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The Chirdon Head Expedition Centre, Kielder

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The Chirdon Head Outdoor Centre, Kielder, is a new innovative project which working in partnership with Sage Foundation and Steve Hare CFO Sage PLC, we opened as an outdoor centre on Friday 26th April in Kielder Forest. Renovated as an environmentally friendly cottage, it is accessible to young people up to the age of 25, including those with disabilities and additional needs, and it has become a retreat and a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Expedition Centre. It also provides many outdoor activities and learning opportunities in a remote but idyllic location.

The idea for this project initially started after a feasibility study highlighted the lack of outdoor facilities, resulting in us searching for somewhere to develop. As a result Cramlington Voluntary Youth Project was 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. With this is mind the Chirdon Head project officially started late 2011 and since then a lot of grounds maintenance and volunteer conservation projects has taken place.

Since its inception a north and south extension were added to the cottage, in keeping with the original look of the property. The outdoors was also cleared through several days of hard work with the volunteers from the Sage Foundation and Fire Service helping to clear the land, construct walls and lay a road into the site. Through further support received, the centre is now fully operational. As a measure of its importance to young people in Northumberland, Chirdon Head Expedition Centre was officially opened by HRH Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex.

The Aim:

The overall aim of this project is to:

  • Create an innovative outdoor experience for our service users, provide a facility for CVYP and our network to use at minimal cost.
  • Deliver a long-term sustainable income for CVYP.
  • Close the county wide gap in local provision. Since the disbandment of the Outdoor Trust (Northumberland) in 2006 and Mobex in 2013, CVYP have had to travel long distances to use outdoor centres.
  • Offer more opportunities to those limited by disability. Only 5 outdoor centres exist in Northumberland and 3 are restricted mainly due to limitations such as disability, access and repair.

Current Activity:

Chirdon Head, Kielder, since opening has the facilities and capability to provide a wide range of activities to the groups who will access the outdoor centre. Some of the current and planned activities which are available include:

  • Walks & expeditions
  • Mountain biking
  • Multiple outdoor team building games i.e. low ropes, nightline and spiders web
  • Water sports i.e. kayaking and canoeing
  • Archery
  • Centre based workshops
  • John Muir Award
  • Arts Award
  • Team building residentials

Chirdon Head has been registered as a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Expedition Centre, operating the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award at bronze, silver and gold level. This allows us to offer the provisions to complete the physical sections of the award and both practice and qualifying expeditions.

Training opportunities are available as the site includes a residential and respite chance for parents and carers. Like many centres Chirdon Head, Kielder, needs young and adult volunteers. Due to the residential setting we have available we have the capability 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 can also access the facility for workshops targeting specific needs; such as crime and anti-social behaviour, sexual health and sexuality, drug and alcohol awareness and the space groups need to talk debate and reflect. Our residential setting provides the ideal relaxed environment to get individuals and groups with different needs out of their comfort zone.

Chirdon Head Outdoor Centre Activities - Mountain Biking Chirdon Head Outdoor Centre Activities - Walking / Hiking Chirdon Head Outdoor Centre Activities - Archery

Support for the project

Like all projects we would not be able to carry out the renovation of the cottage without the fantastic support of our partners. This includes Northumberland Social Service (Aiming High) whom expressed an 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. Bike 4 Health also held a preliminary meeting in CVYP to discuss Kielder partnerships regarding linking to primary schools in Northumberland and the use of the facility. Bike4Health are especially interested in the county bike routes and the options of linking everything together. We are also extremely grateful to Steve Hare, CFO Sage PLC and the Sage Foundation for all the support they have given us in fundraising for the project and supporting us in the clearing and development of the site.  We have also recently received support from the RDPE, Rural Development Programme for England.

However throughout the consultations with our partners about the project one potential problem kept arising, ‘sustainability’. As a result it is crucial that we continue to develop partnerships with agencies that can refer young people which will help add to the longevity of the scheme.

Location

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 are 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.



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