The power of adventure therapy


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Defender_adventure_therapy Philip chose the capable and spacious Defender 110 for his adventure business : credit: © True Media
When Philip Stallard and his wife Jasmin decided to set up an adventure therapy programme only one vehicle would step up to the plate – a Defender 110 kitted out to cope with the wild landscape of Ireland

I don’t know about you but I think we could all benefit from a bit of adventure therapy, after the year we’ve had. There is just something about being in the great outdoors that allows you to escape the stressful demands of everyday life and reduces levels of stress and anxiety. One man who adheres to this philosophy and has made a living out of it is Philip Stallard. He also happens to reside in perhaps one of the greatest places that allows time to reflect and that is on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry on the rugged south-west coast of Ireland.

Philip has always been interested in the outdoors – it is his passion and where he feels most alive – and having simultaneously worked in social care and outside, the impact of adventure and an alfresco setting was clear. Not only that but the more he researched adventure therapy, it seemed that it wasn’t being delivered in a structured way. He takes up the story: “I worked as an instructor with young people on a Garda (Ireland’s national police service) youth diversion programme and this gave me further insight into how this sort of rehabilitation can create a safe learning environment for older adolescents who normally wouldn’t have access to these kinds of experiences.

“Soon after, I started working in a secure unit for young people alongside returning to education as a mature student, and I created a pilot adventure therapy programme. The benefits were clear from the off and I made it my focus to continue my professional training towards developing the concept and setting up the New Wave Adventure Therapy model.”

Bike and roof rack enable Philip to facilitate activity gear without compromising interior space​​​​​​

That was in 2017 and you can read more about the work that Philip does below. But in order to facilitate his adventure therapy service he would need the perfect vehicle. Cue the Defender 110. Philip has been a fan of Land Rovers since the age of five – after seeing his first at a forest near his home town kitted out for expeditions and thinking that one day he’d own a vehicle like that. He since went on to see them assist in emergency situations playing a pivotal role in the fire services and mountain rescue, as well as in the military with his father serving in the army.

Despite a lifelong desire to own a Defender this is his first, although it is fair to say he has been plotting and planning the build for years. “I’d been looking for ages, but never found the exact one I wanted, in the condition I needed, to create ‘Beastly’ our adventure vehicle,” reveals Philip. “Then in early 2017 I came across a big yellow Defender 110 crew cab with the name ‘Stryker Landrovers’ plastered on the back, which gave me the idea that a company could turn my vision into a reality. I contacted them and I got talking to Ian, also a massive green oval enthusiast and the man behind this independent Land Rover specialist with over 20 years’ experience. We discussed what I had in mind, in terms of the needs of the services New Wave would provide, and the ideas I had.”

Simple but effective mods: gas strut on rear door and rear pull-down table

The base for the project was pretty much a shell with a steering wheel and some side panels – it was a ghost of its former self – but as soon as Philip cast eyes on the remnants of the 110 in Ian’s yard he knew it would be the start of Beastly. “It had belonged to a farmer who lived and worked close to the sea in Kerry and I imagined it already had some adventures of its own, but now a new life for this vehicle was about to begin. Exposed to the salty air, the first step was a galvanised heavy-duty chassis, doors and bulkhead.

Given this was to be a workhorse rather than a show pony Philip sensibly opted for a reconditioned 300Tdi engine (which is what it would have had when it rolled off the production line in 1996) for the simplicity and reliability of it – he could carry out remote repairs but it would prove fit for faraway adventures, too.

“I also knew that I would need to carry passengers, yet still retain enough room for diving and climbing equipment. Our sessions are four hours long and the demands of the work mean that I need to be dynamic and responsive in real time; I need certain key pieces of kit to hand so that I can adjust and react well on location.”

Huge 1.1. metre rear utility drawer contains everything to live off grid

Who needs takeaway Starbucks!?

To that end, aside from three rear seats the rest of the area has been converted for storage and includes two large cargo-style nets fitted on each side within the rear side panels and a Mobile Storage Systems’ 1.1 metre Goliath drawer that extends out the rear utility drawer. Combined these are a vital part of this build as he regularly needs access to all of the bushcraft and camping gear allowing Philip and his clients (or family during holiday time) to live off grid and includes: a Petromax fb2 Firebox and Rocket Stove, Wolf and Grizzly fire safe and grill, FENNEK firebowl and grate, MSR Dragonfly stove, Kelly Kettle, saws, flints and hammocks. Up front you’ll find a 12V 20A Durite electronic split charger under the front passenger seat, together with an Odyssey heavy duty leisure battery and Anderson plugs fitted for easy access, and a Renogy 100W 12V Monocrystalline foldable portable solar suitcase.

Electric winch: Self-recovery essential​​​​​​

Items like the Safari snorkel, Warrior Spartan 1200lb electric winch, ARB TRED Pro recovery boards and 285/75/R16 BF Goodrich all-terrain LT tyres wrapped around black steel modular wheels were all essential for self-recovery given that New Wave spend most of their time in remote locations. Safety equipment like the two fire extinguishers (secured under the rear passenger seat), first aid kit, heavy duty galvanised recovery shackles, recovery gloves and ARB recovery kit including snatch strap, winch extension strap, tree trunk protector and snatch block are stored in those aforementioned easy-reach storage areas within the Defender. He’s also added security features like a tracker and safe from LRD security and tinted the windows.

