'The sale of Holt Hall will be regretted' - Youth leader speaks out

Holt Hall, which is to be sold after seven decades as an outdoor education centre. Inset: April Haywood

Holt Hall, which is to be sold after seven decades as an outdoor education centre. Inset: April Haywood - Credit: Archant/Supplied

Selling Holt Hall is a mistake, according to April Haywood, the Member of Youth Parliament (MYP) for North and West Norfolk. April, 16, writes about her own experiences at the outdoor education centre and what it means for others.

When I was 10, my Year 6 class received some leaflets from the National Trust: 50 things to do before you're 11 and three quarters.

I rolled my eyes at some of them. Climb a tree? Surely everyone’s climbed a tree by the time they’re seven!

Well, maybe not in London. Not even everyone in Norfolk. Not even every child in North Norfolk, an area of outstanding natural beauty.

The fairies take over Holt Hall over the bank holiday weekend to hold their annual Fairy Fair in the

File photo of a fair at Holt Hall. The site has been place for youngsters to enjoy the outdoors for seven decades. - Credit: MARK BULLIMORE

The next year, when I was 11, some of my classmates did climb a tree for the first time, at a residential to Holt Hall. We also learnt how to use compasses, make nettle tea and s’mores.

Half a decade later, on a Monday in December, amid a pandemic, Holt Hall’s fate hangs in the air. The decision: it is to be sold on the open market.

The decision is made in the interest of the Norfolk taxpayer, the cost of maintenance isn’t worth it, the money can go elsewhere. Norfolk’s children can go elsewhere.

Yet is it truly in the interest of the Norfolk taxpayer to let a resource that unlocks so much potential in young people, be sold?

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On our warming earth, with children’s wellbeing suffering, spending time in nature at places like Holt Hall is invaluable.

While tourists flock to Norfolk, many locals don’t get a chance to really experience the area of natural beauty on our doorstep. Holt Hall provides that, and has been doing so for 70 years, but Monday’s decision could mean it won’t be able to do so for 70 more.

This year has been brutal for so many of us, with a pandemic turning our lives upside-down. Children are no exception from this, and when the comforting routine of school stopped for months, mental and physical health suffered as a result.

With a 'new normal' seemingly on the horizon, will we return to a world with one less outdoor learning centre ? Or one where outdoor learning is revitalised?

Once Holt Hall is gone, it’s gone. I fear that this decision will be regretted when the children miss out and future generations won’t be able to experience their right to climb a tree before they’re 11 and three quarters.

When you improve education, you improve the lives of children and everyone benefits. Now the best option to preserve Holt Hall’s purpose is to make it an asset of community value, and experience Holt Hall’s full potential in serving the community.

Perhaps my experience at Holt Hall is rare and most children in Norfolk will never visit. But if this is the problem, is selling Holt Hall really the solution?

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