The Birks Field Centre is owned by The Grove School Parent Teacher Association (Registered Charity No: 510561)
It is impossible to express fully the importance of The Birks to past and present generation’s fortunate enough, as pupils of The Grove Comprehensive School, to experience all that this wonderful facility offers. It is regrettable that this experience is not available to every child in the land!In 1966 a small group of staff, of which I was a part, visited the almost undiscovered Duddon Valley in Cumbria, to view an empty farmhouse on the slopes of Harter Fell. The house had stood empty for some years, its buildings were becoming derelict, and the Forestry Commission, then its owners were advertising it for rent.The headmaster of the Grove School saw the notice in a national newspaper and at once foresaw its great potential as a facility for the school.The first viewing party was captivated by the stunning beauty of the valley, the remoteness of the house, the silence, the possibilities for group independence and inter dependence, the challenge of the demands of life away from “civilisation and the chance to walk and work in the beautiful area.The group was undaunted by the lack of amenities, though pleased to find that electricity had recently been installed. They were not put out by the prospect of removing the many feet of hard packed dung that was the residue of years of use the buildings (by the local farmer then using the land) as cattle shed.The decision was made to “go for it”. From then on schemes were devised to raise money for the rent and carry out the necessary work before use could begin.
Working parties of staff, VIth form students and friends gave up weekends and holidays to clean and paint, repair, install bunk beds made at school, equip dormitories, kitchen, living room and a collection of waterproof clothing and walking boots was purchased.
Food menus for the week were drawn up, the delivery of supplies from the nearest village was negotiated, a milk supply from a farm in the valley was arranged, people learned how to cope with the temperamental Rayburn cooker and water heater, contracts were arranged with a Market Drayton bus company and soon the first group of children was able to try living away from home, sharing cooking and cleaning, helping each other, undertaking demanding walks and entertaining each other in the evenings, with no regrets at the absence of television. All came back to school as different people.