wilderness weekends

a slice of adventure in your busy life



The Story of Wilderness Weekends

Wilderness Therapy provides a safe space for families and young people to spend quality time together with support in order to improve their family relationships. It provides an opportunity for people to re-author who they are and improve their relationships with other people through activities such as climbing, kayaking and camping.

James' long experience in wilderness activities means that learning new things is fun and joyful even though it might be challenging.

At Wilderness Weekends we wanted to share this incredible learning and life enhancing experience of being in nature with everyone. So our trips are accessible to all, and allow even the busiest of people to enjoy a slice of adventure in their busy lives.

James Hewson and Maria Gandy have always loved being in wilderness and mountainous countryside. It is so incredibly uplifting to escape the city, even for a short time, and stomp about in the wind, and sometimes rain! We wanted to share the joy and freedom that being in nature brings with you.


maria and james

We set up Wilderness Weekends in 2017 in order to in order to invite people to share in the adventures, which are closer to you than you might think! We love bringing people together, creating new connections, and encouraging people to discover a different side to themselves. A fresh context is a great crucible for fresh ideas and perspectives to spring up. If you ever wanted to give yourself space to think or reflect, go on a big walk!

James has devoted his career to outdoor activity leadership. He set up Mountainwise in 2006, a charity which offers Wilderness Therapy for people who have had very little opportunity or experience of being outside of the urban context, or have severe mental health issues.



Our Team



maria gandyMaria Gandy

Founder of Wilderness Weekends in 2017 and Mountainwise in 2006.

Maria also set up and has run Yogahome since 1998 and Minihome day nursery since 2003.

Maria loves to share the incredible learning and life enhancing experience of being in nature with everyone, by bringing people together, creating new connections, and encouraging people to discover a different side to themselves.



James Hewson james at wilderness weekends

James has had over 15 years experience in outdoor activity leadership, coaching and guiding. He is a qualified mountain instructor, teaching climbing, abseiling, ice climbing and navigation skills. He is also a qualified canoeing and kayaking coach on rivers and at sea. He also teaches bushcraft and survival skills.

He is the founder and director of Mountainwise (registered charity no. 1132529) which offers outdoor experiences to low income and at risk families and also Duke of Edinburgh expeditions to schools in and around London.  


His qualifications are as follows:
AALA - Adventure Activities Licensing Authority Licence Holder - see documentation here

Climbing and Mountaineering:
MIC - Mountain Instructor Certificate
IML - International Mountain Leader
IOL - Institute for Outdoor Learning Bushcraft Provider

Mountain Training Provider of the following awards:
SPA - Single Pitch Assessment
ML - Mountain Leader
CWA / CWLA / CWAA - Climbing Wall Award / Leader Award / Abseil Award

Canoeing and Kayaking:

BCU - British Canoe Union - Level 3 Kayak Coach, Level 4 Sea Coach


aidan prior and woman with tandem bicycle

Aidan Prior

Aidan has had cycling in his blood since the age of nine when he discovered the freedom of disappearing on his bike to the Isle of Dogs and beyond from his home in Blackheath.


He led a 10,000 mile trip with three others in China, Japan and South Korea then back to Europe in 1987 as part of a charity ride for Intermediate Technology, the Four Corners World Bike Ride. After a gap where he had to focus on earning a living, his cycling restarted in earnest only about 10 years ago.

He has undertaken a number of private adventure touring trips including a traverse of the Pamir Highway and has guided on the Grand Alps ride from Geneva to Nice with Triathlon Europe. He has led cycle tours in Thailand and Laos, and in the Karakoram region of Pakistan and into China.

His approach is all about helping people to stay well within their limits and to enjoy themselves. He is qualified in Outdoor First Aid with Remote Emergency Care.


marnieMarnie Collins

Marnie has taught swimming for over 20 years and is passionate about encouraging people to enjoy the benefits of being in and around water. She is involved in a range of projects in Hackney that offer free swimming lessons to children and she regularly volunteers with Laburnham Boat Club on the Regents Canal which offers free coaching to Hackney schoolchildren in Kayaking and other water based activities.

She lives on a narrowboat on the Regents Canal and can often be seen going to the local shops on her Stand Up Paddleboard balancing not only her groceries but also her dog Rosie!


marnieJonny Voss

Jonny has taught swimming for over 15 years and is addicted to all things watery! Jonny is a highly technical teacher and offers amazing tips to help you get the most out of your swimming. He loves introducing people to open water swimming and can guide and encourage you on your new and exciting journey. He is also an artist and is never without his sketchbook. You can see his work here: jonnyvoss.com



elenaElena Gaddini

Elena joined Wilderness Weekends's team in March 2018, working alongside Maria in the organisation of the events. Elena loves spending time outdoors and is a qualified yoga teacher. She is our campsite host and often teaches yoga on our weekend adventures.




Contact Us

Give us a shout if you have any questions or suggestions!


We can be contacted on:

020 7249 2425




wood burning stove inside a tipi with wilderness weekends


mountain sunrise




Terms & Conditions

Applying to attend a Wilderness Weekends activity indicates that you agree to the terms and conditions as set out below.

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1. Booking Condiitions

2. Limitation of our liability to you

3. Your Responsibilities

4. Disclaimer

5. Complaints

6. Data Privacy Policy

1. Booking Conditions

Cancellation and Changes by Customer

  • If you cancel your booking more than 6 weeks before the event you will receive a 50% refund of monies paid
  • If you cancel your booking less than 6 weeks before the event you will receive no refund on monies paid.
  • In the event of a no-show or not arriving on time for an activity no refund will be made.

Cancellation by Wilderness Weekends

Wilderness Weekends does not cancel activities if it is raining or if it is not sunny, only in event of severe weather conditions that have an effect on safety will activities be postponed or cancelled.

