Barnstondale wins Community Enterprise of the year award

Barnstondale recognised as leader in the Wirral social enterprise movement

untitled-1080178On Friday 12 June, Barnstondale won the Community Enterprise of the Year award at the first ever Wirral CVS Wirral Third Sector Business Awards 2015. The award recognises us as a leader in the Wirral social enterprise movement. It also acknowledges our continuous commitment to the delivery of excellent services to both commercial and community groups over the past year.

The awards were established to highlight the significant impact that the social enterprise/charity sector has on the Wirral economy. There were over 90 nominations submitted in total, across 11 categories.

Commented George Jones, Barnstondale centre manager: “We talked about introducing log cabins to our facility some years ago. We built the first in 2000, then another in 2005 and finally Meadow Cabin, which caters to people with any disability and cost £650,000 to install, in 2011. It was an ambitious idea – one that meant we could offer a different, more memorable experience to our visitors – but we did it. Since then we’ve continued to think of new, enterprising and innovative ways to be a facility that the community can be proud of. In the last 12 months we have made a concerted effort to implement some exciting developments, including a new sensory trail. It’s wonderful to have received recognition from Wirral CVS for the work that we do.”

Awards organisers Wirral CVS supports more than 500 charities and hundreds of individuals, providing them with information, advice, networking and learning opportunities.

SingMe Merseyside’s community spirit resonates

DSC_8334eSingMe Merseyside – a community group that offers musical, creative and performance activities – held its bimonthly SingMe Together fundraiser at Barnstondale on 11 June. The event raised £800 for the centre, from the tickets sales and raffle.

SingMe Merseyside’s activities range from evening singing club classes and afternoon tea sing-a-longs to workplace singing and activity sessions. The SingMe Together meetings are a chance for all members from different SingMe groups to come together and raise money for a local charity. This helps the group build relationships within the local community, with a different charity benefitting every time.

Around 100 people attended the choral, coffee and cake morning, where they enjoyed the choir’s performance in our recently upgraded conference room. The morning’s entertainment was made complete by a guest appearance from Barnie Owl, who was an absolute hoot!

Despite being a commercial enterprise, as a charity, we rely on fundraising and charitable donations to cover our capital investment costs. We are currently fundraising to pay for an improved MUGA (Multi Use Games Area) concourse and the amount donated will contribute significantly to the required total.

Commented Heidi Hughes, Business Director at Barnstondale: “The MUGA (Multi Use Games Area) is a core feature of our site, both in terms of its location and its purpose. It enables groups to play numerous games in a safe environment and it is used on a daily basis. Since it was first installed in 2009, wear and tear has caused colours to fade on the surface and the lines have become less prominent. The proceeds from this concert will contribute significantly to the fundraising for this project, which will help ensure visiting children continue to enjoy the safe play outdoors. It’s very exciting to be welcoming community fundraising to our schedule of activities and we’re very grateful to SingMe Merseyside for choosing to support Barnstondale.”

Binns Big Barnstondale Bike!

binns-big-bike-web2Simon Binns, one of our hard-working staff here at Barnstondale, is taking his job to another level to raise funds for the centre, by cycling from John o’ Groats to Land’s End. Simon and his three friends will be setting off on Saturday 30 May and hope to pedal up to 1,000 miles, across the length and breadth of the country, in just 14 days. While Simon will be fundraising for Barnstondale, the others will also be supporting their own local charities.

The John o’ Groats to Land’s End route runs the whole length of mainland UK. It is a popular challenge for many cyclists and is often used to raise money for charity. Starting at the tip of Scotland, the group will pass through some of Britain’s most iconic landmarks and scenic countryside, to reach the Pewith Peninsula in Cornwall. The Lake District, Inverness and the Severn Bridge will all be along the route, with local points of interest including Runcorn and Chester. In recent times the route has been used as a rite of passage by cyclists taking on the most iconic and toughest cycling challenge in Britain. Team GB rower and Olympic gold medallist James Cracknell and former England Rugby captain Lewis Moody have both completed this route for their chosen charities in the past.

Commented Simon Binns, employee at Barnstondale: “Completing this cycle challenge was always on my bucket list. Now in my 50th birthday year, I feel this is a good time to finally turn my dream into reality. Despite minimal experience and some uncharacteristic physiques not typically suited to cycling, my friends and I have been working hard over the last few months to train and get prepared for the ride. We’re in no doubt that this will be a gruelling task, but we’re excited to take to the roads and explore Britain in all of its glory.”

