An outdoor adventure business in North Yorkshire is under new management, with plans to add to the fun. PETER BARRON goes off-road to test the hair-raising experience…

AS a kid, Ben Ducker always loved being outdoors – building camps in the woods near his home, sleeping under the stars, and getting his wellies as muddy as possible.

Today, at 33, he’s as happy as the proverbial pig in muck after taking charge of an outdoor adventure business set in 50 acres of beautiful North Yorkshire countryside.

“I’ve always dreamed of running my own business, so it all seems a bit surreal,” says Ben as he surveys the Yorkshire Outdoors site at Felixkirk, in the lower Hambleton Hills, just outside Thirsk.

Ben has just taken over the business after striking a deal with owner Richard Fawcett to lease the site and equipment, and he has plans to turn it into "the home of the UK’s leading outdoor experience experts".

Darlington and Stockton Times:

“We have something unique here – there’s no other purpose-built off-road course like it – and the aim is to build a reputation for being the best,” he declares.

The business was founded 32 years ago as Yorkshire 4x4 Exploration, and moved to the current site 17 years ago as a base for 4x4 off-roading, clay-pigeon shooting, and quad-biking.

But when Richard decided it was time to semi-retire and pursue other interests, Ben, who’d been managing the site since the summer of 2020, expressed a desire to take over and put his own stamp on the business.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

“I could see the potential from day one,” he says. “The plan is to retain the Yorkshire essence of the business while modernising it by giving the site a facelift, developing a new website, and adding new activities.”

Customers include a healthy mix of corporate clients and family gatherings, as well as hen and stag dos.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

Darlington and Stockton Times:

Darlington and Stockton Times:

The business already employs 10 instructors and, within the next six months, Ben intends to add axe-throwing and off-road buggies to what’s on offer, so he can make the most of the site’s potential, and fully realise the dream he’s had since childhood.

Born in Consett, Ben grew up in Blaydon – the Tyneside town made famous by its races – and it was there that he made his woodland camps and developed his love of the outdoors.

From making a living as a personal trainer, he became a personal trainer manager for Lifestyle Fitness, overseeing centres in Consett and Stanley.

From there, he gained valuable business experience as the Darlington branch manager of

When the opportunity arose to manage Yorkshire Outdoors, it was too good to resist, and Ben applied in the Spring of 2020.

As well as his passion for the great outdoors, he was also attracted by the hands-on element of the job, having enjoyed tinkering with engines since he was young.

Though he impressed at the interview, the pandemic prevented him from being offered the job, and it was August, at the end of the first lockdown, before he was able to start.

It proved to be a baptism of fire because there was a post-Covid boom in business, with people eager to be outdoors again.

"Coming here, in the hills and woodland, was the perfect antidote to being locked indoors – a chance for people of all ages to really let their hair down," he says.

A successful partnership has been developed with the nearby Carpenters Arms, so adventure-seekers can book rooms for overnight stays in the area.

"It's mutually beneficial – we promote the pub, and they promote what we're doing," explains Ben.

The partnership has even attracted newlyweds to come to Felixkirk for honeymoons with a difference – known as "muddymoons".

Mind you, Ben is quick to sound a warning: "We've had one woman who lost a shoe while quad-biking, and she never got it back!" he smiles.

The family market currently accounts for around 80 per cent of bookings, with children aged nine and over licensed to take the wheel of an off-road vehicle as it splashes through boggy terrain and deep puddles.

"I'm on a mission to get kids away from the computer games and TV screens, and enjoy some fresh-air adventures with their families," says Ben.

Indeed, my own seven-year-old granddaughter, Chloe, loved being taken for an exhilarating ride in a mud-splattered Land Rover Defender.

"Wow, this is better than Space Mountain at Disneyland!" she yelled, as the car plunged down a particularly steep hill, then climbed another with a throaty roar.

She also loved spotting wildlife during her trip, with a pair of pheasants running, comically, alongside the vehicle, before a startled hare bounded out of the undergrowth, while a bird of prey hovered overhead.

The site is also known to be home to deer and badgers.

Families will always remain important to the business, but Ben is also keen to build the corporate side, pointing out that it's a great way for companies to boost morale and indulge in team-building.

"Whether it's families or businesses, it's guaranteed to be an exclusive experience because there are no mixed groups. It's just you and your own family, friends or colleagues – having fun."

It's what comes naturally to Ben Ducker, and his business is driven by a simple philosophy: no matter whether you're a little kid, or a big kid, there's room for adventure in everyone's life.