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Cash boost for youth retreat centre at historic site

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29 OCT

Cash boost for youth retreat centre at historic site

By timesecholife on in All News, Community News

A trust which runs a youth retreat centre at a Moorlands heritage site has received a cash boost to help the organisation survive during the current pandemic. Alton Castle, part of The Kenelm Youth Trust, has received a “lifeline” grant from the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund.

A trust which runs a youth retreat centre at a Moorlands heritage site has received a cash boost to help the organisation survive during the current pandemic.

Alton Castle, part of The Kenelm Youth Trust, has received a “lifeline” grant from the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund.

The team at Alton Castle offer a unique blend of outdoor adventurous activities and inspiring retreat experiences that promote personal, social, and spiritual development.

Sandra Satchell, CEO of Kenelm Youth Trust, said: “Our exciting activities are designed to nudge young people just past their comfort zones in a safe but challenging way that inspires trust: trust in God, in each other and in themselves.”

Alton Castle is one of 445 heritage organisations across the country set to receive a financial boost from the Government to help them through the coronavirus pandemic.

The 445 organisations will share £103 million to help restart “vital reconstruction work and maintenance on cherished heritage sites, keeping venues open and supporting those working in the sector.”

Alton Castle has received a total £118,400 to support it over the Winter months while schools are unable to stay at the venue due to the pandemic.

Sandra said: “This grant is set to help the castle with immediate ongoing costs and help us think how the castle can attract more day visitors over the next year.

It ensures we are safe to open fully in 2021 and deliver on development plans over the Winter months.

This is fantastic news and will preserve the castle until we can fully bounce back.”

The Kenelm Youth Trust operates out of Alton Castle, a Gothic-revival castle set in 60 acres in the village of Alton. The site has been fortified since Saxon times, with the original castle dating from the 12th century. The current castle was rebuilt between 1847 and 1852 by A.W.N. Pugin, as a country house for the 16th Earl of Shrewsbury.

Since 1967 the castle has been designated a Grade I listed building. It is also a scheduled ancient monument. It is one of only ten Grade I listed buildings in Staffordshire Moorlands and the only Grade I listed building in Alton.

Within the grounds of the castle site sits three Grade II listed buildings – Catholic Church of St. John the Baptist; Hospital of St. John and St John’s Preparatory School.

The castle remained a private residence until 1919 when the Sisters of Mercy brought it to extend their boarding school. The school closed in 1989.

In 1995, the Archdiocese of Birmingham purchased the castle and opened it as a Catholic Youth Retreat Centre in 1996. It is utilised by schools, youth organisations and church groups throughout the West Midlands region and beyond, who are looking for a wide choice of activity, faith-based and personal development programmes, providing creative opportunities for learning outside the classroom.

Sandra said: “This Grade 1 listed building has been a retreat centre since 1996 helping more than 150,000 young people aged seven to 14 to encounter Christ through creation, challenging activities, and community.

Our exhilarating and inspirational outdoor learning activities, coupled with our prayerful moments of reflection, help develop attitudes, skills and behaviours that are known to underpin success in school and work: from grit and resilience to confidence and enhanced communication skills.

These non-cognitive skills are increasingly recognised as fundamental in determining positive outcomes for children as they both complement and underpin academic attainment, and prepare young people for success in adult life.

Residentially, we work principally with Key Stages 2 and 3. Progression and differentiation between age groups is now firmly established with distinct themes and appropriately challenging, developmental activities including trekking, mountain biking, archery, bushcraft activities and orienteering.

For example, our indoor climbing wall with peer belaying is a popular Key Stage 2 activity, but when a young person returns to Alton in Year 7 or 8, they face the greater challenge of our outdoor crate stacking where they still need to work as a team, but will now experience the greater challenge.

Other activities include: trekking, mountain biking, archery, bushcraft activities and orienteering, all led by our enthusiastic and generous team of gap year volunteers who are superb role models for the young people who come on retreat.”

Sandra added of the recent cash boost from the Government: “With this support from Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage the castle now has the essential lifeline to enable us to now complete on making planned improvements over the winter to the building and activities in the grounds.

We continue to welcome day team building days and day retreats while we plan on re-opening the castle fully for residential school stays and residential retreats by March 2021.”

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