Ardroy Outdoor Education Centre wants Fifers to celebrate its 50th anniversary

Pupils from Methilhill Primary School enjoy the great outdoors, courtesy of a five day residential visit to Ardroy.
Pupils from Methilhill Primary School enjoy the great outdoors, courtesy of a five day residential visit to Ardroy.

It is 50 years since Ardroy Outdoor Education Centre first opened its doors in Lochgoilhead.

Then funded by Fife Council, it was opened in 1969 by the Lord Lieutenant of Fife, Sir John McWilliam.

Strathallan Primary School pupils are all tied up while learning the power of team work at the outdoor education centre.

Strathallan Primary School pupils are all tied up while learning the power of team work at the outdoor education centre.

It has since welcomed thousands of Fife children through its doors.

Which is why the Ardroy team are hoping readers will share their own centre stories as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations.

See a gallery of Fife pupils at Ardroy here: Gallery: Fife schools at Ardroy as centre marks 50 years

On Thursday, March 28, Fife Provost Jim Leishman, along with centre alumni and P7 pupils from Commercial and Pittencrieff Primary Schools, will also launch a special fundraising campaign in the Glasshouse at Pittencrieff Park.

Markinch Primary School pupils explore the great outdoors and take time out for a photo shoot - just as a rainbow frames the shot. Perfect timing!

Markinch Primary School pupils explore the great outdoors and take time out for a photo shoot - just as a rainbow frames the shot. Perfect timing!

Ardroy is hoping to replace Heron Block, its original accommodation facility, to ensure it is both fit for the future and that services can be expanded.

David Thorpe, the centre’s manager, explained: “Ardroy has changed very little since 1969, which is why we’re now looking to replace the old accommodation block.

“It is 50 years old and is coming to the end of its life.

“We can accommodate 48 children in our main building, the Victorian house, while Heron Block currently takes about 26.

“We’d like to increase that to around 40, as well as installing modern shower and toilet facilities, better classroom facilities, a staff room and more meeting rooms. But we need help to achieve that.

“The project will cost in the order of £700,000.

“We will be applying for grant funding from the likes of the lottery and local trusts.

“However, we will also need to fundraise.”

Ardroy no longer receives any national or local authority funding. Due to financial pressures faced by Fife Council, in July 2011 the centre was closed.

But just four months later it reopened – thanks to the passionate support of parents, teachers, staff and politicians who joined forces to take over the centre, running it as a charitable trust and social enterprise.

In the eight years since, Ardroy has gone from strength to strength, expanding its operations to offer outdoor residential experiences not only to Fife schools but also the National Citizen Service, National Deaf Children’s Society and a wide variety of youth groups.

In the future, it is also planning to team up with children’s charities to work with families who require additional support.

But that all hangs on getting the funding.

David explained: “To continue to sustain and improve what we do for future generations, we need to replace Heron Block.

“The aim is to demolish the existing building and replace it with a new two-storey Pine Marten Block, housing dormitories which can also be adapted into family units.

“We’re in discussions with a children’s charity at the moment and we want to start working with them.

“But we need to have the proper facilities in place to enable us to do that.”

Ardroy has been welcoming Fife youngsters since 1969, with an average of 3000 children visiting every year – more thant 2000 of those from across Fife.

The schools have little doubt of the benefits – and the bookings prove that.

David said: “We have an excellent relationship with around 60 schools in Fife and we’re actually now booked up until 2021.

“To be booked so far in advance is quite unusual in the outdoor education world but I think that speaks to the loyalty of our local schools and the quality of the work we do here.

“More than 100,000 children over the years have enjoyed memorable experiences here at Ardroy.

“And we want our alumni to share those memories as part of our 50th anniversary celebrations.”

While the social media outlet for those memories is still being developed, My Ardroy Story will also be launched on March 28.

David added: “The current team is incredibly proud to be continuing to deliver life-changing experiences through residential learning in the outdoors, 50 years on from when the centre opened.

“But this is a milestone year for us and we want the people who have been part of our story to share in the anniversary celebrations.”

Usually run as a five-day residential course, outdoor education programmes include canoeing, climbing, abseiling, gorge walking and woodland skills – reviewed at the end of each day.

The centre supports young people to learn new skills, both as individuals and team members, which helps to prepare them for life’s big adventures.

For more information visit www.ardroy-oec.co.uk or via social media channels @ArdroyOEC.