In the rare instance that it may be necessary, Wilderness Weekends reserves the right to cancel any activity where conditions prevent safe participation or where insufficient bookings or participant cancellation make the activity unworkable.

If Wilderness Weekends need to cancel an activity for any reason then participants will be invited to transfer to another activity. Should the participant wish to take up the offer of a transfer, any difference in cost will be charged or credited accordingly.

2. Limitation of our liability to you

We will not be liable where any failure in the performance of the contract is due to you or a third party unconnected with the provision of the trip arrangements and where the failure is unforeseeable or unavoidable or where unusual and unforeseeable circumstances beyond our control, the consequences of which could not have been avoided even if all due care had been exercised; or an event which we or our suppliers, even with all due care, could not foresee or forestall.

Wilderness Weekends cannot accept responsibility unless you or any member of your party suffer as a result of any proven failure to perform, or improper performance of, any part of our contract with you by any of our employees, agents or sub-contractors (providing they were carrying out work authorised by us).

Except for claims for personal injury or death, we limit the maximum amount we may have to pay you to the price paid to us for your trip.

3. Your Responsibilities

Wilderness Weekends takes safety very seriously. However outdoor activities, by their very nature, do contain some element of risk and it is a condition of booking that you understand this. Participants must acknowledge these risks and take steps to act in their own best interests. For all our activities, we recommend that you take out your own personal accident and travel insurance cover.


All bookings are on the basis that the customer will, at all times, observe the safety regulations and follow the safety instructions of our agents and activity providers. In the interests of safety, you undertake to follow the advice of your instructor or guide, and act sensibly and prudently at all times. Instructors reserve the right not to complete an activity with clients who may be deemed to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs or otherwise unfit to participate in the activity.


Wilderness Weekends strongly advises against alcohol and/or drugs being consumed whilst you are undertaking an activity. Wilderness Weekends is not responsible for any accidents, illnesses or loss of any activity days as a result of alcohol and/or drug consumption.

Health & Fitness

It is your responsibility to ensure that you are fit enough to undertake your chosen activity. Whilst we endeavour to give guidance as to the likely levels of fitness and experience required, it is only guidance and it is your responsibility to ensure that you have the levels of fitness and experience required for any particular trip that you book. If you are in any doubt please consult your doctor. We, and those retained by us to supervise any trips, have an absolute right at any time (even after a trip has commenced) to prevent you from undertaking any particular part of the trip or the whole trip if we reasonably believe that you do not possess the necessary levels of fitness and experience. In such circumstances we shall not be liable for any losses or compensation arising.


For safety reasons, some activities may have certain age and health restrictions. It is your responsibility to inform us in advance of any medical conditions or injuries which we should be aware of relating to yourself or the people covered by your booking. You can do this by email or phone and it must be done as soon as possible. ?We cannot accept any responsibility for any condition not disclosed.



In the cases where activities are open to children, we only accept bookings for persons under 18 years old if they are accompanied by a parent or carer. Children need to be accompanied by their parents or carers at all times.


It is your responsibility to get to the start point at the correct time. All travel arrangements to the event are the sole responsibility of participants. Wilderness Weekends cannot facilitate local transport or other arrangements. In some cases it may be possible for members to share lifts with each other to attend an event and Wilderness Weekends may be able to liaise between members to facilitate this however participants do so at their own risk.

Your Personal Property

When you book with us, you accept responsibility for your own property and any equipment issued as part of an activity. You accept responsibility for any damage or loss caused by you or any member of your party and indemnify us against any claims (including legal costs) subsequently made against us as a result of your actions.

Participants bringing along valuables and personal property do so at their own risk and are responsible for their safety. Wilderness Weekends cannot be held liable for loss or damage to personal items.

Our Equipment

You accept responsibility and the cost for repairs for any damages made by you or your party to the accommodation or equipment provided during your stay.

We cannot accept liability for any personal injury, loss or damage which may be sustained by your party, or their guest, or their property during your stay at the accommodation provided, except where it arises from the negligence or wilful default on our part. You will be held responsible for any serious damage done or loss sustained to our property during your stay

4. Disclaimer

All our activities are physical and demanding sports, which obviously have inherent hazards associated with them. Whist Wilderness Weekends, its agents and activity suppliers take all necessary precautions to try and ensure the safety of all participants, unfortunately accidents can occur in consequence. Wilderness Weekends accepts no responsibility whatsoever for any loss or injury resulting from any persons' involvement in activities. Furthermore, it is understood and agreed that individuals participate at their own risk.

5. Complaints

Any complaints must be notified to Wilderness Weekends on the day so that attempts can be made to resolve any problems there and then. We will do our best to rectify the situation. If your complaint is not resolved immediately, please follow this up within 28 days of your return home by writing to us.

6. Data Privacy Policy


Wilderness Weekends will as a matter of course take photos of all activities. These photos are used for advertising purposes and may be posted to the Wilderness Weekends website and Facebook page to enable members to download photos of themselves on their activity. No photos of participants will ever be allowed to pass to any other party without written consent of the participant. If you have any concerns or do not wish to be included in any photography please make it clear to Wilderness Weekends on booking.

Your Data

Wilderness Weekends takes the security and privacy of your data very seriously. We only keep your personal information in order to provide our services to you. The data collected is the following:
First and last name, mobile phone number, email address.
Medical conditions and dietary requirements.


This data will not be passed to any third party. It is for Wilderness Weekends' internal use only to enable us to communicate with you and for you to buy our services.

You can unsubscribe from receiving our marketing information anytime by emailing us or clicking on the 'Unsubscribe' link at the bottom of every marketing email received from us.







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