Memories of Minstead?

50 golden years of brilliant residential trips in the New Forest

Feb 16 2017

Children at Minstead Study Centre

Minstead Study Centre has been educating children about the forest and its ways for generations. From the moment they step into their new home in the treehouse dormitory and squeeze into their new wellies to christen them in muddy puddles, Minstead Study Centre launches children on a great adventure.

For many children it is their first time away from their families, and as they join a quest to find the eight earth secrets, they are making memories that last a lifetime. It’s those memories that the Centre is looking for as it prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary. July 2018 sees Minstead celebrate its birthday, with a Big Birthday Garden Party and previous visitors will be invited to a special celebration with music, theatre, dancing and food.

Head of Centre Jane Pownall, tells us more:

“Working at the Centre has proved to be a real joy. We feel our small, dedicated team really can make a difference, helping children to reconnect with the natural world. We’ve always tried to stay true to our beliefs, giving the children a life-changing experience and creating a culture of care; for oneself, ones friends and our precious planet.”

With much of the learning delivered outdoors, children experience the environment through all their senses, tackling every day concepts such as biodiversity, local food and farming, energy and water conservation and healthy living.

“The skill is making these big ideas appetising to young people, breaking them down into bite size pieces and presenting them in a practical, fun, realistic way,” said Jane.

The first day typically takes them out into the Wildwood to meet cathedral beech trees and marvel at ancient landscapes. The children receive new identities; Apodemus the mouse, Buteo the buzzard – new names linking them to the native species of the forest. They settle down to picnic on the ground and hear tales of forests long ago. This first day offers a chance to stretch their legs in the big outdoors and tune into the delights of the natural world.

During their stay the children also have a chance to explore the magnificent centre grounds. There are special places where group activities take place. A Celtic roundhouse, tipi, star gazing area, miz-maze, bonfire pit, vegetable garden and compost area, clay oven for outdoor cooking and a superb pond for aquatic investigations! There are sheep to feed and chickens for freshly laid eggs. The children enjoy the hearty home cooked food. Organic produce is harvested daily from the garden and served in a family atmosphere in the colourful dining room.

“The Centre is a strong exemplar for sustainable practice and the children can see this in action. It is a living learning experience for sustainable living,” said Jane.

At the Big Birthday Party there will be a display of ‘Marvellous Minstead Memories’ stretching back over the last 50 years so if you would like to contribute any images or words the Centre would love to receive them.

Minstead has also set up a charity the Friends of Minstead Study Centre to support the good work that we do and future proof the centre for years to come. If you would like to donate to the centre or become a patron you can arrange payment online please contact

If you would like to find out more about the Study Centre or would like to take part in the lively community events programme, from organic vegetable gardening to French bread making, please visit the Minstead Study Centre website.

Minstead is one of two Hampshire County Council study centres, alongside Stubbington Study Centre, offering hands on residential experiences for children and young people.

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