THE wild and beautiful shores of Morecambe Bay are a far cry from the bustling streets of inner-city Leeds.
But for 107 years disadvantaged children have been packing up their belongings and making the journey to stay at a wonderful holiday camp in Silverdale.
Times may have changed but there is still an overwhelming need for the services of the Leeds Children’s Charity.
Sadly a great many children are living in poverty or are suffering from neglect, abuse and other problems.
I am on my first visit to the centre on Cove Road. It’s a blustery day but the centre’s location on limestone cliffs looking out over the vast expanse of Morecambe Bay, is breath-taking.
In years gone by, children who were given the opportunity to leave the slums of Leeds for a short holiday, felt as if they’d travelled to another world. Some saw it as paradise and for others it was a shock to be in the countryside and to witness the sea for the first time.
Even in current times it can be quite a culture shock for children who visit the centre – but in a good way.
After the initial excitement of arrival, most settle in quickly and take ownership of the centre.
The charity’s organisers say it is heart-warming to see the children starting to relax and enjoy themselves.
Today I’m being shown around the camp by the charity’s chairman Verlie McCann, vice chairman Grenville Fletcher, and Silverdale Local Committee chairman Edith Farrar and treasurer Freda Addison.
Verlie explains: “We try to create a relaxed and calm family type of atmosphere because a lot of children don’t have that at home. It’s like a safe haven for them.
“They can come and relax and be themselves. We try to help them develop confidence and self-esteem. We try, if we can, to show the children that their normal way of life is not the only way of life.”
Children from the ages of seven to 11 can visit the centre. Some go there for several years and others visit only once.
Edith says: “We had a man who came with his wife because he had been here as a child. He said his time at the camp had changed his life because he saw a different way of life.”
The centre has a light and spacious main building where the corridors ring with the laughter of happy children.
It has many large rooms with enormous picture windows affording views of the bay.
“Many haven’t seen the sea before and they don’t understand the tides,” says Verlie.
Freda adds: “The tide was out one day and a little boy asked if they’d pulled the plug out!”
See The Visitor (04-10-11) for full story.