The History of CMC Adventure

The story of the Christian Mountain Centre began in 1964.

Mike Perrin, a Baptist Minister, was the minister of a church in Suffolk, when he and his wife Elaine heard the call from God to move to the mountains of Snowdonia and set up The Christian Mountain Centre. His passion for the mountains and desire to share this with others, combined with his ministry and faith, led him and his family on a venture that laid the foundations of a thriving Christian Outdoor Centre which continues to fulfil the very same vision and mission today.

Below is a summary through the years of The Christian Mountain Centre, from when it began to where it is now.

In a search to find somewhere to take a small group of young people from Suffolk to the mountains, Mike came across “Hafod Lwyfog”, a 16th century farmhouse that would be possible to lease. Through leasing this farmhouse, Mike met many wonderful people, and he began to see the potential for a Christian Outdoor Centre in North Wales.

“Could there be a place for such a centre run by Christians, who were sufficiently competent in mountain skills to safely oversee and instruct others, and at the same time, by their testimony and from their own experience of Christ, be able to share their faith with them?” (The Lord’s Doing, Mike Perrin)

In June 1965, Mike and Elaine brought 6 young people from Suffolk to Hafod Lwyfog. It was this residential that showed Mike and Elaine the “concept and potential value of a residential centre that sought to reach young people with the Christian message in the context of the hills and a programme of mountain activities.”(The Lord’s Doing)

The impact of the time away in the mountains upon the young people was apparent. The young people had experienced Christ in a different way in the mountains, and other pastors known to Mike and Elaine were asking if they could organise another residential for their young people, “a request that only served to increase our desire to see a Christian residential centre in Snowdonia established.” (The Lord’s Doing)

Mike and Elaine moved to Beddgelert in November 1965.

The Mountain Leadership Training Board had just set up, and the Mountain Leadership Certificate (MLC), a course designed to improve leadership in the mountains, was a newly established qualification which will soon become essential for those wishing to take responsibility for groups in the hills.

Mike went on the third ever MLC ‘Introductory Course’ at Plas Y Brenin, the National Mountain Centre just 4 days after he had moved to Wales. The Plas Y Brenin staff were encouraging about Mikes venture of setting up an independent outdoor centre with a Christian base, and the Director at the time later encouraged Mike to hold ‘Introductory MLC’ courses on behalf of the Mountain Leadership Training Board at the Christian Mountain Centre – something that only well run and reputable centres were invited to do.

The Perrins were able to move into ‘Hafod Wydyr’ in December 1965, a delightful Welsh farmhouse they were renting beside the Afon Colwyn. This was where the first guests of the Christian Mountain Centre would stay.

On the 8th April 1966, the first guests came to stay at the Christian Mountain Centre (or Beddgelert Christian Mountain Youth Centre as it was originally known). They were twin sisters and being experienced hill-walkers and good rock climbers, they enjoyed an adventurous and challenging week in the mountains.

The following week, the first large party, a youth group of 16 from Aldeburgh Baptist Church in Suffolk, came to stay at Hafod Wydyr. “None had any mountain experience, so the weeks programme included lectures on ‘Safety and movement in mountains’; ‘An introduction to map-reading’; and ‘Navigation by map and compass’.

The Christian Mountain Centre had officially begun!

As spring turned to summer, the numbers of young people visiting “Hafod Wydyr” steadily increased. During the Winter, the centre remained open primarily with weekend groups.

In March 1967, the owners of “Hafod Wydyr” told the Perrins that they would like to sell the property at some point over the next 18 months. Buying Hafod Wydyr was considered, but it was decided that the centre was growing, and larger premises were needed.

In October 1967, an outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease lasting 6 months threatened the survival of The Christian Mountain Centre. Many friends helped the centre through this time and normality was able to resume in March 1968. The break in operations gave the committee time to continue the search for new premises.

The Mayor of Caernarfon, who was also The Director of Education for the Caernarvonshire County Council, took an interest in The Christian Mountain Centre and asked if he could arrange for one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors for Schools to visit Hafod Wydyr. This was simply a ‘fact-finding’ visit and not in any way an official ‘inspection’. The inspector was so impressed that the Department of Education and Science in London offered a grant of 50% of the purchase of the next premises, so long as it could accommodate an average school class and accompanying members of staff.

