereditary sight loss condition.

Blind veteran Smudge on Adventure WeekSpeaking of Adventure Week, Smudge says: “The week was so well planned. It was fantastic and I would recommend other blind veterans who enjoy outdoor activities to give it a go in future”. Prior to joining the charity, Smudge had found himself depressed, dealing with his deteriorating sight and disinclined to get out of his home.

The week began with a climbing day, originally intended to be outdoor, but wet weather prevented this and so they went to an indoor climbing centre instead.  Smudge already had climbing experience with the charity, from a previous climbing activity week, and said: “This is something I should be able to do with my 13 year old son going forward – it will be good to have a shared activity with him”.

The next day was paddle boarding.  Smudge recalls: “That was really hard and I never did manage to do it standing up!  I could really feel my thigh muscles the next day”.

Two blind veterans kneeling on their paddle boards

Day three saw the veterans driving buggies.

"This was my first time driving since suffering sight loss.  It was magic being able to whizz around the dirt track.  Great fun and really exhilarating."
Three blind veterans cycling on Adventure Week in charity cycling jerseysNext day the veterans were out on tandems which Smudge says took “a lot of placing trust in the man in the pilot seat.  I still felt I wanted to be the one in control of where we were going”.

The penultimate day was spent water rafting, using canoes strapped together.  Smudge experienced first-hand “how hard it is to guide someone with worse sight loss than me.  I was worried when I turned round to find him going under the raft having misunderstood what I was telling him to do”.  They then climbed a cliff and jumped off into the sea.  A “leap of faith”.

The final day saw the veterans going underground – using harnesses and zip wires to get themselves around an underground quarry.

"I was always giving it my best shot.  It was wonderful to be with other veterans, who quickly became friends, and getting fitter and actually doing stuff.  We were never pushed to do anything we felt uncomfortable with but always encouraged to challenge ourselves.  It gives you such a buzz.  The feeling, I am so glad I got up this morning."

“The instructor was brilliant,” praises Smudge, “always encouraging us but never making us feel too worried”.

Thinking about the experience of the week he added, “I would like to thank our brilliant instructor, Lee, and all who organised and ran the week, including Mark and the volunteers, for making it so enjoyable."  

"It was good to know there are still so many things I can do, even with my sight loss.  I am encouraged to keep up with my gym work to improve my fitness, and will definitely take part in other activity weeks offered by the charity in the future."