'Dire' future for outdoor education as Somerset centre says it's in limbo over covid rules

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The future for outdoor education centres in the UK is 'dire', according to one in Somerset which says it may not survive the pandemic.

An outdoor education centre in Bruton, Somerset, says it and business like it across the country have been left in limbo over their futures.

The Mill on the Brue says it has been left in limbo because it has been unable to host residential trips from schools since March 2020. Bosses there say they badly needs money to survive.

Schools have been unable to take pupils for residential trips to The Mill on the Brue since March 2020 Credit: ITV News West Country

Despite much of what the business does being outdoors, school trips involve staying overnight so they are not allowed to run them.

Director Matt Rawlingson Plant said: "Everybody, all the staff are furloughed. We’re lucky enough that we had a house that we had intended to be for staff accommodation and we’ve sold that.

"We’ve taken on more debt. I have personally moved out of my house in order to rent that out on a short-term basis. We’re doing everything we possibly can but no business, I am convinced, can survive more than this period of time.

"We are a very legitimate, fantastic business that has been running now for 39 years and it’s really the uncertainty - how long can this go on for?"

This business is booked up this year with schools wanting to come. Whether they’ll be able to is another matter.

Kate Cravero works in sales and marketing and said schools are also frustrated: "They really want the children to get back into the outdoors because they’ve been stuck inside so much due to the pandemic.

"Schools understand the value of getting back into the outdoors."

Suzanna Woodhouse's children, including her daughter Lydia (picture), have all visited The Mill on the Brue Credit: ITV News West Country

All of Suzanna Woodhouse's children have been to the Mill on the Brue, including her daughter Lydia. She said: "We all slept round the fire and had roasted marshmallows and s'mores, which is not an experience I’ve ever done anywhere else and it’s just enabled me to do things and experience things that otherwise I wouldn’t have a chance to."

Suzanna said: "As much as we try, we’re all fairly rubbish at actually getting off the screens at home. Genuinely they managed to get them off the screens, they get them to eat fruit and vegetables that I never get them to eat at home.

"They’re away - they get independence, but in a really safe environment."

A spokesperson from the Department for Education said: “Throughout the pandemic we have kept our guidance on both residential and non-residential visits under review, in line with Public Health England advice.

 “We’ve taken action to protect lives and livelihoods, including the extension of the furlough scheme and wider support for businesses to continue to support jobs through to the spring.”

The Mill on the Brue says it’s received minimal financial support and needs cash fast to keep it afloat. It is just one of many outdoor education centres across the country for whom the future is unclear.

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