Also taking part in the challenge are Dr Ian Woods, a GP based at Long Lane Medical Centre in Aintree, Alastair Sunderland, a retired local architect, and self-employed painter and decorator Gary Tull or ‘Tully the Brush’. Dr Woods has also chosen to raise funds for a cause closely related to his career – Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, one of the largest, networked cancer centres in the country, operating from nine sites across Merseyside and Cheshire. Alastair is supporting a local church’s youth group on their annual trip, where they will be helping out at an African school.

Commented Heidi Hughes, Barnstondale’s Business Director, “As well as fundraising to pay for maintenance and improvement work, Barnstondale also earmarks some of its money to pay for children who visit with larger groups and whose parents are unable to afford the cost of their trip, so that they don’t miss out. As a charity focused on supporting the development of young people, especially those from socially deprived areas or challenging backgrounds, this is important to us. Simon’s fundraising will help enable this to happen. He is going above and beyond the call of duty and we’re very grateful for his support.”

To sponsor Simon, visit

Sing Me Merseyside choir to perform at Barnstondale event

singmecoffeemorningThe outstanding Sing Me Merseyside choir have already been kind enough to fund-raise for Barnstondale at some of their other performances, but on Thursday 11th June they’ll be performing right here – and we’d love for you to come too!

We’re hosting a coffee morning that Sing Me Merseyside will be performing their popular selection of tunes at, with all proceeds from the £5 entry going towards the work of Barnstondale.

Sing Me Merseyside choir can promise you great entertainment, we can promise you delicious cakes and endless refills for your drinks, plus we’ll also be holding a raffle during the event. With so much to enjoy we’re sure good conversation is guaranteed.

We’d love to see you here on Thursday 11th June, between 10am and 12pm for the event. If you’d like to come you can purchase a ticket by calling Ruth on 0151 648 1412, or simply turn up on the day and pay then.

Come for a wonderful morning and the opportunity to make a difference to the life of a young person.


Hopes of beautiful bluebells return

bluebellsWith the help of local school children from Pensby Primary, volunteer John Earp has been doing his bit to help conserve Barnstondale’s beautiful rural setting.

When the bluebells are in bloom on the dales, it’s a beautiful sight to see. But there has been a noticeable decline in recent times, so we were advised by Dr Hilary Ash, Hon. Conservation Officer for Wirral Wildlife to plant native bluebells to replenish them. On a cold winter’s day in November, John and the schoolchildren planted approximately 1,000 bluebells, which should come into bloom this spring.

Dr Hilary Ash, Hon. Conservation Officer for Wirral Wildlife said: “Barnstondale includes areas of ancient woodland where bluebells should thrive. When the bluebells flower in April-May, they are a feast for us to look at and smell, but also important early nectar for pollinators waking up after winter. It is excellent to see that everyone at Barnstondale has worked hard to re-introduce the flower into the local area. I was pleased to be able to give advice on how best they could help the situation and they have done a brilliant job.

“It is always good to involve children in caring for our world (and getting muddy in the process!). I’m sure the children learnt a few useful tips from John and the team about conservation work and the importance of maintaining the natural environment, which will be extremely valuable knowledge for them in the future.”

Over the last two years John has been working tirelessly to improve our 12 acre woodland, which forms an important part of the ‘adventure experience’. In November last year, John’s dedication to improving and preserving the landscape was acknowledged by Wirral Globe, where he won the ‘Contribution to the Community’ award at the Golden Globe Awards 2014.

Animals make tracks to Barnstondale

P1000982Work has now begun on the second phase of our sensory trail project. Large animal statues and hand-crafted seats have already been purchased and will complete the experiential element of the trail. The project is estimated to cost around £23,000 once complete and is on-schedule to be opened in April 2015. Whilst fortunate that visitor fees cover our overhead costs, we rely heavily on donations and fundraising to pay for new projects and improvement work. Wirral Lions, Santander, Camelia Trust and Wirral Fund for Children with Special Needs are amongst the grant funders that have helped finance this specific project.

Commented George Jones, Barnstondale centre manager: “Staying in-line with the demands and needs of present day visitors is important to us, so we are always thinking of new ways to evolve and develop our facility. In recent years we have made major improvements to the woodland access ways, purchased our third log cabin and introduced rifle shooting to our list of activities, to name just a few changes.

“Now we are working on our first ever sensory trail, with future plans to introduce elements of this throughout our whole site. Whilst work continues on the landscaping, we’ve been busy purchasing some of the finishing touches. Our hope is that the colourful drawings on the totem pole, giraffe and ostriches will act as a stimulus to heighten engagement and interaction. We’ve also bought seats carved like turtles, hands and sheep and are planning on including mirrors, bongos and rain wheels along the trail too.

