Teaching kids about dogs as Swanage outdoor company expands activities

Swanage outdoor adventure company Cumulus Outdoors is getting a helping paw from man’s best friend for summer 2024 as it increases the range of activities offered to children.

The fast growing firm which specialises in running school residential activity breaks but also offers holiday activities for local children, is partnering with organisations like the Dogs Trust to offer children traditional opportunities.

Dogs Trust

Too many children don’t know how to mix with dogs – but Cumulus and the Dogs Trust hope to put that right

Helping kids reconnect with childhood

For summer 2024, the new partnership with the Dogs Trust, will help educate as many Purbeck youngsters as possible about how to stay safe around dogs – and how to keep their pets healthy and happy.

It is one of several new initiatives for Cumulus, alongside a partnership with the National Trust to help families with financial and transport challenges access some of the most beautiful places in Purbeck.

And the company will also be inviting the Friendly Food Club to create fun and tasty lunches for youngsters, showing them that healthy eating can be enjoyable and informative.

Cumulus marketing director Steve Thompson feels sad that so many youngsters in today’s society don’t have the opportunity to experience childhood as previous generations have.

But, living in Purbeck with the coast, hills and heaths so close, Cumulus finds itself in the perfect position to play a part in helping kids reconnect with childhood.


Gathering around the campfire at one of Cumulus Outdoors’ tented villages

“Kids still love to be kids”

Steve Thompson said:

“We are all about the mental health and wellbeing of young kids – just being outdoors can be so beneficial for children and while you would like to think that’s a natural thing, these days it’s just not, and that’s very sad.

“It should be the most natural thing in the world to mix with dogs, and it’s not any longer – but with help and support from our partners, Cumulus can help with this and much else besides.

“Those who come up here are aged between eight and 13, mostly. We encourage them not to bring mobiles, which for many kids is like losing their right arm – but within a fairly short time of arriving, they find other things to do instead of looking at a screen.

“Kids still love to be kids, and give them a chance to jump into water, or play with dogs, or get muddy, or swing on a rope, or climb trees, or light a fire, they love it!

“It doesn’t take much to revert them back to the way you’d like them to be, but now they don’t have the opportunity to just go outside and play like we did back in the day, so it’s great that we can give them the chance to do just that.”


Children can gain new skills and knowledge by looking after a new puppy

“A variety of games, crafts and role playing”

A spokesperson for the Dogs Trust said:

“Owning a dog can make family life more active, fun and fulfilling. For a dog, joining a family can be the start of a fantastic adventure where they can live life to the full.

“Children can gain new skills and knowledge, which may build their confidence. It’s a great start to a lifetime of responsible pet ownership.

“Get things right, and a new pup will soon be a much loved member of the family, but there’s lots to think about, from finding the right dog to training it well and socialising it with children and other dogs.

“We look forward to working with Cumulus Outdoors and helping to run workshops which will feature a variety of games, crafts and role playing activities to ensure plenty of fun and interaction.”

Activities at Outdoor education company Cumulus

Plenty of activities for children at Cumulus Outdoors

View from Cumulus outdoor education centre

The outdoor adventure company has a great view of Swanage Bay from its base to the north of the town

Chance to explore the natural world

Managing director of Cumulus Outdoors, Sam Thompson said:

“We have worked hard to expand the quality of the facilities and the range of activities at our centre in Swanage, and we take great pride in making these facilities available to local children.

“We were delighted to support Dorset’s MyTime charity, by providing a day of adventure activities and a barbecue for 40 children aged from five to 16, all of whom care for family members – allowing them to escape from their caring roles for a short while.

“Outdoor experiences provide an opportunity for young people to discover, explore and appreciate the natural world.

“Children also have the opportunity to be active, test their physical capabilities, build self esteem and confidence – and get messy! Their senses are stimulated by what they see, feel, hear and touch, and when outdoors there are so many opportunities.”

Cumulus outdoor education centre adventure playground

Playing in the woods – part of a traditional childhood

Canoeing will be one of many adventures lined up for summer holiday schemes at Cumulus Outdoors

Canoeing will be one of many adventures lined up for summer holiday schemes at Cumulus Outdoors

“Thriving in the great outdoors”

Sam added:

“Being outdoors is linked to physical and mental health benefits, research shows that feeling connected to nature leads to reduced stress levels, improved concentration and behaviour and better sleep rhythms.

“You only have to listen to the noise as the children charge into the playground at break time to know how much they need to be outside!

“We are very proud of the work we do at Cumulus Outdoors and humbled by the wonderful feedback we receive. It’s so rewarding to witness young people enjoying and thriving in the great outdoors.”


Children take part in coasteering under the watchful eye of Cumulus instructors

Holiday activities and food club

Cumulus Outdoors is also supporting the national Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme in August 2024, to provide healthy meals and activities through the summer holidays to benefit the health and wellbeing of children – and teach them some life skills along the way!

While the HAF programme is exclusively for children who qualify for free school meals, Cumulus has expanded it to include pay per session places for local children, too.

Exciting activities lined up for the summer club include bushcraft, beach exploring, circus skills, rope climbing, coasteering, canoeing, tunnelling and even axe throwing.


Beach olympics always go down well on Cumulus courses

Taking up to 500 children a week

Cumulus Outdoors took over the Townsend Residential Centre, tucked away in Cobblers Lane, Swanage, in 2019.

Originally set up in 1929 to offer fun and fresh air on the Dorset Coast to underprivileged children from London’s East End, it has developed into a leading outdoor education centre.

Today, Cumulus takes up to 500 children a week in high season, offering bespoke programmes for schools both educational and fun, alongside Duke of Edinburgh expeditions for Year 9 pupils and D of E gold residential courses for holiday students, aged 16 to 24.

Some 80 percent of schools are so pleased with the courses that they make repeat bookings, sometimes years in advance – Cumulus is fully booked for the main season next year and already has bookings for 2026 and 2027.

Marketing director Steve Thompson and managing director Sam Thompson at Cumulus headquarters

“It’s a fabulous place to be”

Steve Thompson said:

“We all know the pressure on school budgets, but we hope that the government gets behind outdoor education and provides support because of all the research that says how important it is for kids to carry on doing this.

“We call it learning without walls – there’s so much personal development involved and we would hate the kids to miss out on it. So when schools are trimming budgets you hope they recognise the important mental health benefits being in this kind of environment.

“We are ideally placed – many outdoor adventure centres put children on a coach and drive up to 40 minutes before getting somewhere, but in this part of the world it’s on your doorstep and the kids just absolutely love it.

“Purbeck is a fabulous area, you only have to go 10 or 15 minutes in any direction from here and you have the most naturally stunning environment possible to invigorate and excite young people, some of whom have never seen the sea.

“There are hills, woods, coastline, cliffs, places to cycle, places to trek, campsites near Poole Harbour – you are not stuck in the middle of a field in the middle of nowhere. It is a fabulous place to be.”


Field studies on Swanage Beach for one of the residential groups from London

Children’s holiday activities

Holiday Activities and Food classes will run at Cumulus Outdoors from Monday 29th July to Friday 30th August 2024, with online booking now available.

Half-day sessions (9 am until 1 pm) are available free with a HAF code or £18.50 without, while full day sessions until 5 pm cost £36.

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