Sir George visited Linkenholt over the week-end where girls from Rookwood School in Andover were taking part in a Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme. "The facilities at Linkenholt are ideal for outdoor activities, and it is very generous of the Trustees to make it available to groups - see below." Sir George was shown round by the Manager, Clive Bell.
LINKENHOLT OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES
1. Linkenholt is a very small village 'owned' by The Herbert and Peter Blagrave Charitable Trust, which also owns the surrounding 2000-acre estate. The estate is located in the triangle bounded by Hungerford, Newbury and Andover, surrounded by other similar estates, in a very beautiful and unspoilt part of Hampshire. Apart from the small village there are no houses to be seen and only one very minor road, although there are a number of minor public rights of way in addition to such major tracks as the Test Way and Wayfarer's Walk. The area is mainly open with excellent views but there are also some quite extensive woods.
2. In 1998 the Trustees started a pilot project in line with one of their objectives - to support activities for young people. Rather than merely donate funds to deserving organisations, they wished to explore the feasibility of encouraging young people to enjoy the countryside by providing appropriate facilities. The first year showed that it was possible to use the estate without causing any environmental problems, thanks largely to the responsible attitude of the user groups, and 1999 saw an extension of the scheme which confirmed the original findings. As a result, a decision has now been taken to extend the scheme quite significantly on the assumption that we should plan on providing facilities for the next 5 years at least, enabling some capital expenditure to be made which will enhance what we can offer and enable even more use to be made of the estate.
3. It should be stressed that Linkenholt provide only the resources and facilities but that the detailed planning and management of any group activities is for the group leaders to organise.
It should also be stressed that the Trustees do not envisage that the outdoor activities will ever be self-supporting financially but that they do hope and expect that part of their costs will be recovered from those using the estate.
WHAT FACILITIES ARE AVAILABLE?
4. Firstly and most importantly, we can offer a location with a potential for a wide range of activities where young people can visit and overnight in areas which, for Hampshire and indeed most of the south of England, is very remote and very sparsely populated. We cannot offer 'white knuckle' adventurous activities but are still able to offer much which can be quite a challenge.
5. There is a base camp about half a mile from the village where we have a large marquee capable of seating 50 plus, with the necessary tables and chairs, together with cooking, loo and washing facilities. These latter facilities will be further improved this year by being in porta-cabins rather than tented or in the open. This camp includes a campfire and barbecue and space for team games such as football and rounders. It also includes a. confidence or team building area and some basic equipment with which group leaders can organise appropriate activities. Sleeping facilities are very limited and we normally expect groups to bring their own sleeping tents.
6. Around the base camp there are various pre-planned orienteering routes to suit most standards and age groups, some walks where map reading and observation skills can be tested and educational nature trails, all of which have supporting instructions and literature which can be used, or developed by user groups for their own purposes. The local area is also ideal for mountain biking, both on and off tracks.
7. Within the estate there are many areas where water can be pre-positioned and which are suitable for overnight accommodation, but with no other faci1ities provided. Some are extremely isolated, and some not too far away from the base camp.
8. Within walking distance there are a number of tumuli and other places of historical or other interest and within easy distance by car are Stonehenge, Salisbury and Winchester - quite apart from Newbury, Hungerford and Andover - where there is much to see and do.
9. A wide variety of groups have used the facilities over the past 2 years. The Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme has used the area for training leaders and for Bronze Award testing and found it ideal for such purposes, Scouts, Guides, Cadets and many other Youth Groups and holiday activity groups have also spent weekends in Linkenholt and much enjoyed themselves, and schools have made day visits for educational purposes which they have found well worthwhile. Test Valley Borough Council has also made use of the estate on several occasions, but in particular for mountain bike routes for the Test Valley Tour and holiday scheme day visits,
10. Many bookings have been repeat bookings but we are keen to extend the use of the facilities to an even wider spectrum of users. Our only proviso is that user groups are from recognised bona fida organisations who care for the environment.