“Barnstondale is located within a beautiful rural setting and we wanted to take full advantage of this. We’re creating a space that is designed for everyone to enjoy and is a great way for visitors to connect with the immediate and surrounding environment.”

This is our first ever sensory trail and is designed to be accessible for children of all abilities. The first phase was creating a garden area, which features a sheltered decking, stone path, water feature and huge planters filled with perennial foliage plants, chosen specifically for their aromas and textures. Local tradesmen are now installing the sensory trail, which will include textures, surfaces, musical instruments, balance ramps and much more. Once complete, the trail will provide a relaxing and stimulating outdoor space for everyone to enjoy. The project began in April last year and forms part of our objective to provide a facility that is accessible for all.

Barnie Owl Challenge 2014


Barnie Owl has got a challenge for you! Are you brave enough to accept it?

The Barnie Owl Challenge for 2014 will be a sponsored abseil on Saturday 15th November to raise money for young people to be able to come to Barnstondale.

Barnstondale is a charity that provides residential facilities and activities to groups of young people. We recognise that raising the funds to come can be difficult for schools and groups and so we’re launching this exciting challenge that could slice the cost of coming to stay for as many children as possible.

We know that a visit to Barnstondale can be a life changing event for young people and so we want to make it as easy as possible for them to be able to come here. A few moments on a rope on our imposing 35 foot high abseil tower is a real challenge, but its one that can make a real difference to the life of a child – and that has to be worth taking up the challenge for!

We need people like you to sign up to take part and raise money as part of this event. If as many people as possible sign up and raise sponsorship money then children could even have a completely free trip!

ALL sponsorship money raised goes directly towards the cost of children’s visits to Barnstondale. All we ask is a £5 registration fee is paid so that everything can be run as safely as possible.

Why not take up the challenge? After all, this is a charity challenge that doesn’t even need any ice! Better still, take part and challenge your friends to join you!

barnie-fly-failBarnie Owl will be there on the day and will be taking part in the abseil as well, so if a giant owl mascot is brave enough to do it then can you say you’re not? How often do you get to prove you’re braver than a giant owl? We’re absolutely certain that you’ll be able to do it better than he can….

We really hope that you’ll be able to join us for what promises to be a fun and exciting day, while raising funds to make a difference for as many young people as possible.

Wirral Lions pave the way

Wirral Lions pave the way for new sensory garden trail at Barnstondale

P1000345Wirral Lions’ president, Dave Forshaw, alongside two other members, presented a cheque for £3,500 to Barnstondale Centre on Wednesday 10 September. The donation will help secure the required funds needed to install the charity’s first ever sensory garden trail, which will be accessible for children of all abilities.

Thanks to financial and volunteer support from Wirral Lions, Barnstondale has already begun developing an area of its’ garden. The area features a sheltered decking, stone path, water feature and huge planters filled with perennial foliage plants, chosen specifically for their aromas and textures. The next stage is to develop a sensory trail which will include textures, surfaces, musical instruments, balance ramps and much more. Barnstondale is currently raising funds for this, and hopes to have it completed by early next year. The garden project forms part of the charity’s objective to provide a facility that is accessible for people of all abilities.

Commented George Jones, Centre Manager at Barnstondale: “We are delighted with the support from Wirral Lions. Barnstondale puts inclusivity, and the families we host, at the forefront of everything we do. We have made a concerted effort over recent years to ensure that all of our log cabins and outdoor activities can be enjoyed by everyone, no matter what their needs or requirements are. We are a visitor destination and a place for people to enjoy some respite. We’re hoping that the addition of the new sensory trail will further enhance that sense of relaxation, and I’m confident that it will be enjoyed by all.”

Commented Dave Forshaw, president of Wirral Lions: “Wirral Lions’ objective is to serve our local community. By working in partnership with Barnstondale on developing and installing the garden, we are able to offer something that will stand to serve and benefit the children of Wirral for many years to come. We are excited to see how the sensory path will take shape over the coming months and can’t wait to see the finished result.”

Wirral Lions provide financial and practical help to individuals and a range of local, national and international charities and is committed to support the local community. Any organisations interested in the work of Wirral Lions Club and its partnership with Barnstondale can contact them on 0151 334 3044 or e-mail

Barnstondale offers outdoor pursuits and overnight stays to schools, families, other charity organisations and community groups from across Merseyside and the wider area. It prides itself on being an inclusive facility that can be enjoyed by children of all ages, abilities and backgrounds.

