Raft building, zipwires, archery, buscraft skills … Kingswood adventure centre in South Yorkshire offers families a whirlwind of organised fun
‘We don’t have to join in with other people, do we?” said Gracie, my 10-year-old daughter, as she swiped through photos of helmeted folk engaged in outdoorsy activities. She had voiced my fears that our visit to the Kingswood activity centre near Doncaster would involve team-building, singalongs and awkward British socialising. A boyhood of Cubs and Scouts had provided enough kumbaya and cooperative shelter-building to last a lifetime, I grumbled to myself.
Still, our family has embraced (endured) camping for years and our two girls like high wires, water sports and pottering outside, so the prospect of “challenging and rewarding” adventures in South Yorkshire appealed.
The meat and potatoes of this centre – on the site of a former colliery by the River Don – is providing “outdoor education” for parties of school kids and youth groups. But lately it has begun promoting itself to families who fancy a change from a traditional (short) staycation.
Our two-night stay started at the deep end, almost literally, as we joined a dozen people trying to build a raft on the shore of a lake. Ropes were tightened, barrels corralled, logs twisted into place. Our girls helped without being nagged by my wife or me. Improbably, we were soon afloat, buoyed by the barrels, the sense of a small achievement and the golden evening sun.
Dinner was taken communally: the food was “like school dinners but better”, according to the girls, who were perhaps won over by the chocolate-and-marshmallow treat of Rocky Road cake – and some surprisingly good vegetarian options. Later, over cheese and wine in a yurt, I chatted to fellow adventurers and discovered that many had been to Kingswood centres (there are nine in the UK, and one in Normandy, France) before. It was an encouraging sign. As we talked, the kids set off lanterns over the pond.