Friends group gives boost to outdoor centre used by South Tyneside youngsters

An outdoor activity centre used by thousands of youngsters from South Tyneside is being given a helping hand.
The Friends of Thurston group during their working weekend.The Friends of Thurston group during their working weekend.
The Friends of Thurston group during their working weekend.

A friends group has been launched to support Thurston Outdoor Education Centre near Coniston in the Lake District – set up for South Tyneside youngsters and run by South Tyneside Council.

Former users of the centre have come together to set up the group to raise funds and apply for funding for the centre.

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The move was prompted by former centre manager, Andy Stubbs, who retired two years ago but still wanted to help the centre which had been his place of work for more than 30 years.

Recently the group held a fund-raising event at South Shields Sailing Club – which provided the venue free of charge – and raised £1,300 which will go towards agreed improvements and development of the outdoor centre.

The evening, which attracted about 100 people, featured live music, a pie and pea supper, an auction and a raffle.

Councillor Joan Atkinson, lead member for children, young people and families at South Tyneside Council, said: “I’m delighted that a friends group has been established which will help improve still further the fantastic facilities at Thurston.

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“It is testament to the magical qualities of Thurston that people who have been there are now working together to attract funding for the centre.”

Over the bank holiday weekend 22 volunteers from the Friends of Thurston group – aged between three and 60 – braved the wet weather to build a BBQ unit for the camping area.

They also laid and cleared paths, did some drainage on the campsite area, gardening and landscape work in the walled garden and put wood chippings under the new low ropes course.

Their reward was a day of activity arranged by the new centre manager Andy Sallabank and Andy Stubbs.

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Activities included canoeing and an adventurous walk through a slate mine using only candles.

Set in 43 acres of grounds, Thurston offers residential stays for youngsters from South Tyneside schools.

It is also available to private groups.

It offers a range of outdoor pursuits including sailing, kayaking, walking and climbing.

Thurston has given tens of thousands children from the borough a chance to take part in a range of adventure activities for decades.

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A member of the friends group, joint treasurer, Sonia Morton, said: “I first went to Thurston when I was 14 and it has played a big part in my life.

“The centre holds a special place in the hearts of very many people in the borough and that’s why I wanted to get involved to help it.”