Stanley Head Outdoor Education Centre is a stunningly situated activity centre on the edge of Stoke-on-Trent – less than 20 minutes from Hanley, the city centre, but feeling like it's in the middle of nowhere. Or rather, in the middle of beautiful countryside a million miles away from any urban conurbations.
Being near the Roaches and the Peak District certainly helps with the range of adventure activities they put on. Owned by Stoke-on-Trent City Council, the Centre provides outdoor education to schools and last year (2016) we had a fantastic set of stories on the back of Hillside Primary School’s visit to Stanley Head.
Today we’re here to run a writing and drawing workshop on the theme of adventure, as part of an open day to celebrate 50 years of SHOEC. The forecast isn’t brilliant and in fact it’s drizzling off and on as I arrive: but this being an outdoor activities centre no-one is fazed and there are loads of different activities being set up for the start of the day. Given a choice of where to set up the Cox Bank Publishing gazebo I plump for the middle of the field next to a football pitch and a scout tent – the Moorlands Scouts in fact. This proves an inspired choice later on in the day…
With the helping hands of the City of Sport team I’m soon established and open for business. I have the services of Ben, a Moorland Scout, to do some sign-writing for me and he does a great job. And soon enough I’ve got every seat filled with family groups busy writing and drawing.
What’s great about taking the writing workshop to events like this is the range of activities that people – mostly kids of course – want to write about. Here we’ve got zorb football, climbing, huntin’, shootin’ & fishin’ (well, shooting and fishing anyway), more climbing, canoeing, archery, climbing again and – a bit left-field this one, but maybe one for Stanley Head to consider – dinosaur hunting. So we did get some huntin’ too.
The afternoon passes in a blur and soon the field is emptying as the event comes to an end. But before the crowds completely vanish, the skies darken again and it starts proper raining. With our central position and waterproof gazebo, the workshop suddenly becomes alarmingly popular as everyone heads for cover. If we weren’t packed like sardines around the tables, I’d have got a wealth of additional writing and drawing, but there’s hardly space to move let alone safely field a pencil or crayon!
The rain passes, the workshop empties again and I contemplate trying to single-handedly pack the gazebo away – until I remember the trusty Moorlands Scouts. If in doubt, ask a scout – and within seconds, rather embarrassingly, I’m standing watching as five gazebo-taking-down experts sort out the rather damp chore for me. Good on you, Moorland Scouts!