Philip believes in using the best and hardest wearing equipment he can afford

Outside, fixtures like the Maxx Raxx Explorer bike rack, a Safety Devices Explorer roof rack with birch ply flooring, Bearmach rear ladder and step enable him to load the Defender up with mountain bikes, surfboards, kayaks, stand-up paddle boards and paddles without compromising internal space. He also decided to fit a T28 Evolution LED lightbar, pair of ST4 Evolution front lamps, and four Utility-45 (Gen 2) work lights from Lazer Lamps for their night adventures but to aid with packing up gear in the darker winter months as well.

In addition Philip opted for a full interior kit from Dynamat. With his work spanning assessment, intervention and aftercare – all delivered exclusively in these natural outdoor spaces – it’s essential that the Land Rover is as a calming environment as possible and this is the most effective product for stopping noise and vibration.

While it is a styling enhancement harking back to the military vehicles he’d admired as a young child, the black chequerplate on the bonnet, wing tops and rear wing is also functional –as he’s constantly clambering his vehicle to access the roof when transporting and securing the bigger outdoor gear. It’s also been used to line the rear floor inside. Likewise, the equally purposeful diff and steering guards from 110 Technik have been fitted for underbody protection together with Bearmach light guards and a Britcar tubular winch A-bar front bumper for when Philip goes off the
black stuff.

Home from home: Philip's Defender even offers en suite changing

Some of the best additions have been the simple ones though – such as the gas strut on the rear door and the rear pull down table. The National Luna fridge is also essential as Philip cooks on sessions (sometimes using the very cool Frontrunner spare tyre mount braii/BBQ grate) and having cold drinks to hand in the summer after a great time out on the waves surfing is invaluable! The QuickPitch en-suite gives a private changing area and a bit of luxury in the wilderness.

Comfort and flexibility make any adventure better

Another thing that Philip has found is it’s all about trial and error with some of the modifications. “In the past year I’ve made lots of changes, including the awning and roof tent. As I work all year round I need an effective shelter to cope with sessions during Ireland’s extreme weather conditions so I swapped out the ARB awning for the Alu-Cab 270° self-supporting Shadow awning as it provides better coverage. With a couple of Old Man Emu ARB Directors’ camping chairs, it’s easy to create a therapeutic space in any outdoor setting, come rain or shine.

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“The ARB roof tent was great for our weekend family trips, but I need to upgrade it, so I have plans to source an Alu-Cab Icarus Lift-Up Roof Conversion sometime next year together with an AlliSport Variable Geometry turbocharger, new LOF clutch, ARB Old Man Emu suspension, uprated brakes and a Safety Devices roll cage.”

With a good sense of how he needed it to function and how he wanted it to look, together with guidance from Ian, the build process was quick taking seven months just in time for their winter programmes, though as with any Defender project it is a lifelong undertaking. “The process of creating the project piece by piece was one of the most fun things I ever had the pleasure of doing. It felt like I was creating the best Lego set in the world. I’ve loved every minute of it, and we’re still adding parts today as it’s constantly evolving and we really do test the equipment to its limits. Our budget to start with was Euros15k but we definitely doubled that before we finished the main build.”

Fortunately, the money invested has been more than worthwhile as it is his mobile office, base camp and daily transport! “It is almost like another part of the family, and it feels like I’ve got another person on session with me. It’s solid and reliable, and there’s always a way to be creative and innovative with the space depending on the need and purpose. Outside of work, we enjoy taking it on our own family expeditions. My favourite has to be when we drove the Wild Atlantic Way along the western coast of Ireland. We camped in the roof tent and drove over 3500 km and found some of the most amazing beaches in Ireland. If travel resumes to normal this year we will press on with our expeditions in Ireland, but also go further afield to France and Norway.”

Doing what it does best: The Defender provides Philip with the ability to reach out-of-the way destinations ​​​​​​

The penultimate question for me is how do his clients react to the Defender? “They love it. When my clients come to their first session, they’re surprised to see a social worker in a wetsuit; they are disarmed by the approach of adventure therapy and while the Defender is integral to the work, it’s also very functional and my clients appreciate that it’s something well thought through and a bit fun.

“I do a lot of metaphor work with my clients and I talk to them about the concept of having a secure and solid base in life. I give them the example of using the Defender in my work and they get it.”

Try and find the most rugged equipment you can get your hands ​​​​​​

So has Philip got any tips for readers who are thinking of embarking on a similar build? “Use the best and hard-wearing equipment that you can afford and replace any worn parts. This Land Rover is on the beach, in the mountains and climbing over trails every day of the week, and carrying a lot of gear, so it needs to be sturdy and functional.

