York couple turn outdoors passion into Lost Earth Adventures business exploring Yorkshire's hidden gems

When it comes to exploring the great outdoors, Richard and Sarah Goodey are specialists in the field, as David Parkin found out. Pictures by James Hardisty.

Richard and Sarah Goodey’s adventurous spirit has seen them explore 35 countries across five continents.

They have stayed with nomadic Berbers and trekked through the Saharan Desert, climbed the Himalayas, surfed in Central America, camped wild in the Australian Outback, canoed down icy Canadian Rivers, dodged grizzly bears, swam with sharks and motorcycled across the entire Indian subcontinent.

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Ten years ago the couple turned their passion into a business and launched Lost Earth Adventures from their home in York

Richard Goodey, from Lost Earth Adventures, admiring the amazing internal cave structure of the Valley Entrance which leads to the Kingsdale Master Cave near Ingleton in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales. Picture: James Hardisty.

It organises outdoor activities at locations across the UK as well as charity treks to the Nepalese Himalayas and guided climbs of Africa’s highest mountains.

Their customers include charities, businesses taking part in team-building activities, stag and hen parties, youth groups, families and individuals wanting private coaching for rock climbing and caving. The youngest participant was five and the eldest was an 82-year-old who abseiled down a cliff.

Around 10,000 people took part in their activities in 2019 and they employed 50 staff.

When the pandemic struck they feared for the future of their business. “Covid hit us like a wrecking ball,” Richard admits. “At first it was very scary in March 2020. We thought we were going to lose everything.”

The couple climbing a rockface at Twistleton Scar, a fine area of limestone pavement that is situated on the southern lower slopes of Whernside above Ingleton in the Yorkshire Dales, with Ingleborough dominating the landscape behind. Picture: James Hardisty.

All their overseas trips were cancelled, lockdown rules saw them unable to run activities in the UK for six out of the last 12 months and even when they could organise events, they were restricted to smaller numbers taking part.

“Before that the sky was the limit for our ambitions,” says Richard. “We had grown 50 per cent year-on-year for 10 years and we wanted to carry on on that trajectory.”

As you might expect of adventurous entrepreneurs, when their business slumped overnight, Richard, 39, and 36-year-old Sarah took stock and focused on the positives.

“It made us prioritise our personal and professional desires. We try to be flexible and agile in our business and we had to do that last year. We decided it should be about focusing on what we do really, really well, not trying to grow so much,” says Richard.

Sarah and Richard Goodey, from Lost Earth Adventures, checking the conditions at Beezley Falls, in the Yorkshire Dales, which is the name given to a set of waterfalls on the River Doe just above Baxenghyll Gorge. Picture: James Hardisty.

They say the Government’s business support measures really helped along with the loyalty of their customers. “Ninety eight per cent of our clients postponed rather than cancelled.

“And even those who cancelled said they didn’t want their money back.

“Red Bull had booked a big activity event for their team in March and even though the lockdown hadn’t started then, they said they would have to cancel it but paid us anyway – it really helped us.

“A guy that had booked a day of individual caving training for £300 phoned up and cancelled but said he would leave the money with us. He said he hoped it would help us get through things and if we were still around after the restrictions were lifted then he would rebook it.

“Well, I’m glad that we are here and we are looking forward to seeing him,” smiles Richard.

“We have been quite lucky, things are starting to bounce back, bookings have gone through the roof.

“We are taking a party gorge walking in the Yorkshire Dales and there aren’t enough car parking spaces for the group.”

Richard and Sarah describe their business as being “unique”, but what makes Lost Earth Adventures different? “Well, like our name suggests, we try to provide real adventure and to find the hidden gems,” he says.

That might have been easy to do when they were organising treks to Annapurna and Kilimanjaro but it must prove a bit harder in Yorkshire?

Sarah shakes her head. “Actually there are lots of hidden gems here in Yorkshire. We have discovered a secret lake in a forest in North Yorkshire. It is surrounded by wildlife and is unchanged in hundreds of years and that is where we take people canoeing and paddle boarding.

“Alum Pot in the Dales is my favourite place in Yorkshire,” says Sarah who grew up in Canada.

“When we take people underground it is mindblowing, there is a waterfall, it reminds me of the children’s movie Ferngully, it is such a cool place. Only the other week I discovered a new mountain bike trail in the North Yorkshire Moors which is phenomenal. This is what we live, eat and breathe,” she adds.

Richard says his favourite place in Yorkshire is the countryside around Ingleton.

The couple met in Sarah’s native Canada where she was working in marketing for the YWCA, the women’s rights and leadership organisation, in the Rockies and Richard was a sous chef and in his spare time indulging his love of climbing and skiing.

Richard proposed at the top of a snow-covered mountain when they were trekking in the Himalayas and after they married in Canada they moved to the UK to launch their adventure business.

With Richard having grown up in Hertfordshire and Sarah in Canada, how did they end up choosing York in which to settle and start a business? “We wanted a base which had great transport links and was close enough to plenty of places where we wanted to run activities,” explains Sarah.

“I’d been on lots of holidays to the Yorkshire Dales with my parents when I was a child,” adds Richard.

“And he told me that he had also been on a school trip to York and it had a great train museum,” smiles Sarah.

“So we packed up an old Vauxhall Cavalier which cost about £300 and drove to York and slept in a tent to start with and then rented a pretty horrendous bedsit.”

The first activities their business offered were also a bit inauspicious to begin with.

Richard recalls: “We rented an ‘outdoor centre’ from a farmer which was actually just a barn with sheep! By the time we had cleaned it up for our first clients they would have never known what it had been used for previously.”

Around 40 per cent of the company’s activities are in the Yorkshire Dales and Moors with a similar amount in the Peak District and the remainder split between North Wales, the Lake District and Scotland.

Activities in Yorkshire include walking the Yorkshire Three Peaks, climbing at Almscliffe Crag, gorge walking and canyoning in Nidderdale, abseiling at Brimham Rocks and caving deep under the Dales.

“We want people to be scared and excited and we want them to come back,” says Sarah.

That is clearly the case given that 50 per cent of their business is now word of mouth recommendations or repeat customers.

“Something we do very well is that we are continually focused on what our clients think of us,” adds Richard. “We have 350 five-star reviews and no bad ones.”

With all this adventurous activity in their working life, I ask the couple what they do to relax?

“A nice day off would be long, hard technical climbs or big jumps on a mountain bike. We are always looking for that buzz and excitement,” laughs Sarah.

“This winter we would like to walk the length of the Himalayas for three months,” says Richard.

Sarah adds: “Part of our hearts is in Nepal but we keep coming back to Yorkshire.”