Walton Firs Activity Centre - High Quality Outdoor Learning Services at Best Value Prices!

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With Walton Firs Activity Centre building a reputation for the delivery of outstanding curriculum enrichment and residential programmes at best value prices for schools, we took the opportunity to interview the Walton Firs Foundation’s chief executive officer and activity centre manager to find out more about this dynamic Surrey-based charity…

So Chris, why are so many schools choosing to book their residential and day-stay activity programmes at Walton Firs Activity Centre?

Based on our service user feedback, we’re building our customer base through our consistent delivery of four unique selling points that are bringing increasing numbers of primary, secondary and SEND schools to us, and enabling us to build sustained relationships with many education providers.

Our first USP is our team of staff. Every single one of us - from the cleaners to the management team - is committed to ensure that every school pupil has the very best outdoor experience at Walton Firs, and leaves here with increased confidence, enhanced social skills, and a greater appreciation of the natural environment! Our DBS-vetted outdoor education instructors are trained to work using a student-centred approach, with an aim to enable each young person to take the next steps in their development, no matter how small or large that step might be. We actively seek to avoid the stereotypical macho image that is seen at other activity centres, with our instructor team having the maturity and training to recognise their roles as encouraging educators. Our approach is inclusive - we pride ourselves on offering every young person an opportunity to learn, develop and enjoy in the natural environment, irrespective of their individual support and engagement needs. And our team of support staff and volunteers share our passion to deliver the very best customer service, too!

Our second USP is our willingness to design bespoke activity programmes that respond to the requirements of each school that commissions us, rather than requiring them to fit into a rigid timetable as we know happens with other service providers. We always seek to work in partnership with schools to design inclusive programmes that are tailored to their students’ levels of competence and confidence, and are relevant to their interests and aspirations. We have proven expertise in the design of team-building and year-group induction and celebration events, and are happy to offer participative group-based evaluation of team dynamics and group roles where schools are seeking a more intensive level of reflection and learning for their students. In addition, we’re sensitive to the needs of schools that have young people with individual support or cultural inclusion needs, and are very happy to ensure their full integration into the programme offer.

Our third USP is our location in central Surrey. With the activity centre being situated just a couple of miles from Junction 10 of the M25 and the A3, we’re less than ninety minutes travel time from any location in London or across the home counties. Our locality reduces schools’ transport costs and travel times, and maximises the value of their curriculum enhancement budgets! It also enables many schools to use local transport links to take their students into London or Windsor, or to visit Thorpe Park or Chessington World of Adventure, as a part of their residential package - a perfect way to deliver geography or history fieldwork alongside outdoor education, or to reward students after a hard year of studying! And when groups arrive on site, they’re struck by the range and beauty of our natural habitats, which include 36 acres of woodlands, heathlands and grasslands. When you experience the rural beauty of our location, it’s hard to believe you’re less than twenty miles from central London!

Our final USP is that, unlike privately-owned activity centres, we’re a not-for-profit organisation and a registered charitable foundation. This means that every penny of our income is reinvested back into our services and infrastructure, and not into the pockets of company owners or shareholders. I think schools value knowing that their resource is being used to improve our facilities and programmes on an ongoing basis. Also, our charitable status enables us to keep our prices competitive, as we’re not seeking to create annual profits beyond what we need to develop our services and facilities. We run a very lean and efficient organisation that enables us to keep our prices to a level that offers the best financial value - increasingly important in these days of pressured school budgets!

So, in a nutshell, if you choose to bring your school to Walton Firs Activity Centre, I believe my team will provide you and your students with the highest quality of outdoor education services at best value prices, with outstanding customer service thrown in for good measure!

Nice! You mentioned a number of exciting new developments are being developed at Walton Firs Activity Centre. What’s the detail?

While we’ve already got a fantastic range of residential accommodation facilities in place for school groups, with two dormitory buildings, three pod villages, and multiple campsites, we’re not sitting on our hands! We’ve just launched a fundraising programme for our new accommodation centre, which will become our flagship facility with capacity to accommodate a classroom group and teaching staff in a modern and energy efficient building. As I speak to you, we’re well on the way to raising our target of £750K, so I’m hoping we’ll have the best residential accommodation centre in the south-east in action by late 2024!

In addition to that major capital project, we’ve responded to feedback from our customers over the past year by funding a series of new on-site developments that will enhance students’ educational and social experience, and increase our budgetary value to schools. With reference to our outdoor education facilities, over the past year we’ve introduced a new tomahawk and angel-throwing range and a new indoor rifle range, all of which are proving to be very popular with school groups. In July 2023, we’ll also be launching our new aeroball facility, which I guarantee will exhaust even the most boisterous of groups! We’ve been investing heavily in new equipment for our popular pioneering and giant games activities, too. Of course, we still have our most popular activities available, with our high ropes, climbing, caving, archery and many others available for school use. Our new outdoor activities bring our total number of facilities to twenty-six - more than enough to fill a school residential programme many times over!

We’ve also been working to improve our customer facilities, through the opening of a new multi-activity hall, a teaching room, new barbecues and altar fires, and the refurbishment of one of our on-site toilet blocks. On top of that, we’re currently building a new on-site catering kitchen, an outdoor washing-up station, and an adult leaders’ barista coffee bar with wi-fi! Our new kitchen facility will enable us to provide nutritious and tasty full-board catering to schools, all prepared on site by our skilled chef.

Sounds amazing! So, if a school wants to get more information about Walton Firs Activity Centre, what should they do?

Please feel free to contact us via a website enquiry at www.waltonfirs.co.uk, or email your booking enquiry to us at info@waltonfirs.co.uk. Or, if you’d like to speak directly with one of our friendly team members, please phone us on 01932 863 243. We’ll be very happy to respond to your enquiry and to build your bespoke booking at best-value prices! Also, we’re always willing to welcome school staff to visit us to see the range of accommodation, facilities and activities that we have on offer - just phone us on 01932 863 243 to see what Walton Firs Activity Centre can offer your school!

If you are interested in hearing a bit more about how Walton Firs Activity Centre can help you with planning your next school visit then why not get in touch here.

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Walton Firs Activity Centre
Walton Firs Activity Centre
Walton Firs Activity Centre

Walton Firs Activity Centre provides a range of outdoor education programmes within a beautiful rural setting near to London. Let us deliver our best quality and value service for your school, and a never-to-be-forgotten experience for your students!
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