Nature centre marks 80 years

The Oxford Times: Four-year-old Jacob Leftwich races past Hill End sculpture. Pictures: OX67567 Damian Halliwell Buy this photo Four-year-old Jacob Leftwich races past Hill End sculpture. Pictures: OX67567 Damian Halliwell

IT’S 80 years old and still going strong. The Hill End Centre near Oxford marked eight decades of educating children about the great outdoors with an open day at the weekend.

Youngsters and their parents were able to explore the 62-acre site and take part in a wide range of activities such as willow sculpture, bush craft and outdoor cooking.

There was also a “memory tree” where visitors could find out about the history of the centre off Eynsham Road near Farmoor and leave their memories on it.

The Oxford Times:

Maxine Zellouf explores Hill End with daughter, Yasmine

Centre manager Selby Dickinson said: “It is very much a celebration of the history of the centre. We are forever getting parents dropping their children off, or delivery people, saying how they remember coming here in the 1950s or 1960s.

“There is a fabulous history so we wanted a celebration of the people who came here as children, so we have opened up the dormitories. I have been at Hill End for over a year now and the affection for the centre is enormous.”

The Oxford Times:

Spencer Dickinson, three, hangs his brother Carter’s leaf on the memory tree with mum, Michelle.

The Hill End estate was bought by the mining entrepreneur and would-be philanthropist Raymond ffennell in 1920.

Mr ffennell believed strongly that children should engage with nature and set up a project in outdoor learning, with dormitories and classrooms, which in the 1930s, he offered for use to local schools. The site is currently run by Oxfordshire County Council.

Carter Dickinson, six, from Tubney, visited the site with his friends from Appleton Primary School. He said: “I have come here before and I enjoy it. I like pond dipping so today I have been looking at the pond.”

Aaron Spooner, five, from Botley, said: “I have been making marshmallows. I have come here before and I like coming here and finding things.”

The Oxford Times:

Aaron Spooner

Since it was founded, generations of Oxfordshire schoolchildren have experienced their first school trip away from home at the centre.

Last year Hill End celebrated its busiest year, welcoming about 9,500 children.

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