Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 09.48.38An outdoor activity centre used by thousands of youngsters from South Tyneside is being given a helping hand after a Friends group was formed.

Former users of the centre, which is based near Coniston in the Lake District, have come together to set up the group to raise funds and apply for funding for the centre.

The move was prompted by former centre manager, Andy Stubbs, who retired two years ago but still wanted to help the centre which had been his place of work for more than 30 years.

Recently the group held a fund-raising event at South Shields Sailing Club, which offered the venue free of charge, and raised £1,300 which will go towards agreed improvements and development of the outdoor centre.

The evening, which attracted around 100 people, featured live music, a pie and pea supper, an auction and a raffle with prizes donated by some councillors of South Tyneside Council.

Councillor Atkinson, Lead Member for Children, Young People and Families, said: “I’m delighted that a Friends group has been established which will help improve still further  the fantastic facilities at Thurston.

“It is testament to the magical qualities of Thurston that people who have been there are now working together to attract funding for the centre.”

Over the bank holiday weekend 22 volunteers from the Friends of Thurston group aged between three and 60 braved the wet weather to build a BBQ unit for the camping area, make and clear paths, help drainage on the campsite area, do  gardening and landscape work in the walled garden and put wood chippings under the new low ropes course.

Their reward was a day of activity arranged by the new centre manager Andy Sallabank and Andy Stubbs. Activities included canoeing and an adventurous walk through a slate mine using only candles.

Thurston offers residential stays for youngsters from South Tyneside schools and private groups. It offers a range of outdoor pursuits including sailing, kayaking, walking and climbing.

A member of the Friends group, joint treasurer, Sonia Morton, said: “I first went to Thurston when I was 14 and it has played a big part in my life.

“The centre holds a special place in the hearts of very many people in the Borough and that’s why I wanted to get involved to help it.”