Explore & enjoy

Children carrying kayaks at Brancaster, Norfolk.

Children carrying kayaks at Brancaster, Norfolk. - Credit: ©NTPL/David Levenson

The National Trust’s activity centre on the Norfolk coast is reopening this summer following a major refurbishment, writes Alex Green.

After an extensive repair, refurbishment and refit, the National Trust’s Brancaster Activity Centre is now ready to reopen and throw open its doors to school and family groups.

The centre was opened in 1999 to provide adventurous outdoor residential stays for school children and has welcomed thousands of visitors since then. It was closed due to the flooding in December 2013 and this was seen as a perfect opportunity to update, completely refurbish and refit the centre. National Trust staff and volunteers alike have been involved in devising room layouts, choosing fixtures and fittings and deciding on what colours to have for soft furnishings, walls and floors. All rooms and areas have been redesigned to better meet the needs of visitors and decorated to reflect the spirit of the local environment with different rooms having different coastal themes.

The National Trust’s Neptune Coastal Campaign, now in its 50th year and set up to help protect our coastline and open it up for the nation’s enjoyment, has largely helped to fund the project and keep the centre open for future visitors’ education and enjoyment. And technology giant Panasonic has donated state of the art and energy efficient appliances helping to maintain the centre’s environmental ethos and reduce its energy consumption.

“The centre is in a wonderful location and many of our adventurous activities for schools take place right outside our front door,” says Katherine Tofield, Outdoor Learning Centre manager. “At high tide the children can kayak and sail, and at low tide they can raft build or explore the saltmarsh on our popular coastal safari, all led by our expert team. We also explore the wider estate and local area through fun outdoor activities linked to the National Curriculum.

“Children can enjoy our freshly prepared and cooked meals, and after a good night’s sleep wake up ready for another exciting and adventurous day on the Norfolk coast.”

As well as a newly refurbished activity centre, and in addition to the schools’ residential programme, there is also a new offer of self-catering group accommodation allowing families, friends and specialist interest groups to hire the centre which sleeps up to 48 people in nine en-suite bedrooms.

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A well-equipped, self-catering kitchen allows visitors to be self-sufficient with a barbecue for warmer months in the enclosed garden. If visitors don’t fancy cooking then there are pubs and cafes serving locally-sourced food, with seafood a speciality, within walking distance.

Located in Brancaster Staithe harbour at the heart of the picturesque north Norfolk coast, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the centre makes the perfect base for anyone wishing to explore the surrounding area.

It’s a fantastic location for many activities including walking, sailing, and bird watching or just generally enjoying the beauty that the Norfolk coast has to offer. Famous for its wildlife and wide open skies, the National Trail Coast Path also runs right by the door. There are also plenty of opportunities for retail therapy with many independent shops nearby selling locally-made products.

“Having been based at temporary office accommodation in Burnham Overy Staithe since January 2014, we are delighted to back in our proper home and are looking forward to welcoming new visitors,” says Katherine. “We hope they love it as much as we do.”

The team at Brancaster Activity Centre is excited to welcome the first school residential group on 1 June, some 20 months since the previous school stayed at the centre, and the very first residential self-catering group on 12 June.

See for yourself

The official opening the centre is on Saturday, 18 July and EDP Norfolk magazine readers are invited to visit, have a look round the new centre and join in with fun outdoors activities between 9:30am and 12:00pm. To find out more about the opening or staying at Brancaster Activity Centre, call the team on 01485 210719 or visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/brancaster