An historic Northumberland castle used as a residential outdoor education centre which fell victim to cost-cutting measures is set to reopen.
Ford Castle near Berwick was for decades run by Northumberland County Council, but as part of budget cuts the decision to close it was taken in August last year.
Now, respected school trip provider Chateau Beaumont has joined forces with the county council.
And the facility is set to reopen in April as Ford Castle Adventure Limited.
Based at Stanhope in County Durham, Chateau Beaumont has a strong track record in educational school trips and through this venture wants to establish a new service providing a broad range of learning opportunities.
The new initiative will see Ford Castle’s future as an outdoor centre secured for at least the next 20 years.
Councillor Tom Brechany, executive member responsible for asset management and regeneration at Northumberland County Council, said: “This is great news both for schools looking for inspiring educational trips and for the local community at Ford, which will see business returning to the castle.
“Our commercial and property services team has worked hard to get this agreement set up, and the council is looking forward to working as part of Ford Castle Adventure Limited to bring outdoor education back to the area.”
Peter Smith, managing director of Château-Beaumont,added: “This outstanding residential outdoor education centre provided excellent educational opportunities for local schools as far back as the 1950s.
“It is a wonderful, medieval setting, which inspires its visitors and brings history to life. It fires the imagination of young people and we aim to provide varied learning opportunities which will help them to discover their hidden talents.”
And Lord Joicey of Ford and Etal Estates, said: “I’m delighted that the council has reached an agreement with a company to whom it wishes to sublet Ford Castle. The public response to news of the castle’s closure served only to highlight how much it has been enjoyed by visiting school children over the years.
“I am sure that under the new arrangement this unique learning opportunity will develop and thrive for the benefit, not only of the children and others who visit, but also the local community.
“At Ford & Etal Estates we look forward to welcoming the joint venture to Ford Castle. I believe this to be an exciting opportunity for all concerned.
“Ford Castle will now be maintained under an agreed conservation plan, provide new employment opportunities for local people and will hopefully encourage new visitors into the area.”
Ford Castle Adventure Limited plans to sympathetically upgrade facilities whilst ensuring that the historic buildings are properly preserved for future generations. A range of courses will be designed with topics to match the National Curriculum, and the company also wants to maximise the history and heritage that the area has to offer – from local attractions such as Flodden, Lindisfarne and Bamburgh to World Heritage Sites at Hadrian’s Wall and Durham Cathedral.
Mr Smith continued: “New and exciting activities will challenge the most adventurous of visitors, whilst safety is our priority. Our young visitors will be occupied from breakfast till bedtime.
“Ford Castle will attract schools nationally to allow many more students to visit these fantastic locations and learn about the great events and achievements of our area. Where better for young people to stay, learn and have a great time than Ford Castle?”
Château Beaumont has operated a residential centre in France for UK school groups for more than 10 years, providing education in the French language and culture as well as subjects such as history, geography, PE and PSHE.
Also offering many exciting activities like climbing, zip wire, fencing and archery the company is a member of BAPA and AAIAC and holds the Learning Outside the Classroom (LOtC) Quality Badge.
Further information about the activities that will be on offer at Ford Castle can be seen at www.ford-castle.co.uk