A change at the top

Our Centre Director, Steve Lenartowicz, is retiring after eleven years at the helm. He reflects on his time at Derwent Hill.

What’s it been like to work at Derwent Hill?  Steve shares his experiences and feelings about Derwent Hill.

The place and the team

Looking at Derwent Hill's house through a break in the treesIt has been a real privilege to work at Derwent Hill for the past eleven years – it is a fabulous place to work.

Although most of my work has been office-based, our wonderful setting is so inspiring that it has never become routine.  There have been many occasions when, after a long period at the computer or in meetings, I have stepped outside and found myself awestruck by the ever-changing view of Skiddaw from the front door, or of Borrowdale and Derwent Water from the lawn.  We have a great, friendly, hard-working and loyal staff team and it has been a pleasure to work with all of them, and I will miss them.

Sunderland’s Jewel in the Crown

Derwent Hill Outdoor Education and Training Centre's 50th Anniversary celebration slate plaqueDerwent Hill is part of Sunderland City Council and its primary purpose is to provide opportunities for the young people of Sunderland.  The support of officers and members of the Council, and of colleagues in Sunderland schools, has been tremendous.  Whenever I visit Sunderland and mention Derwent Hill, it is remarkable how everyone has a story to tell about when they visited as a child, or how their child or grandchild has just been.  There is an obvious fondness and pride for the city’s ‘jewel in the crown’.

The value of Outdoor Education

Priamry school pupils having fin in the gorge. Big Thumbs up from all.The most satisfying part of the job has been to witness children and young people having the time of their lives, and then to receive feedback from them, their parents and teachers about the impact that we have had on their confidence and development.

Much of my career has been spent involved in outdoor adventure education.  This has included running an outdoor education programme and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in an inner city school, and working in a variety of residential centres in the public, private and charity sectors.  I am more convinced than ever of how powerful this form of education can be.

The variety of what we do has also made the job interesting as well as challenging.  Not only do we work with schools and youth groups from Sunderland and beyond, we provide corporate training, conference facilities, group accommodation, family activity holidays and the growing educational visits advisory service.  This range of work not only helps us to keep going financially, but is also very stimulating.

Looking ahead

We have been through some difficult times in recent years, including a recession, the floods and the continuing squeeze on local authority finances.  I am really pleased that we are thriving and are seeing growth this year in both our schools and corporate work.  I am ‘passing the baton’ to Matt Ellis, who takes over as Centre Director in September.  Matt, who like me comes from a teaching and outdoor education background, brings a wealth of knowledge and experience, and I know that with him at the helm Derwent Hill can face the future with confidence.