The idea for The Great Escape was conceived in the foothills of the Himalayas in Nepal. Mark Willis, the founder and owner, spent much of his time trekking, rafting and exploring the amazing natural surroundings of his childhood home, as well as benefiting from the experimental learning that forms the cornerstone of everything he does today.
Mark eventually realised the dream of The Great Escape in 2009 after spending 12 years as a sports coach, working with both children and adults. Since the purchase of the new site in 2017 at Great Hagley in Shropshire, Mark is evolving the business with his wife, Alex, and putting in the infrastructure he has always wanted in order to enhance his client’s experience. It is truly a rural retreat surrounded by miles of walking, forestry, and one of the best inland views in England.
The Great Escape team have run programmes for The Princes Trust in conjunction with Wolverhampton College for several years. The new site emanates the Prince’s Trust ethos for their students, being truly isolated, while still offering fantastic facilities. There is a bunkhouse for the students to live together, and a chill out room where they can relax. They spend their week experiencing everything The Great Escape has to offer from climbing activities, traversing across the high gorge, orienteering, night-walks, rafting and team building challenges.
As well as courses for Princes Trust students, Mark & his team run many school camps – and over 90% of those who experience The Great Escape book to come back! The school groups normally camp out in the 10 man army tents and experience two to three days with no running water or electric. Mark and Alex are passionate in their belief that children should have the opportunity to experience times of old-fashioned childhood: “Swallows and Amazons” days where technology has no part!
Mark and Alex live at Great Hagley with their four children, two dogs and undefined number of Burford Brown hens!