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05 June 2015

One year on from the launch of London Youth’s exciting new My Hindleap campaign, Gareth Price, our Head of Development, reflects on the opening of the first brilliant new My Hindleap activity. 

Yesterday afternoon, on the hottest day of the year so far, I stood with a group of like minded people, as we craned our necks to look up into a deep blue sky. It was a beautiful afternoon and nearby birch trees were being blown around in the breeze. Eyecatching as the environment was, something else held our attention.

Primary school children were clinging onto bright rainbow coloured holds to climb up into that sky and round the corner older young people from Talent Match London were gingerly defying gravity, using static ropes and shiny metal devices to abseil down from it too. They were christening Hindleap Warren’s new Petchey-fied Tower. This eye-catching 10 metre high climbing, abseiling and zip wire tower will grab visitor’s attention as soon as they set foot in London Youth’s outdoor education centre high on the Ashdown Forest. We think it will grab their attention for a generation. Over the next 25 years around 125,000 children and young people should face the Petcheyfied Tower challenge.

At its heart this challenge is similar to many of the adventurous activities we do at Hindleap, and why London Youth believes outdoor education is integral to its work supporting and challenging young people. As young people stand at the bottom of the Tower and summon up the courage to begin, they step into the unknown, finding the courage to face their fears and climb the 10 metres of vertical holds to the top. Although many will feel their pulse rates racing and won’t be sure of success as they set out, each young person will be safe – securely attached to the rope and supported by a trained, empathetic member of the Hindleap staff team. And if they do get to the top the sense of achievement will make it all worth it.

Our feedback from young people, teachers and youth workers, and the impact data we’ve collected so far tell us this sort of experience is crucial for young people’s development – planting seeds of confidence and resilience and convincing them that anything is possible. 

Yesterday afternoon happened as a result of the brilliant support of the Jack Petchey Foundation, whose generous grant paid for the construction of the Tower. Jack Petchey’s ethos, which has stayed with him throughout a successful business career, is about believing in the power of positive thinking. This is why his personal mantra – ‘if you think you can, you can!’ is emblazoned on the side of the Petchey-fied Tower.

The Jack Petchey Foundation grant was made to kick off London Youth’s My Hindleap campaign. Launched almost exactly one year ago by our Patron HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, My Hindleap is about providing gold standard outdoor education for 100,000 young people over the next 10 years. London Youth are seeking £1.2 million of investment in Hindleap’s activities, infrastructure and staff accommodation to ensure we can deliver this. This includes other new experiences like the Tower – a new obstacle course and a new high ropes activity.

At a time when, as a result of other centres closing, many young people are struggling to access the sort of experience the Petcheyfied Tower delivers, we want at least 20,000 of My Hindleap's 100,000 to be young people who may not otherwise get the opportunity to get out of the city – including young people facing disadvantage and young people with additional needs .

When we asked young people, schools and community youth groups how we should invest in the Centre we also asked them for their take on ‘My Hindleap’ – what the Centre meant to them personally. For me, now, ‘My’ Hindleap will always include a little bit of yesterday afternoon, young people facing their fears, climbing up into a summer sky.