October-November 2021 | Features

The longest running Rotary project in the world

The longest running Rotary project in the world

High up in the beautiful Peak District is the Rotary Centre which has been providing holidays for youngsters for over 100 years.

Right in the heart of the Peak District in Derbyshire, you will find what is believed to be the longest-running Rotary project in the world.

In 1920, members of the newly-formed Rotary Club of Sheffield decided to take a group of boys, whose fathers had been killed during the First World War, away for a week-long holiday to the seaside at Bridlington.

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The following year, a camp was held at Derwent, and the Rotary club then set up base at Shatton in Derbyshire, which was opened in 1923, and served as a venue for the next 13 years.

It was at Shatton that Sister Edith, the warden of Croft House in Sheffield, brought her under-privileged women and children from Garden Street and the Crofts area of the city, then a desperately poor district.

Not many Rotarians know that the Rotary Centre Castleton exists,”

At Shatton, a hut provided by the club to Sheffield’s only Victoria Cross holder, Sergeant Arnold Loosemore, which had been used by his family after the Great War, was handed back to the Rotary club following his death to be used as a camp office and kitchen.

Today, the Rotary Centre is based at Castleton a village situated 18 miles from Sheffield and 25 miles from Manchester, a quiet, rural setting right on the doorstep of rolling hills, dramatic rock edges beside wild moorlands.

In 1935, the land was purchased in Castleton to provide a permanent base for these holidays which have continued right up until today. This building which was once a home for war hero Sgt Loosemore, was moved to Castleton and is still being used today.

Centre when it was first opened

Sheffield Rotary now runs three separate weeks featuring up to 30 children each week, aged between eight and 12-years-old who have been recommended as deserving of a residential activity holiday because of their home circumstances.

Rotarian Jeremy Holmes, a Past President of Sheffield Rotary, serves as the volunteer centre manager, with his wife Melany as chair of the children’s camp committee, which runs the actual camps.

“Not many Rotarians know that the Rotary Centre Castleton exists,” he said.

“I think we are quite unique in owning a place like this and also for running the disadvantaged children’s holidays and camps for nearly 100 years.”

One of the earliest pioneers was Bob Stokes who, in between the war years and on his own initiative, found employment for more than 1,500 boys who had passed through the camp and reached the school leaving age of 14.

During the Second World War, camps were not run by the Rotary club because of a shortage of help, but Castleton was used to housing homeless families, who were supported by the Rotarians.

The income generated pays for the running costs as well as the disadvantaged children’s holidays which Sheffield Rotary hosts each year.”

In 1945, the Castleton camp was opened, with Rotarians Leonard Horner, Keith Patterson and Harry Mottershaw organising rations, permits and food coupons to get the camp back in business.

Internationally, a lot of work was done to foster better relations in Europe after the war, with Harold Mather organising the annual Castleton International Camp, which ran from 1951 to 2001.

Today, the Rotary Centre is hired out all year-round to groups such as the Scouts, Girl Guides, schools, church youth groups, walking groups and families.

The income generated pays for the running costs as well as the disadvantaged children’s holidays which Sheffield Rotary hosts each year.

Current centre with children’s recreational area

Covid put paid to the Rotary Centre’s centenary celebrations when they had to close in March 2020. Fortunately, they had sufficient reserves to stay afloat, along with a couple of Government grants.

Jeremy added: “2020 would have been 100 years of the centre and the children’s camps, and we had planned a celebration for this. We have decided not to run the camps this year so we are moving the 100th celebration to the summer of 2022.

“In the meantime, we are looking at having an extension to one of the buildings to upgrade the showers and toilets.”

The Rotary Centre has been able to host other groups this summer, with bookings flooding in thick and fast right up until the end of December, next year and even 2023.

For a booking visit rotarycentrecastleton.co.uk or e-mail bookings@rotarycentrecastletion.co.uk

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