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Tea break: Tom Thorpe

In our regular feature, we join a local for a tea break, and find out how they spend their time - and their time off. This week we welcome Tom Thorpe who became the new Chief Instructor at the LHYCA Scaladale Centre.

Tom, please tell us about yourself and your job. 

I have been a lifelong outdoor sports enthusiast and have worked in the industry for 20 years. It’s a huge honour to join the team at Scaladale as the Chief Instructor. As Scaladale's primary focus is educating local children on the outdoors, I will be creating personal and social development programmes for them, alongside running the adventure activity sessions. I’m pleased to have the opportunity to work in such a beautiful environment. The location and access to the centre are just fantastic. Lewisian Gneiss offers world-class climbing! Lucky for us, Scaladale is surrounded by rock faces and boulders. The island provides a great paddling environment too!


How did you get where you are today?

With lots of focus and determination! My professional life has been one that could be deemed as “ground up”; outdoor instructors live a basic life with minimal income. Living below the poverty line is normal and accepted and during the early days, it was definitely that for me. I would never have dreamed that my career would be such a success while getting to do what I am passionate about. My work has taken me around the world, and I also lived and worked on the Isle of Skye and in Arrochar, Argyle and Bute. I worked in the education sector, where I ran outdoor programmes for children with additional needs. Before arriving in Harris, I ran two businesses. One was an alternative provision for young people who have been subjected to significant trauma, have a diagnosis, or do not attend mainstream education for other reasons. The company expanded very quickly, and we were able to make a significant difference to young people across Devon and Cornwall, some of which came from very tough situations and backgrounds. I also ran a watersports/kayaking company that specialised in surfski (ocean racing kayaks).


What are your goals for the near future? 

We have an exciting plan for Scaladale and we are already working ahead of schedule! The centre has a lot to offer to the local community and as most of you will remember, it was once entirely voluntary run. It is important that Scaladale’s primary focus remains the local young people. Be sure to keep an eye out for an official Scaladale update in the next issue of Dè tha dol?. In the meantime, the door is always open for a cup of tea!


How can readers get involved and support the centre? 

Scaladale is a huge asset to the local community. As we are a not-for-profit organisation, upgrading our equipment and facilities will be a challenge, but the more people who use the centre will help it along. It's the ideal place for events and gatherings and it’s here to be used!


How do you like to spend your time off? 

Work hard – play harder! I love rock climbing and bouldering. I am also a keen surfer, kayaker, and enjoy a downwind surfski paddle on the West Loch. If you're into outdoor sports- get in touch!


What are your favourite places on Harris? 

Initially,  the west coast piqued my interest, but I seem to have a strong pull toward the bays of Harris. There are many significant attributes such as the natural harbours, rocky hillsides and islands. Gleann Sgaladail is also very beautiful and very wild.


It’s tea break time. What’s on the menu? 

Well, I’m quite attached to my coffee machine and appreciate a good coffee!


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