A TIMELY gift of £500 from Durham’s Freemen has been instrumental in helping the scouting movement hit a target set to meet the costs of major improvement work at a large outdoor adventure and training centre on the eastern outskirts of the city.

Adaptations, costing £32,000, are key to making a large two-storey building, known as Moor House, more accessible to teenagers and young people with mobility and special educational needs.

The property, set in 18 acres of woods and farm land at Rainton Gate, plays host to 10,000 visitors a year, among them similarly organised groups within the community.

But the entrance and residential accommodation on the ground floor of the building needs vital changes to give greater freedom and independence to youngsters with physical and learning disabilities.

The bill for the work was set at just under £32,000 and the bulk of money came from grants and pledges from charitable trusts, along with a contribution of £4,000 from Durham Scouts themselves.

The work includes a ground floor ramp, automated doors, widening of doorways, installation of emergency pull cords and bedroom adapted for people with mobility issues. The freemen’s gift will specifically cover costs for the automated doors for that room, which also includes an en-suite facility.

“As well as the house we have a permanent tented village within the grounds and can, on occasion, cater for jamborees for up to 3,000. The dorm provides residential opportunities for 40 young people and allows them the chance to tackle a variety of outdoor skills and qualify for badges during their stay.

“The accommodation will offer everything from overnight to week-long stays and adaptations allow those with mobility and learning needs the opportunity to thrive in scouting.

“Over the past four years we have cultivated new links with schools whose pupils have physical or special educational needs. Until now they have not been able to fully enjoy their stay but that can now change. The freemen’s £500 donation completed our appeal for support,” said Louise Barbe, a county fundraiser for Durham Scouts.

Alan Ribchester, a freeman and a member of their charitable trust, said: “Prior to lockdown scouting continued to thrive and the facilities at Moor House have helped further the traditional ideals of scouting, as well as being great fun to use. The donation will help enormously broaden that appeal and the freemen are delighted their donation will help continue that development.”