A once tumbledown Welsh hill farm has given young people across Chichester and Arun districts the chance to escape into the great outdoors for three and a half decades.
Tyle Morgrug, which means ‘the little ant house’ in Welsh, has looked over the Cynon Valley in the Brecon National Park in South Wales for almost two centuries.
However, since the 1980s, it has also been home to the Chichester Youth Adventure Trust (CYAT), providing a residential base for young people and adult groups to pursue outdoor activities in rugged country, learn new things and spend time with friends.
While easy to get to by road, it is set halfway up a Welsh mountain - with only sheep as neighbours.
CYAT founder and president and Chichester city councillor Anne Scicluna said this means ‘youth groups can make as much noise as their leaders can stand’.
Anne said: “The views are breathtaking and the opportunities for activities on the mountains and in the valleys are infinite, from walking a route of waterfalls to visiting Big Pit colliery, rock climbing, caving and canoeing, as well as hillwalking and cycling – all in a different environment from home.”
CYAT has been in operation since February 1984, when a charitable trust was set up to administer the centre.
Anne said: “Happy 35th Birthday to Cynon Valley Activities Centre - you have housed many thousands of young people over the past 35 years.
“You have helped them to develop into useful citizens.
“Many have returned as leaders, giving back what they received from you.
“At the beginning, you didn’t even have glass in your windows, but now you have central heating and bright comfortable rooms, sleeping 29 young people with their leaders.”
Anne said many of the teenagers who worked on the hill farm years ago are now parents themselves.
“It is to be hoped that many remember the fun and practical enjoyment they had staying within Tyle Morgrug’s stone walls.”
Anne said the centre’s trustees look forward to the next 35 years and hope it will still be going strong and looking after future generations of young people and adult groups from the Cynon valley as well as Chichester and Arun districts.
To find out more about Tyle Morgrug and the work of CYAT, take a look at www.cyat.org, and for bookings, email firstname.lastname@example.org
‘Teaching practical skills’
Chichester city councillor Anne Scicluna decided to set up Chichester Youth Adventure Trust (CYAT) in 1983, when she was mayor of Chichester.
Anne said: “Mayors usually choose a local charity to support during the mayoral year. When I first became mayor, I decided to start up a new one – a bit foolhardy, you might say. I certainly thought so many times during the following few years!”
As a youth worker, Anne had seen many youth organisations spend money on taking young people to centres away from home, teaching skills as leadership, confidence, self-sufficiency and working together, as well as more practical skills, such as hill walking, rock climbing and canoeing, and school subjects, including botany, geography, history and more.
She thought Chichester and the surrounding area needed its own centre – preferably in ‘wild country’ so Duke of Edinburgh’s Award expeditions could also be undertaken.
She said the centre should be within three or four hours from Chichester, but young people from other areas should be able to take part.
“Having announced it, there was no going back. Several of us roamed the West Country and South Wales looking for somewhere. The only stipulation was it should have a water supply close by. We looked at barns and hovels, some with trees growing out of them, many which needed a great deal of care and attention.”
The team finally heard of a place which, although not in particularly good repair, already had planning consent and had been used for several years as a centre.
The owner agreed to sell it for £8,000, to include one and a quarter acres of land.
Anne said: “We had no money; however, all the youth organisations and schools in the Chichester area raised what they could, from £60 raised by a small group washing cars to £2,000 raised by one of the large secondary schools for a sponsored silence.”
Anne said young people began using the centre as soon as it was available, spending mornings working on simple renovations and the afternoons doing activities in the surrounding countryside.
Thirty five years on, ‘while money is always required’, Anne said CYAT is now just about self-financing for its everyday needs, except when a bigger project is undertaken.