The history of The Centre dates back to 1963, when in an act of faith, Don and Val Hestor sold their home in Hemel Hempstead and ploughed the proceeds into buying a 3 acre tract of land on the banks of the River Medina, on the outskirts of Newport on the Isle of Wight. Along with other pioneering volunteers, some grants and a massive amount of hard work, they built the central buildings of the Centre and opened later in the same year as The Christian Sailing Centre. The vision of the original founders was to provide sailing holidays, education, and instruction to people of all ages and for the Centre to be used as a place of retreat, learning and revitalisation. Incorporated within the site was a boatyard where vessels, including the Centre’s fleet of Sea Star dinghies, were built and maintained. As a Christian foundation, their aim was to welcome and support all comers, whether of any faith or none, to give people a great time and to demonstrate their Christian motivation by how they lived, as much as by what they said. You can read more about the beginnings of the centre in an Evening Standard article from 1963, here.
First foray into field studies…
As the first decade passed, the rise of overseas package tours caused a decrease in demand for UK based sailing holidays and so the trustees of the Centre decided on a path of diversification. Recognising the unique location of the Centre, on the Isle of Wight and on the banks of a tidal river, the trustees were inspired to expand the training side of the Centre to include field studies courses, encompassing both Biology and Geography. So in 1980 the Centre, under its new name of Medina Valley Centre, opened its doors as a Sailing and Field Studies establishment. The field study courses soon established an enviable reputation and attracted schools from an ever wider catchment. Its location, its highly regarded teaching staff and the pastoral care shown to visitors resulted in schools returning to us year after year.
Today, the Field Studies department is made up of a team of experienced teachers who have built up a reputation for professionalism and excellence, attracting school groups from across the UK and Europe. Click here for more information on our Field Studies tutors and other staff.
Over the years since 1980, field studies became the main business of the Centre, although sailing and then kayaking and canoeing, retained a treasured place. As government funding was cut, school budgets came under pressure and so, in an effort to support those schools, we responded by introducing high intensity, shorter courses. This resulted in an under-utilisation of the Centre’s assets so once more the trustees looked for other ways to use the facilities of the Centre. The aim of this latest change was to expand the activity side of the organisation to encompass not only sailing, kayaking and canoeing, but also land-based activities such as mountain biking, target shooting, archery and bushcraft. The vision of the trustees was to offer courses that would meld the academic and activity aspects of the Centre in order to provide a truly educational experience to a wide range of visitors, including groups from primary and secondary schools.
In 2018, a new purpose-built wooden lodge was added, giving the flexibility for groups of up to 26 to enjoy the open-plan space, en-suite rooms and stunning views over the river. In addition to this, by adding new activities year on year, the options available for groups at the centre have now grown to include a full range of adventurous activities as well as a wide selection of environmental education sessions all over the Isle of Wight.