In June 1968, a suitable property was found in Tremadog for £7,800. The property was formerly a private hotel and the birthplace in 1888 of Lawrence of Arabia. Located near the mountains and the sea, and within walking distance of a world class climbing venue, the property was ideal. The property had enough space to accommodate a class size of 30 and accompanying staff.

A grant from the Department of Education and Science in London, a number of other generous donations from friends and prayer partners, and a small interest free loan enabled the purchase to be made. The property had been named "Woodlands" by the previous owners, however the deeds of ownership revealed its original name was "Gorffwysfa". The Christian Mountain Centre opted to name the property by its original name "Gorffwysfa" which means “Place of Rest”.

The CMC moved from Beddgelert to Tremadog on the 16th October 1968.

Programmes included hill walking, rock climbing, camping and canoeing. Voluntary Instructors helped deliver these programmes. Over 600 people came to The Christian Mountain Centre in 1969.

The Christian Mountain Centre was asked by the Mountain Leadership Training Board (MLTB) to run Mountain Leadership Certificate (MLC) Introductory Courses due to an increase in demand for this course. Few other centres were offering this course. It was an honour to be asked to deliver the MLC syllabus, and gave our group leaders confidence as we were able to tell them that we were a provider for the MLTB.

In March 1970, The Christian Mountain Centre ran its first MLC Introductory Course. From this time onwards, 2 or 3 courses were run each year.

In August, mid-course, our Minibus failed its service and was taken off the road! Mike Perrins son, only a young child at the time, prayed that night for a much-needed vehicle for the centre. More specifically, he prayed for a long-wheelbase Landrover so that they could be like the other mountain centres. The following morning, a man not known to the Christian Mountain Centre phone and said that he had been following the work of the centre with prayerful interest, and he had a long-wheelbase landrover that he no longer needed and would the centre like it!

This was the first year we had junior school residentials with children mostly aged 10 and 11. The Christian Mountain Centre was the first centre to run courses for junior schools in Snowdonia at that time.

In October 1972, dry rot was discovered from ground level to the roof at the front of the building. The seriousness of the outbreak required immediate action, professionals to do the work, and the centre was closed to groups until the following April.

In December 1974, Mike and Elaine made the decision that Mike would resign as Warden of The Christian Mountain Centre, and refocus his time as pastor of a new church in Porthmadog, Portmadog Evangelical Christian Fellowship, which later moved to Capel Fron in Penrhyndeudreaeth.

Mike has written a book, “The Lord’s doing…”, where he writes a personal history of the Christian Mountain Centre and Portmadog (Capel Fron) Evangelical Christian Fellowship, from 1965 to 1980.

Tremadog days continued for 22 years

Another big change for CMC after 30 successful years in Gorffwysfa. CMC had once again outgrown its premises in Tremadog. In 1998 Northamptonshire Association of Youth Clubs offered CMC the lease of Pensarn Harbour, a 50+ bed centre, with the view of future purchase.

CMC purchased Pensarn Harbour on the 1st January 1999

Once again, the mountains were closed at a critical time for a mountain centre. Thankfully, by this point in its history, CMC was offering a variety of water sports right off the front door step enabling the season to go ahead with water sports as the main activities.

The first official Volunteer Trainee Instructor Programme was advertised in 2003. Interviews were held in July, and in September 5 people joined the team as Volunteer Trainee Instructors.

The hope was to train instructors who would then commit to working for CMC on a longer term basis. From this first group of 5 Trainee Instructors came the first Senior Instructor at CMC who served at CMC for 10 years. The programme became an established part of CMC and is the starting point for many young Christians wanting to begin careers in the outdoors. Many have stayed at CMC for a number of years after completing the programme as well as spread their wings and flown the nest to work as outdoor instructors all over the UK and the world!

In February 2002, Mark Downey became the new Centre Director of the Christian Mountain Centre. Mark saw huge potential for development at CMC as he entered his role, having already been an instructor at Pensarn Harbour for the 10 years prior to this.

His first big project was an 'Access Ability' project, first launched in 2003, designed to make the facilities at Pensarn Harbour as user friendly as possible. The vision was to improve the accessibility of the site and facilities to aid many people in accessing ability they never knew they had. This included the development of the waterfront to install ramps and pontoons that would enable safe access to the water at all states of tide.

The £48,000 project was funded through incredible donations from Friends and Members of CMC and phase 1 was completed in April 2005.