Help us fill in the gaps in Barnstondale’s history

Photo of Barnston, Dale House c1955, ref. B441015
With over a century of history at Barnstondale, the numbers of people who have visited the site must run into many, many thousands. Yet even with so many visitors over so many years there are gaps in our knowledge of the site before its current form of Barnstondale Centre took shape in the 1980′s.

We know we’re at a cruical time and that if we don’t act know then history could be lost forever and so we really need your help! We’re launching a new project to gather as much information about the history of Barnstondale from as many sources as possible and our very best source are the people who have visited the site in the past. Do you have memories of visiting the site? Perhaps some old photos? Even some stories told to you by older relatives? We’d love it if you could share them with us!

There’s more information about the past at Barnstondale below, but we also have a simple-to-complete online questionnaire to make sending us your memories even easier.

Do please spread the word about our history project, you never know what memories you might jog for someone else. A great way to do this is to download and print out our new leaflet about the project.

From past to present at Barnstondale

Photo of Barnston, Dale Camp c1960, ref. B441028

Reproduced courtesy of Francis Frith.

Today’s Barnstondale began life as Dale Farm; dating back to the early years of the last century it provided the local population with farm produce. However, its history is synonymous with local youth and their energy to improve themselves and their community.

The Centre’s wooded dale was always acknowledged as being a wonderful resource for local children to walk, camp and play. As well as this, local institutions regularly held a fete here for the community and its children.

During the war years, as attentions turned elsewhere, the 15 acre site lay neglected with its buildings and grounds left to deteriorate to the point of dilapidation. Eventually it was taken on by the Liverpool Union of Girls Clubs and Mixed Clubs in January 1948. With the help of volunteers from both sides of the Mersey it took two years of hard work and 12,000 man hours to return Dale Farm to its former glory. It then took a great deal of effort to convince the local authorities that the site should continue to provide an outlet for the constructive energies and enthusiasm of young people.

The newly named “Barnston Camp” set a new precedent and through local organisations began to offer disadvantaged young people from the region a respite away from inner city poverty and neglect. At the camp visitors were expected to channel their energies constructively through improvement of the camp and consequently themselves by means of hobbies, gardening, woodwork, decoration, roofing, painting, poster designing, hedging, ditching and feeding/tending livestock as well as being responsible for daily chores. This continued until the early eighties when a generous benefactor bought the land to prevent it going into private ownership and therefore leaving the community without an outlet for its youth to grow.

Renamed the Barnstondale Centre, as we now know it, the camps became a registered charity in 1988 and seeks to build on the good work that its predecessors carried out. As before, it continues to be a residential and activity centre which seeks to enrich the lives of young people.

Please help us to fill in the gaps in Barnstondale’s history.

Photo of Barnston, the Dining Hall, Dale House Camp c1955, ref. B441025

Reproduced courtesy of Francis Frith.

Photo of Barnston, Dale House Camp c1955, ref. B441017

Reproduced courtesy of Francis Frith.

Abseil event a fun day for all

DSCF0777From the moment Barnie Owl appeared to jolly things along at our recent sponsored abseil event, everyone was guaranteed to enjoy themselves! With enough bacon butties available to give anyone the courage to tackle the tallest abseil tower in Wirral, the day was set fair.


DSCF0780The brave staff and friends of St Werburgh’s School were first to accept the challenge and with everyone fully instructed and kitted out they all had their first go and reached the bottom with smiles and sighs of relief. Once wasn’t enough for this plucky crew, however, as they all went round again for a second try and some even tackled the climbing wall too! Thank you to all from St Werburgh’s for taking part.


Barnie Owl kept his promise to fly and as each group finished their abseils he followed them down successfully, almost every time. Well, we say almost, there was one attempt where we think he may have been inspired by Errol, the wayward owl of Harry Potter fame…







DSCF0933In the afternoon we were joined by a delegation of abseilers from Mitchell Group who seemed a little less than certain that they’d make the trip down the wall intact! Thankfully, with the aid of Mike and Pam our intrepid instructors, they were soon geared up and making their way down the wall to appreciative applause and a rightful sense of achievement in having taken part and raised so much money to enable more children to benefit from a visit to Barnstondale.


DSCF0940Also in the afternoon we were joined by Dave Mitchell, the mayor of Wirral, who oversaw proceedings with a keen eye before having a full tour of the wonderful facilities at Barnstondale from Heidi Hughes, Business Director.

You can see more photos from the day in this Flickr photoset.

Thank you to everyone who took part and to all staff who made the day run so smoothly. We’re hoping to be able to run more sponsored events in 2014, but until then please allow us to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy and peaceful New Year. Hope to see you at Barnstondale in 2014!