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Rock UK celebrates centenary after 100 years of youth work

A Christian charity with outdoor adventure centres in Northamptonshire, Kent, Wales and Scotland is celebrating 100 years since it first opened its doors to young people.

Rock UK (formerly the Belgrave Trust) started in 1922 when some visionary Sunday school teachers decided to take children, who had never been out of London, to the coast to enjoy the countryside and get some fresh sea air.  

The teachers managed to purchase Belgrave House in Littlehampton, West Sussex, which became the home of the charity for many years and saw a large number of children visit. It soon became apparent that more facilities were needed and a piece of land, suitable for camping, was purchased in nearby Climping to accommodate young men and boys. 

Climping Camp

During World War II, the house had to cease its activities although it did accommodate a few servicemen in need of rest and recuperation. Climping Camp had to close completely as it was deemed too close to the coast! As soon as the war was over, holidays resumed and numbers rose rapidly. By 1962, a neighbouring property was acquired to accommodate the increasing numbers of visitors.

In 1977, the decision was made to obtain a new larger centre and so Belgrave House was sold and the first of the Rock UK centres, as we know them today, was established. This was Carroty Wood in Tonbridge, Kent. By 1978, the charity had been renamed Barnabas Trust (after the biblical character whose name means ‘son of encouragement’).    

Over the next 25 years, the charity acquired three further centres – Halls Green in Kent, Whithaugh Park in the Scottish Borders and the Frontier Centre in Irthlingborough (see main photo). During this time, many improvements were made to the centres including additional accommodation blocks, new karting tracks and the installation of climbing facilities.  Meanwhile, after 80 years of hosting camps, Climping Camp was closed.

In 2009, the charity rebranded to Rock UK Adventure Centres. A further Centre was opened the following year in Wales – the Summit Centre. Shortly after, an improved and redeveloped Instructor Training Programme was launched which has now welcomed more than 200 trainees. 

The charity encourages the use of its facilities by all children and created a bursary fund in 2013 to give disadvantaged children the opportunity of experiencing the activities at the centres. 

Rock UK is now a nationwide organisation and consists of four centres, offering opportunities for the young and young at heart to come and experience exhilarating adventures outdoors including aerial adventures, abseiling, climbing and much more.   With the arrival of COVID, all centres had to close. Despite this, the charity has managed to come through the pandemic, and has once again opened its doors to the public in time for its centenary.  

Several celebratory events are planned throughout the year including an Open Day for the public at each centre as well as a large Thanksgiving and Centenary Celebration at the Frontier Centre in September. 

For more information about Rock UK please go to www.rockuk.org

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