Many thanks to outdoor residential company Allnatt Outdoors, the Swanage centre manager, Leah Rutter and senior tutor, Lloyd Robinson.
Allnatt Outdoors has two school residential centres, one on the Isle of Wight and the other here in Swanage, offering the chance for children to learn about the natural environment.
The company was founded in 1924 by Joseph Allnatt a property millionaire and philanthropist. He had a vision to create a place where children from different localities and social classes would come to learn and have a fun time. So he bought a disused aerodrome in St Mary’s Bay in Kent and converted it into accommodation.
Today, the two smaller centres with more modern facilities still offer the same experience, providing a new exciting location away from home, where children and students can grow in confidence and learn new skills.
“We incorporate education, inspiration and play. Not many centres do all their programmes through the medium of games, so when the children come here, quite often they don’t realise how much they are learning, because we are doing it in a fun and inspiring way for them.”Swanage centre manager, Leah Rutter
Most of the learning is outdoors on the beach or in nearby countryside, which the team believe makes it easier for children to learn, especially those that do not normally excel in an indoor classroom environment.
“The best bits for me are when I engage with the children…When they first arrive they’re a bit nervous and they don’t really want to get into the mud, until the final day and you’ve had that impact on their lives and they’re rolling around in the mud, having fun and forgotten all the concerns they had at the beginning of the week.”Senior tutor, Lloyd Robinson
History of the Allnatt centres
The original Allnatt centre in the converted aerodrome in St Mary’s Bay in Kent, also doubled as a turkey farm. As an entrepreneur, Joseph Allnatt realised that he could run a successful business rearing turkeys on the site in the empty winter months, competing with Bernard Matthews and even supplying a turkey to 10 Downing Street for Christmas lunch.
At its peak, the St Mary’s Bay Holiday Camp accommodated a 1000 children a week. In the 1960s it was renamed the School Journey Centre but in the 1980’s it was demolished and the site is now a housing estate.
Senior tutor, Lloyd Robinson’s recommended beach: Swanage beach
“I do actually like Swanage (beach). I quite like sand, so where I grew up, there were lots of pebbles, so Swanage for me is the first place I lived where it had a sandy beach, so it holds a special place in my heart.”Senior tutor, Lloyd Robinson