The pontoon absolutely transformed the safety and accessibility of activity provision at CMC. It enabled:

  • A safe platform for all sessions to launch from and come back to.
  • The development of new activities including Sailing in 2006 and Stand Up Paddle Boarding in 2011.
  • Inclusion on activities for people with limited or hindered mobility.

CMC's new waterfront location opened up new opportunities for new activities!

With a huge estuary to enjoy at high tide, an endless bay beyond, and new waterfront facilities, the prospect of being able to offer sailing to CMC visitors was exciting!

CMC started with 6 toppers, but quickly went on to sell 3 to raise money to buy 6 Laser Fun Boats. The money from the Topper sales plus donations from schools and individuals enabled CMC to purchase 6 Laser Fun Boats in 2006, enabling CMC to run sailing for groups of all ages and abilities.

Sailing went from strength to strength at CMC and as staff became qualified Sailing Instructors, CMC was able to become an RYA Training centre in 2009!

It was the Topper booms hitting the quay wall which sparked the idea for phase 2 of the waterfront development. This included a long ramp along the front of the quay wall for the boats to come alongside without hitting the wall.

This project of £12,000 was also funded by an amazing donation from a friend of CMC.

The pontoon was secured to the quay wall at CMC's 2007 AGM weekend in April with much help from friends and members who gave of their time the week before to help get everything in place.

Once again CMC found that there was potential for growth as schools were growing and wanting to bring as many as 80 young people away in one go. The perfect opportunity to grow came along as we were approached by the organisation responsible for running a site just ¾ mile up the hill. CMC was offered to lease this 40 bed outdoor centre within walking distance of Pensarn Harbour, with a view to purchase the centre in the future.

CMC took on this site in 2009 and became known until 2013 as CMC Pensarn Harbour and Bryn Y Moel.

We were excited to be able to establish stand up paddle boarding as a new activity at CMC in 2011.

With "CMC Pensarn Harbour and Bryn Y Moel" being a bit of a mouthful, we chose to adopted the trade name of "CMC Adventure" in 2013 with the tag line of 'Enriching Outdoor Education'. At CMC Adventure, we believe that outdoor education enriches the lives of those who participate. We also believe that we are able to enrich outdoor education itself by carefully tailoring our courses to the needs of our guests.

Along with this came a new website, new brochure and new promotional material.

What an incredible landmark to reach!

CMC celebrated being 50 years old in 2016. A service of re-dedication was held in April, where the founder Mike Perrin came to CMC to celebrate with those who work at the centre now, thanking God for his provision and grace over the past 50 years, and dedicating the future of CMC to God.

A very poignant moment this year was on the 8th April 2016. Mike Perrin visited CMC with 2 very special guests, the twin sisters, who were the very firsts guests at Hafod Wydyr on the 8th April 1966, 50 years ago to the day!

Thank you to every person over the past 50 years who has played a part in this incredible adventure. However big or small, your part has made a difference, and every part is needed to make CMC what is it today.

A moment of panic occurred when the boiler at Pensarn Harbour caught fire in March 2017. The group staying with us at the time had to relocate to Bryn Y Moel which happened to be empty. With a busy season already underway, the timing of this was a huge challenge as installing a new boiler was not going to be an overnight job! Engineers came and repaired the damage of the old boiler enough to make it safe to use in the immediate future whilst an urgent fundraising appeal went out and a search for a boiler company who would take on the task of installing a new boiler. In a nutshell, an incredible £33,000 was raised through donations from supporters of CMC covering the entire costs of a new boiler. With an opportunity to improve sustainability at CMC twin boilers were installed which last longer as they take it in turns to operate, and there is back up if one should ever fail. The new boilers also have the capacity to serve a few more showers, should there be an opportunity to expand capacity at the harbour in the future.

A global pandemic, COVID-19, forced CMC Adventure to close its doors in March 2020.

The world came to a standstill as the virus caused months of Lockdowns across the Nations. CMC Adventure found itself in a very vulnerable situation with 2 centres to maintain, a staff team to retain and suddenly no income. No one knew how long it would last but CMC Adventure felt called to continue to stand, wait and be ready to serve again when it was safe.

An overwhelming number of individuals and organisations came to CMC's aid throughout this time including Friends, Members, Trusts and Foundations, Churches and The Welsh Government!

If you are reading this and this was you, thank you for every penny you gave and prayer you lifted to keep us open!