An award-winning outdoor education centre has an exciting year ahead with the launch of three major projects.
The Nell Bank Centre in Denton Road, Ilkley, has new additions planned to expand its facilities for children of all ages across the district. The activities are accessible for everyone, including young people with physical disabilities or children who are sensory- impaired or deaf.
The first project is already in the first stages of being built and involves creating a treehouse adventure playground, which will be suitable for all abilities, including children with physical disabilities.
The money for the playground was raised by former Bradford Lord Mayor Councillor Peter Hill as part of his appeal. The treehouse itself is funded by Gemma’s Trust, in memory of Ilkley schoolgirl Gemma King, who died during a family holiday in Spain in 2007.
The official opening of the treehouse adventure will take place during the Nell Bank Family Funday on May 11.
The centre, which sits in 17 acres, was opened in 1977, in the year of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, and was conceived by the Lord Mayor of Bradford at the time, Councillor Paul Hockney.
Centre manager Bruce Fowler said: “As a child I spent most of my time on the moors, in the river or in the woods, so it is incredible that now I still do the same thing every day. This place is my dream and passion.
“I’m fortunate to work with staff who spend a large amount of their time in developing this site.
“The location is what makes it all so special. We are situated opposite Ilkley Moor, bordered by the River Wharfe and sheltered by Middleton Woods.
“Our neighbours are a dairy farm. For children visiting from Bradford and Leeds, this is an incredible contrasting educational location.
“We are accessible by the train or bus and we offer day and residential visits to 20,000 local visitors, including all the local schools and nowadays Ilkley youngsters are brought up with the Nell Bank experience as part of their lives.
“The second project is an early people’s Round House. It is hoped to be built in time for the summer and Ilkley Round Table has donated £10,000 towards it – a round house for a Round Table!”
The facility will bring history to life for thousands of young people as it provides Time Team-style archaeological facilities and will give children the chance to love as early people did.
The third project, which may be built next year, is to create new dormitories to meet growing demand.
Nell Bank has been supported by four Bradford Lord Mayors, and the partnership between Nell Bank Queen’s Silver Trust and Bradford Council allows the development of the site.
The centre is administered by Bradford Council and supported by many different groups, including a number of local clubs, societies, businesses and schools.
This relationship allows any funds raised to be used entirely for site development.
Children who attend Nell Bank can enjoy a range of activities, including pond dipping, river studies, orienteering and nature trails.
They also have a Nellmobile – a £10,000 electric buggy designed to help children with disabilities and those in wheelchairs get around the woodland trails and activities.
Nell Bank has experienced national recognition for its work and was voted Britain’s Best Environment Project and was presented with the National Lottery award by pop group McFly in 2008.
Mr Fowler said about 95 per cent of the feedback they receive at the end of children’s visits are positive.
Mr Fowler said: “It is incredibly successful and it is down to the staff, the trustees and the council, who have all played a massive part in making this place nothing short of sensational.”