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13 June 2014

Friday 13 June

Chief Executive Rosie Ferguson writes about the vision for the 'My Hindleap' appeal as we look to ensure gold standard outdoor education activities can continue to be provided at Hindleap Warren

Today we celebrated 50 years of outdoor education at Hindleap Warren with 100 of our friends, supporters and young people from schools and member clubs. We also launched 'My Hindleap'; our vision for gold standard outdoor education for 100,000 young people over the next ten years.

I myself first went to Hindleap with a youth group in 2005. My personal Hindleap, therefore, is taking pretty tough looking young men night-orienteering and seeing them hold hands and scream as they explore the grounds in the dark; it is toasting marshmallows on the fire in the new bushcraft village, and it is taking my own leap of faith jumping out of the trees to catch the trapeze and, despite my fear, always having complete trust in whichever instructor has coaxed me up there.

We were honoured to be joined at Hindleap for the fifth time today by our Patron, His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. He has been a longstanding supporter of Hindleap Warren since he first came in 1971 as he celebrated his own 50th birthday. In 1975 he then came to open the Bernard Sunley Activity centre which, as a result of very generous investment from the Bernard Sunley Charitable Foundation, laid the foundations quite literally for the centre we know today.  

The outfits may have been a little different. The accommodation has much improved. But the tingle you get on the back of your neck as you see a group returning muddy from their forest adventure is still exactly the same. Remarkably, there were a few of the same faces around as well.

London Youth was initially gifted this special piece of land in 1964, and with support from our friends at the Variety Club the first accommodation was built by young people themselves who came down from member youth clubs to pitch in. This included young people from the Cameron Athan youth club, the proceeds from the sale of which built the Jimmy Dixon Day Course Wing 45 years later.

In 2008, we developed an ambitious new plan to increase our capacity through the development of a new accommodation block and this has been phenomenally successful. More young people are now visiting Hindleap than ever before, they are staying longer and learning more while they are here.

But the need and demand for quality outdoor education continues to increase and evolve while the opportunities are reducing; 1 in 3 outdoor centres in the UK is closing and many schools and youth groups can no longer offer subsidised places for young people from poorer backgrounds.

Less than 10% of young people now play in natural areas like woodlands and parks, compared with 40% of adults when they were young.

Our focus, through our inclusion strategy and work with member clubs, is absolutely on making these experiences accessible to young people who wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to access this kind of opportunity.

We know that what we do at Hindleap makes a difference:

  • 53% of children taking part in a residential say it helps them do better in school
  • 76% get on better with others as a result of doing a residential with them
  • And an early sample of our own life effectiveness reviews show a statistically significant correlation between a visit to Hindleap and an increase in young people’s  time management, intellectual flexibility and emotional control

'My Hindleap' is about increasing our impact, being even more inclusive and driving financial and environmental sustainability.

For our primary school visitors like those from Stelling Minis, the 'My Hindleap' vision means more challenging team-building activities and finding their way through a pitch black tunnel system.

For groups like Rathbone, catering for young people with a whole range of complex and additional needs, the 'My Hindleap' vision means better equipment and access to all that Hindleap has to offer.

And for Knights Youth Centre and our other member youth clubs the 'My Hindleap' vision includes striding out into the forest, backpacks on their backs, for an off-grid weekend self-catering in a bunkhouse in the grounds. 

It also means investing in our staff who are by far Hindleap’s greatest assets; from our instructor team to our housekeepers and those in the office. They are what really makes the Hindleap experience what it is for the thousands of young people who come here every year. On the coach home, it is the instructor team who the children and young people remember. 

Our vision for 'My Hindleap' is gold standard outdoor education for 100,000 young people over the next ten years. It is the shared vision of all of the children, young people, teachers, youth workers and staff who love Hindleap and who’ve fed into our consultation over the last year. 

We hope it all excites you as much as it does us.