Alex Middleton set up Vespucci Adventures in 2017 with the backing of Peter Bristowe. Its mission? To get the "go-getting, fresh-air-loving, tree-hugging wanderers of the world to pick up their maps and rediscover the great outdoors."
Will Sackville - 6th January 2020
Alex Middleton, CEO of Vespucci Adventures
Alex, who or what is your business named after?
Amerigo Vespucci was a 15th Century Italian Explorer, famed for having the Americas named after him. He was an explorer and a cartographer – two things we encompass.
The original Vespucci
How did Vespucci Adventures come to life?
I spent a lot of my early 20s trying to fill a void in my life (sitting in an office) with extreme adventures and challenges. Then I realised, at the wise old age of 26, that you don’t need to be Bear Grylls to get the benefits of an ‘adventure’, especially when those benefits apply to mental health issues, lack of ‘connection’, the ‘always on’ culture and burn-out.
Vespucci is a wonderful strategy for coping with the pressures of modern life. I challenge anyone to come back from a day in and amongst nature without your phone, and not feel less anxious, less stressed and a whole lot more connected with the world around you.
Most of the adventures are walks or cycle rides. How many have you got now?
We offer three types of adventure: Signature Adventures, Quick Escapes and Vespucci for Companies. All focus on walking, but also include other forms of adventure – cycling, canoeing, wild swimming for instance.
Signature Adventures offer a true ‘offline’ experience, using a map and guidebook which we post to you. We have 10 of them at the moment, including the Surrey Hills, the Jurassic Coast and the Isle of Wight. Most are day trips, easily accessible by train and car from London.
Quick Escapes suit people looking for a short, spontaneous break. You download a digital Vespucci adventure guide and follow your adventure route via the OS Map app. Most are in and around London, where zero planning is needed.
The other side of what we do is getting companies around the UK out in the countryside for the day. Whether it’s a walking event for the whole team or a guided walk for a department – we are working with companies in and around London to ensure their workforce aren’t spending all their time at a desk in front of a screen!
Some of Vespucci's Signature Adventures
Are they all one-day excursions, or do some of them require an overnight stay?
Our Isle of Wight and Hadrian’s Wall adventures are overnighters, but the majority are one day long, with options to extend if you fancy turning it into a weekend. All our routes take in a good pub and often have rooms to stay for the night. The Ram on our Green and Pleasant Land walk in the South Downs is a personal favourite.
Who researches the routes and does the write-ups?
Either one of us or one of our team of curators – someone local or in the know about the area. So it really is a team effort. I do all the designing and production of the maps and guidebooks. Peter and Rosie focus on the writing – I am pretty dyslexic so I wouldn’t sleep too well knowing I was the last pair of eyes on our guides before they go to print!
Jim and Laura - curators of the 'Castle in the Air' adventure
Which has been the most popular adventure so far, and why?
Our Jurassic Coast walk ('The Lost World') always gets a great response, you can understand why – the coastal path around Kimmeridge Bay is pretty breathtaking. However, the ones that fly off the shelves fastest are the one day walks close to London – Head for the Hills, The Great Escape, Green & Pleasant Land are all top sellers.
Do you welcome suggestions for new adventures and maybe even new researchers, or have you got that covered?
Absolutely! As mentioned, we have a range of curators around the country. The Lost World is a great example. I really wanted to feature something down there, but had never been. Ed, a good friend of mine who now lives in Poole, is out on the Jurassic Coast the whole time. I asked him to put together a good day out starting from Corfe Castle and he didn’t disappoint. Tapping into local knowledge is what we are all about.
For £15, customers get a printed map with the route and points of interest described. Is the map also available electronically, or is the whole point to get people off their phones?
Yes, it’s £15 for a customised Vespucci x OS Map of their route and a Vespucci guidebook. Vespucci Adventurers then have everything they need to completely switch off and get away from their phone for the day. However, we do also provide the digital routes via the OS Map App, just in case! I think it is important to have this as a backup in case you manage to get lost or if there is some debate on whether it is right or left!
What you get in the Signature Adventure kit (no, not the camera!)
Are you targetting office-bees desperate for country air or sprightly retirees, or both?
We are targeting everyone who needs to get outside more... Predominately these are 25-35 year old working folk in London but we also have a decent amount of our walkers are in their 40’s and 50’s and beyond!
Any plans to expand the concept to other countries?
The plan at the moment is to focus in on the London audience and really see if we can make a difference - then yes, the plan is to roll this out in other major cities in need of some outdoor inspiration.
Thank you Alex!