The Peak Centre in Edale is a unique resource in the Diocese, offering outdoor education to people of all faiths and all backgrounds, an opportunity to enjoy the village, the landscape and to escape some of the stresses and troubles they have in their lives.
It caters mainly for primary school children and offers residential stays and day group activities.
Hence the emphasis, according to Manager Ben Acty and his team of five, is on having a good time: “I’d like to think that the main thing they get out of being here is fun!” Said Ben.
“We want to provide a fun, safe place for them to enjoy. From that, if they can learn or get the inspiration to continue to explore the outside world around them – hopefully realise that there is life beyond their phone and TV screens – if we can start that journey for them, then that’s a big win.”
Peak Centre manager Ben Acty said the centre aims to help youngsters become good citizens and decent human beings
Typical of the activities they might do at the centre are climbing (the centre has a fantastic indoor climbing wall), archery, walking, pond dipping – all sorts of things that help them enjoy the natural world.
Not all activities are done at the center, though: walking takes place in the Edale valley, Mam Tor and sometimes around Kinder Scout, and there is plenty of outdoor climbing to be done too at the Peak District’s natural rock formations, such as Stanage Edge.
Reaching new heights
And not all the people using the centre are schoolchildren.
Ben said: “The Peak Centre welcomes youth groups and other organisations, and adults. You can often see a real sense of achievement – some people conquer their fear of heights, for example, so to get them on a climb and see their joy on reaching the top is really rewarding.
“We also have a large orienteering site around Kinder so we can do a full day at that, exploring the skills of navigating.”
Ben has been manager of the centre for just under a year. His father was a United Reformed Church minister who helped set up a group to provide outdoor education, so Ben is no stranger to this environment.
Faith is also a part of the ethos at the Peak Centre – though Ben is keen to point out that it isn’t compulsory, and no-one is ever forced to join in any faith-based activity.
“We have resources here for them to use and you will see symbols, such as the cross, around. Quite often the youngsters are inquisitive and will want to know more and read some of the books we have. We encourage them to ask questions if they want to and we have a number of prayer spaces.
“We also have retreat days, more structured events where we introduce children to different ways of worship and praying – ways that they probably haven’t thought about before.”
“But in all of the activities we do, the values we work by would be considered to be the values of being a Christian – or any other faith - respect, teamwork, trust etc. Ultimately, we want to encourage them to be good citizens – good and decent human beings.”
Abseiling is one of the many outdoor activities organised by the Peak Centre
This year, the Peak Centre will have been encouraging that ethos for 50 years – since John Champion of Edale donated a barn to be used to allow youngsters to learn in the outdoors.
The core messages and values are the same as they have always been – though the teaching methods and activities are a little more modern.
Celebrations to mark the anniversary are being held over the weekend of 13 and 14 July – and you are invited!
Ben said: “We’re having an open day on the Saturday and we’ll be open for anyone to come in to see the centre and what we have to offer. We’ll have bush craft sessions, climbing sessions, archery and orienteering. Some of our groups will be here… some of whom have been coming here for many, many years.
“And as Edale school also celebrates its 200th anniversary this year, so the school will be sharing some of the celebrations. We’ll have worship too, of course.
“On the Sunday, we’ll have a special service at the church and inviting the local community to come and see the centre for themselves.”
Ben is keen that local communities should be able to use the centre more – maybe for group activities – and is keen to hear ideas how they would like to make use of the facilities.
“We’ve had an incredible 50 years in which we have become a unique little spot in the Peak District. I want us to grow more while retaining the charm that makes this centre special. We will continue to offer outdoor learning opportunities.
“What I want to do more of is to offer safe, secure environment to people from areas that don’t have access to nature – to introduce them to this quiet place where they can come and get away from the stresses of daily life, eg inner cities.
“That could make a real difference.”
Running costs: around £120,000 p.a. as a self-funded charity
Capacity: max 60 residential guests | up to 100 in day groups
For more information, please visit peakcentre.org.uk or call 01433 670254