Adventurous Activities

This guidance is not aimed at restricting activity but rather that all participants understand the essentials

The UK has an Adventurous Activities Licensing Scheme, it is administered by the Adventurous Activities Licensing Service (AALS) and operates to a set of rules established by the HSE, called the Adventurous Activity Licensing Regulations, (AALR) – these are set out in an HSE document coded L77.  As a voluntary youth group, Navigators are exempt from the Licensing requirements, which saves us an awful lot of paperwork and costs throughout the year.

However, we have a Duty of Care to our young people, and that duty of care is equivalent to following the AALR for the four regulated activities – caving, trekking, kayaking and climbing in terms of leadership and equipment. The legality and liability of what we offer would only ever be decided upon by the courts in the event of an accident.

Therefore, we urge affiliated Groups to take the greatest care when undertaking the potentially licensable activities, and where possible follow the Leadership standards required to operate in those terrains that are “licensable” to professional centres.

The terrains for the four activities are set out below. If you stay “below” the licensable limit then you need no qualifications, though it would be wise to have a suitably skilled leader on hand for the duration of these activities.

Sailing, archery, shooting, scuba diving and other activities are NOT covered by AALR, but may be in the future. These activities are, however, covered by National Governing Bodies and you should check your insurance before undertaking them – Checking that your insurance policy covers you to run an activity is your responsibility.

In any event, if you use a paid third party provider for ANY activity, you should check that they are insured and that they have a Safeguarding policy in place and followed.

There is no Qualification Matrix available from the AALS – but various NGB will be able to supply details upon request.


A voluntary association (a non-profit making membership organisation) does not require a licence to provide facilities to its own members or, by arrangement, to the members of another voluntary association.

They can also hold open days or taster events to interest members of the public in their activities or to attract new members so long as no individual non-member participates in this way for more than three days in any period of a year.

People made temporary members for the duration of a course or series of sessions sold by the association are not considered to be members for the purposes of the licensing scheme. *

A voluntary association selling facilities to the general public or to a school is required to hold a lic

*This means that you can offer courses but those attending the courses must become full members of the Group. In line with the exclusion of indoor walls for caving, you might presume that pool kayaking falls outside the remit of the AALA.

It is also worth noting that the AALS has no enforcement rights. It has a duty to inspect those applying for a licence, and those who hold licences. In respect of those outside the scheme, the AALS can only offer advice and guidance. If they believe that a group is operating in contravention to AALR, it can report them to the overseeing body – MLTB, British Canoeing, etc.. However, the ultimate arbiter of your actions would always be the Courts.  It is therefore always wise to ensure that you comply with the AALR and that you maintain your Duty of Care at all times.

Material in this is abridged from L77, Guidance from the Licensing Authority on the Adventure Activities Licensing Regulations 2004

The Activity Centres (Young Persons’ Safety) Act 1995

The full document can be found here –


AALR “Terrain” specifications extracted from L77

Caving –

For the purposes of the licensing scheme covers most activities done underground in natural caves or in mines, including variants described as potholing, cave diving and mine exploration. It does not include visits to the parts of show caves or tourist mines that are open to the public or to the parts of the mines (underground excavations made for the purpose of getting minerals) that are still being worked. It also excludes visits to natural caves or parts of caves that give rise only to everyday hazards that would be obvious to and surmountable by someone with no previous experience of the cave or special knowledge of hazards in caves. A judgement on whether exploration can be carried out safely without the application of special skills or techniques may have to be made by an expert in caving except in the most straightforward of cases. A licence would always be needed if rock climbing or diving equipment were required for safe access.

Trekking –

For the purposes of the licensing scheme covers walking, pony trekking, mountain biking, off-piste skiing, or similar, in remote open country.

Travelling in any place which is moorland (open uncultivated land at any height above sea level) or on a mountain above 600 m and from which it would take more than 30 minutes travelling time, using the standard Naismith’s Rule, to walk back to an accessible road or refuge is subject to licensing except for on-piste skiing. Journeys by public transport or other mechanised means are not subject to licensing. (In most cases you cannot exceed 600mtres without the appropriate qualified Leader/ AALA Licence)

Watersports –

For the purposes of the licensing scheme covers most activities involving unpowered craft on certain specified waters. The specified waters include any place within the territorial limits of Great Britain on the sea or any other tidal waters, including estuaries, the tidal reaches of rivers, sea lochs and harbours. The term also includes any body of inland water in which it is possible to be more than 50 m from the nearest perimeter bank; and any inland waters where the surface is turbulent because of weirs, rapids, waterfalls or fast-flowing currents (white water).

A licence is not needed for use of craft on inland lakes, lochs or other bodies of placid water that are less than 100 m wide throughout their length and where surface turbulence is limited to the regular waves produced by wind action. If a lake or loch is greater than 100 m wide, use of craft on any part of that body of water would be subject to licensing; a river or canal connected to it would be a separate body of water or location and would not be subject to licensing unless there is white water there. Any stretch of inland water that is categorised at Grade II or above according to the International Canoe Federation classification would be subject to licensing. Grade 1 waters would normally be outside licensing, but unlicensed providers will not be able to use them when they are turbulent at times of spate flow.

Climbing –

For the purposes of the licensing scheme covers most activities involving movement over difficult terrain that requires the use of hands as well as feet and where safety requires either the use of the equipment or the skills and techniques of a rock or ice climber. As well as rock climbing and ice climbing it includes variants such as gorge walking, ghyll scrambling and sea-level traversing.

A licence is not required for scrambling where injury would not occur if equipment or special techniques to protect the individual from falling were not used and where other hazards that might cause injury are everyday hazards that would be obvious to and surmountable by someone with no previous experience of rock or ice climbing. Use of climbing walls, abseiling towers and similar man-made structures designed for practising climbing techniques are excluded from licensing but this does not extend to other outdoor man-made structures such as disused railway viaducts.