Chirdon Head Outdoor Centre / Retreat

The Aim- to renovate a disused cottage and grounds in order to create an outdoor retreat/centre in Kielder Forest for CVYP to use, all its partners to use and anyone else access if we can meet their needs.

The Chirdon Head project officially started late 2011 and since then a lot of cleaning and grounds maintenance has taken place. Foundations are now complete in both the south and north ends of the building. The south extension building work and roof is now complete.

Although the contracted building work has finished for the time being, volunteer contractors and youth work volunteers are still working on the site. Northumbria Water is now part of our volunteer programme. They are mainly helping with field drainage, earth moving, stone walling and water connection issues.

We remain confident that we can attract further support and aim to have the centre fully operational sometime in 2013/14. We fully intend to use the building as a residential as soon as possible, once toilets and a cooking area are established we will apply for health and safety clearance. We are still able to use the site, the bottom field offers the perfect wild camp experience but with having the building as a backup. CVYP intends to use the site as a training area and conservation site. Groups are already using the site to carry out service and conservation tasks.

If all the plans fall into place Chirdon Head will offer commercial and corporate use. It is the only way enough income can be generated to sustain the overall use of the centre.

Cramlington Voluntary Youth Project has the capacity to develop more, expand on the programme. A feasibility study highlighted the lack of outdoor facilities, so we searched for somewhere to develop. Cramlington Voluntary Youth Project has been given a 25 year lease on a building in Kielder Park Forest. This was set up through consultation with The Forestry Commission. The overall objective is to create an innovative outdoor experience, a place for Cramlington Voluntary Youth Project and our network to use at minimal cost and for others to use to create a sustainable income.

Northumberland Social Service (Aiming High) expressed interest, announcing a £48,000 contribution to Phase 1 of the building work. This was after a number of consultations set up between both parties and the forming of a Service Level Agreement. Steele’s Cycles and Sustran’s National Cycle Network held a preliminary meeting in CVYP to discuss Kielder partnerships regarding primary schools in Northumberland linking and using the facility. Sustran’s are especially interested in the county bike routes and the options of linking everything together.

Cramlington Learning Village has a strong affiliation with CVYP; delivering a comprehensive daytime Alternative Curriculum programme. The service coordinator and liaison between both parties is in support of any outdoor facility as all statutory organisations are struggling to find operational outdoor facilities in Northumberland. After consultations one potential problem kept arising, ‘sustainability’ it is crucial that we continue to develop partnerships. Agencies that can refer young people add to the longevity of the scheme.

Planned activity

Walks and expedition learns participant’s navigation and camp craft skills. Mountain biking recreation and mountain biking courses improves technical ability and physical strength. Kayak and canoeing teaches students technically and most importantly water safety. Centre based activity will offer a space for workshops, tackling and focusing on education, issues and debate.

Multiple outdoor team building games including low ropes, night line, web and skis getting individuals involved and groups to bond. Base camp facility to operate a range of accredited schemes such as; The John Muir Award which is focused on learning about conservation, exploring and discovering wild places. This will include shelter building, tree hugging and wildlife spotting.

Chirdon Head will be registered as a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Expedition Centre, operating Duke of Edinburgh’s Award bronze, silver and gold level. Physical sections of the award and, practice and qualifying expeditions. This will include residential and respite for parents and carers. -Chirdon Head Outdoor Centre will need young and adult volunteers. We will have a residential setting to train the  team already in place and any future volunteers. Trainees are crucial to the long term development; they will need the training to get them up to leadership standard, increasing their employability status.

Alternative programmes will have the space and rooms for meetings, education suit, a cafe and workshop areas targeting need specific; such as crime and anti social behaviour, sexual health and sexuality, drug and alcohol awareness, groups needing to talk debate and reflect. A residential setting provides the ideal relaxed environment to get individuals and groups with a different need out their comfort zone.


Chirdon Head is situated 6 kilometres south of Kielder Water. The reservoir is one of the largest in Europe and provides almost every water sport available. One of our key partners (Northumbria Water) owns many of the rights, access points and partners with many of the water sport providers. The building is set in quite a remote area; however it is only 15 minutes from a main road. Heritage is also one of our key objectives and Hadrian’s Wall is only 7 kilometres due south of the building. this will provide us with many expedition and exploration routes to and from both locations. Bike riding recreation and bike riding expedition is also one of our fortes, this location is ideally situated to link with multiple national trails and off road graded challenges.

Company Number 6623934 | Charity Number 1128037