“I also recommend you look after your vehicle – I rinse Beastly down after each session to minimise rusting and remove any sand or salt residues that can build up living so close to the beach. While I’m fairly hands on, fixing the smaller things, I leave the bigger stuff to the garage – stick to what you’re good at. I always ensure she’s well serviced, with Stryker on hand to look after it.”

So would Philip ever replace it with the new Defender? “The old one has so much character and this one in particular has such a story, I don’t think the new one would offer the same appeal. If something happened I would probably build another one from the same era but try a 130 chassis.”

There are not many vehicles that you can say represents a brand or the owner’s approach to life but the Defender manages to do that for so many people and their businesses. We’ll leave the last words to Philip. “I love to pack up the Defender and just go and explore – whether that’s with my work or family. Adventure isn’t hanging onto a rope at the edge of a mountain. Adventure is the attitude that we must apply to our day-to-day lives; facing new challenges, seizing new opportunities, testing our resources against the unknown and in the process, discovering our own unique potential and the Defender is the best vehicle to help facilitate that.”


Philip's Spec list

New Wave Wild Project initiative and this build has only been possible because of  the companies who have supported our build and project from day one with parts, supplies and advice. We would like to extend our sincere thanks to each of them.” Philip & Jasmin, New Wave Wild Project

Engine and transmission: Reconditioned 300Tdi engine with VGT turbo and bull horns, AlliSport full width intercooler, oil breather tank, header tank and power steering reservoir, Stoney Racing silicone hoses, engine and battery monitors, new R380 gearbox, 2.8 TGV HS International POWER spec LOF clutch kit, heavy duty drive shafts

Chassis: Heavy duty galvanized chassis, 16 inch black steel modular wheels (with heavy duty wheel hubs) shod in 285/75 BF Goodrich all-terrain LT tyres

Exterior: Britcar tubular winch front bumper with A-bar, Warrior Spartan 1200 lb electric winch (with synthetic rope and neoprene cover), Safari snorkel, galvanized doors, black chequerplate on bonnet, wing tops and rear wing, Britpart side steps, Bearmach NAS-style rear step, Frontrunner spare tyre mount braii/BBQ grate, Britpart Swingaway spare wheel carrier, Front Runner rear door table, Bearmach Roof access ladder, SafetyDevices Explorer roof rack with birch ply flooring, Maxx Raxx Explorer bike rack, Lazer Lamps T28 Evolution LED lightbar, Pair of ST4 Evolution front lamps and four Utility-45 (Gen 2) work lights, Lynx eye LED headlamps, Bearmach and 110 Technik light guards, LRD rear quarter window guards, 110 Technik Steering guard, Rear tinted windows and branding decals by EF Signs, Alu-Cab 270° self-supporting Shadow awning, QuickPitch en-suite changing room, ARB TRED Pro recovery boards and safety equipment on-board

Interior: Raptor Engineering dash console including binnacle, glove box and fuse cover, Durite console gauges for the turbo, oil pressure and battery, Mountney sport-style steering wheel, Britpart heated seats with North Core waterproof seat coverings and rubber matting, Tuff Rok Defender safe, Britpart cubby box, LED lighting, Mobile Storage Systems 1.1 metre Goliath drawer that extends out the rear utility drawer, Britpart Internal storage netting, Petromax fb2 Firebox and Rocket Stove, Wolf and Grizzly fire safe and grill, FENNEK firebowl and grate, MSR Dragonfly stove, Kelly Kettle, saws, flints and hammocks, Full chequerplate rear floor, Dynamat Xtreme bulk pack heat and sound deadening

ICE, Security and hardware: Sony CD/radio head unit and speakers, full LRD security service items including pedal locks, vehicle safe, bonnet, rear window and door hinge guards, Skytag vehicle tracker, 12V 20A Durite electronic split charger, Odyssey heavy duty leisure battery, Anderson plugs, Renogy 100W 12V Monocrystalline foldable portable solar suitcase, ERAYAK 1500W power invertor, National Luna NL55 fridge/freezer, USB and 12 V charging points at front and rear with digital display.


New Wave Adventure Therapy

New Wave Adventure Therapy offers social work led therapeutic intervention programmes through outdoor adventure activities.

This year it launched the New Wave Wild Project, a non-profit organisation that supports access to professional adventure therapy in Ireland to remove barriers of access by seeking funding to support those who need it most.

As a mental health intervention, they have been able to continue delivering key programmes throughout the pandemic and since much of their work is one-to-one and outdoors, its’ effective in providing intensive outpatient support at a time when traditional face-to-face therapeutic work is restricted.

The husband and wife team work closely together to design and deliver their innovative adventure therapy service. Jasmin works with the services and the families who are referred to them and Philip works with the client for every adventure therapy session they deliver.   

Contact: info@newwaveadventure, 089 600 8185,

Thanks to:
• Ian Stryker of Stryker Landrovers for building the vehicle,
parts and servicing. 087 2594327,
• My wife and business partner Jasmin who inspires me every day
• Sean at True Media who came with us on location over three days to capture the shots for the article. 353 61 275152,


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