Staff from Dearne Valley have caught the forestry fever, and on the 22nd November, took part in a volunteer day working with three Doncaster Council Countryside Rangers at Sandall Beat Wood. Over thirty Kingswood staff spent the day supporting the rangers work as well as learning about the importance of woodland management in Britain’s increasingly scarce woodlands.
The team learnt about hedge laying and coppicing, a traditional method of woodland management which takes advantage of the fact that many trees make new growth from the stump or roots if cut down.
Simon Birbeck, Environment Education Manager at Kingswood, said “It was a great day out for all involved. The Doncaster Countryside Rangers do a great job of managing the area’s woodland sites for all to enjoy, and we were happy to be able to help out.”
“Many of our Kingswood centres have beautiful wooded areas of their own. We look forward to putting some of the woodland management techniques we learnt into practice and teaching others of their importance.”
Councillor Cynthia Ransome, Cabinet Member for Communities; Street Scene; Environmental Protection; Waste and Recycling, said: “Our woodlands and countryside team members have a wealth of knowledge and this visit highlights the demand for their traditional countryside skills. We really value the work that volunteers do and hope they get a lot out of working with us.”
Kingswood’s Dearne Valley centre has been awarded silver for the Best Accommodation Award at the 2012 BETA British Youth Travel Awards (BYTA).
The BYTA Awards reward high achievers and individual successes of organisations engaged in youth, student and educational travel, to, from and within the UK. The Best Accommodation Award recognises excellence in youth accommodation.
Dearne Valley, which opened in March 2012, is the newest addition to Kingswood’s portfolio of centres. Its five brand new accommodation blocks, each named after a local colliery, offer 300 beds in a mixture of four, six and eight bed en-suite dorms as well as single en-suite rooms for teachers.
Brian Kitson, Dearne Valley’s centre manager, said: “To even be shortlisted for this award is a fantastic recognition of all the hard work that has gone into creating this amazing centre and we are extremely proud of this achievement,”
There were talks from Professor Peter Higgins of the University of Edinburgh, Peter Carne of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Blackpool deputy head Peter Westhorpe and BBC presenter and explorer Paul Rose, as well as a series of practical workshops.
The talks considered the important role of LOtC in preparing young people for an uncertain future of economic, environmental and social change; the evidence for how residential experiences benefit the young people who take part in them; practical tips and ideas for planning and delivering LOtC; and inspirational stories from the speakers’ own experiences.
Professor Higgins noted that children currently of school age are likely to see great environmental, economic and social change in their lifetimes and that LOtC experiences are the best way to prepare young people for this changing future.
The day concluded with a drinks reception and dinner for the Awards for Outstanding Contribution to LOtC 2012. The awards honour individuals and teams of people who have made a significant impact on the lives of children and young people through their commitment and dedication to providing or championing inspiring LOtC opportunities.
“We were extremely pleased with the conference this year, and delegates commented that it was our best yet.” Beth Gardner, Chief Executive of the CLOtC, said. “It was great to be able to use the fantastic outdoor space at Dearne Valley for some hands-on workshops, and our evaluations highlighted a lot of positive comments from people about the excellent venue and facilities. “
Nominations were invited over the summer, and a shortlist of 16 nominees was selected in the categories of LOtC Celebrity Champion, LOtC Inspiring Educator, LOtC Innovator and Lifetime Contribution to LOtC. There was then a public vote to select the winners.
Over 3,000 people participated in the vote. The final winners were:
LOtC Celebrity Champion: Paul Rose, BBC presenter
LOtC Inspiring Educator: Tom Heaney, Biddick School Sports College
LOtC Innovator: Marnie Rose, The Garden Classroom
Lifetime Contribution to LOtC: Martin Hudson, formerly of BAPA and PGL
For a full review of the conference and awards, please see: www.lotc.org.uk
Use Dearne Valley’s facilities to host your own conference. To find out more, call Tom Delaney on 01709 771 010.
Dearne Valley’s brand new purpose built accommodation block planned for 2013 will be named after the Cortonwood colliery to sit alongside the existing Denaby, Wath, Manvers, Barnburgh and Cadeby blocks.
The new accommodation block will create a further sixty-six guest beds in a mixture of four, six and eight bed en-suite dorms, as well as eight single en-suite rooms for teachers.
“When we opened in March 2012, we wanted to maintain a historical link with the area in recognition of its strong mining heritage.” Brian Kitson, Dearne Valley’s centre manager, explains. “Naming the accommodation blocks after local collieries was one way to recognise the importance mining had to the local region.”
