Memories relived as outdoor centres set to undergo revamp

For Margaret Mosley, it was a visit that inspired her love of nature which has remained with her for the rest of her life.

A school trip to one of North Yorkshire’s outdoor education centres almost seven decades ago has left an indelible impression on Margaret, giving her the chance to make new friends and sparking a life-long passion of nature, particularly birds.

And now the 83-year-old has made a nostalgic return to the Bewerley Park Outdoor Education Centre almost seven decades after she last visited to recount her cherished memories of the school trip.

Many people may still perceive a school residential break as just another mini-holiday or a way of having a break from lessons, but for Mrs Mosley, the 24-day stay enabled her to engage in new activities completely pushing her out of her comfort zone.

Margaret Mosley with Head of outdoor learning Teresa Thorp

Margaret Mosley with Head of outdoor learning Teresa Thorp.

Margaret, who lives in Redcar, has made a special 120-mile round trip to Bewerley Park Outdoor Education Centre near Harrogate, accompanied by her husband Douglas, 88, and their daughter, Louise Dale.

Bewerley Park, which is situated in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, offers residential and day courses with a range of adventure and outdoor activities including caving, canoeing, hill walking and rock climbing.

Margaret was last at the centre in 1954 aged just 14. At the time, she was a pupil at Woodlands Secondary Modern School based in what was then the mining village of Woodlands, near Doncaster.

Flicking through carefully crafted diary entries made during her stay, Margaret beamed as she recalled gazing upwards and discovering “colourful” and charismatic birds igniting and forever nurturing her love for bird watching.

“It was a magical discovery as coming from a mining village, I had only ever seen black sparrows or crows so to see multi-coloured birds was beautiful,” she said. “It was the first time I had been away from home for so long and in those days, we had no telephones to call our parents. We were all homesick and had to write letters to our parents to keep in touch with them.”

She added: “Every nook and corner of Bewerley Park holds poignant memories for me. “Our stay flew by as we embarked on adventure after adventure, be it exploring Brimham Rocks, Stump Cross Caverns, Fountains Abbey or the surrounding woodland. We had no cameras in those days so couldn’t take any pictures, I had to sketch everything from spiders to rocks and sculptures in my notebook.

“One of my fondest memories is visiting the oldest sweet shop in Pateley Bridge and buying aniseed balls and dolly mixtures.”

Two children on the Jacobs ladder at Bewerley Park

Enjoying the Jacobs ladder at Bewerley Park.

A proposed £4.2 million investment to redevelop and modernise our Bewerley Park and East Barnby Outdoor Education Centre in Whitby was given the go-ahead in November 2023 by members of the authority’s executive. A range of improvements are planned to enhance the appeal of the two centres for generations to come.

Alongside the multi-million pound investment, we are also looking to enhance the health of the county’s 615,400 residents and ensure that the gap for life expectancy between the most affluent and poorest areas of North Yorkshire is addressed, thanks to a new strategy.

The North Yorkshire Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy aims to ensure that every county resident has a fair chance of living a fulfilling, happy and healthy life, and reduce the differences between health outcomes in the population.

Executive member for education, learning and skills, Cllr Annabel Wilkinson, said: “We were delighted to welcome Margaret. It’s really heart-warming to hear that one of her most significant and happiest childhood memories is her residential trip to Bewerley Park.

“It’s also lovely to hear that the trip ignited her passion for the outdoors, especially bird watching and to this day she remains a keen bird enthusiast.”

Speaking after her most recent visit, Margaret, said: “It was so lovely to be back again after almost 70 years as I didn’t think I would ever have the opportunity to return. My first impression was that the site was bigger than I remembered, but it still looked familiar and brought back memories of the feeling of excitement at seeing all the open space and fresh air which was so different from my home at the time near Doncaster.

“I am so pleased to hear of the commitment to invest in the site so that it can provide future generations with the opportunities and experiences that I valued so much.”

Water sports at East Barnby

Children enjoying water sports at East Barby