Built on the site of the former Earth Centre, Kingswood’s Dearne Valley lies near a number of former collieries. An extensive regeneration programme in the 1990s, following the closure of the last surviving mine at Barnburgh, has seen the area transformed. Nowadays little is left to suggest the area was once one of the most important concentrations of industry in the country.
Dearne Valley was the site of many pit tragedies, the most notorious of these being the terrible Cadeby Main disaster of 1912. In the early hours of 9th July, a huge blast ripped through the colliery, killing thirty-five of the thirty-seven miners working in that section of the pit. Hours later, at the height of the rescue operation, a second more violent explosion resulted in the deaths of another fifty-six men.
The death toll would have been considerably higher, had it not been for many of the miners taking an unofficial day of holiday to witness King George V and Queen Mary’s visit to Conisbrough Castle. Only 117 miners had reported for work that night, instead of the 450 miners who had clocked on the week before.
On July 8th 2012, one hundred years after the Cadeby disaster, a permanent memorial was erected in Denaby cemetery on Miners Memorial Day to honour the lives of those who died. Mrs Irene Newton, 94, the longest surviving relative of the disaster victims, officially unveiled the monument at an event attended by local dignitaries and Kingswood staff.
Brian adds: “It is important that we continue to teach future generations of children that visit us at Dearne Valley of the area’s rich mining history so that the miners’ legacy is never forgotten.”
From checking up on the Living Machine to enjoying a catch up with guests, life as Centre Manager at Dearne Valley, Kingswood’s newest multi-million pound centre, is never dull. Brian Kitson reveals all.
Managing the latest edition to the Kingswood family is a both a privilege and challenge. Situated on a re-developed coal mine, the 50 acre site that opened in March after six months of construction has some very unique features.
Every morning on my way into the office I walk through the dining hall to check everything is OK with breakfast and to catch up with teachers. After that it is onto the morning meeting where we review anything from overnight and plan the day ahead. There are lots of daily checks that need to happen including things like making sure the Living Machine is operational. The Living Machine is our very own on- site water and sewage re-cycling plant. All the toilets are connected to it and we have a vacuum system that flushes waste at 60 metres per second – we obviously can’t afford for things like that to go wrong!
Once I am happy that everything is functioning it is then on to attend the instructors meeting. Our instructional team is at the heart of what we do. All our fantastic facilities are nothing, without their energy and enthusiasm. The meeting sets the tone for the day and is a chance to discuss how to meet the educational objectives of the groups on centre.
After a quick coffee (the first of many!) I will catch up with paperwork and e-mails before getting out and about around site. The favourite part of my day is catching up with teachers and the young people that are using the centre. The only way we can get better is if we listen to feedback from the guests that use the centre. I have really seen it evolve since we have opened and as a staff team, we have evolved with it. I love getting feedback about the impact that our programmes have on the young people that visit us.
Due to the size of the site, just walking around can take an hour – it is great for keeping fit, especially when the sun is shining. A lot of my time is taken up with planning for the future. There are lots of areas that we are looking to develop including our terraced garden, environmental programmes, watersports and incorporating the historical and geographical significance of the site into the sessions that are delivered.
At the end of the day I like to check that the evening activities are planned and all the guests are happy before handing over to our night duty team. As I am driving out the gates I often remind myself how lucky I am to work on such an amazing centre with a staff team that really do make a difference.
For more information on Dearne Valley, click here.
You may have seen in the news recently the unions’ claim that children’s lives ‘are put at risk on school trips because Government removed red tape‘. Here at Kingswood, the safety of our school groups is our paramount concern. So we spoke to Matt Healey, our Head of Outdoor Education and Training at Kingswood, who shares his views on the issue:
“Red tape can be cumbersome but playing musical chairs with regulations is no way to proceed in helping teachers to manage the risks of school trips.
Teachers have long been calling for a relaxation in regulations to enable pupils to experience the benefits of learning outside the classroom. However, with regulations relaxed some teachers are experiencing the contrary problem and the reflex is to return to the former system of a classroom education.
These quick shifts from one regulation to no regulations to another regulation will not provide an effective balance or enable teachers to feel confident in managing the risks of the great outdoors.
Outdoor activity centres, theatres and museums add valuable cultural and experiential learning to the curriculum and pupils should not be denied this opportunity because schools lack confidence to take pupils off-site. Trip advocates must lead the way in working more closely with teachers to ensure they are confident in their choice of destination and not left concerned about their choices or worried about the safety of their pupils.
If we continue to play musical chairs with regulations teachers will soon become musical statues paralysed by changes and unable to keep up with legislation. This can only result in schools failing to offer pupils the option of outdoor education returning the profession permanently to the confines of classroom.”
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