Our History

Wide Horizons has a rich heritage dating all the way back to 1929. We were at the forefront of outdoor education then and remain so today with almost 47,000 children and young people visiting us every year.

20th July 1929

A New Haven for Inner-city Children

Bournemouth Rotary created the Townsend Centre on the Jurassic coast in Swanage, “opened to give the poorest children from the dark slums of the great cities a holiday in healthy surroundings”. Bournemouth Rotary, 1929.

Bournemouth Roatrians Open Townsend Centre 1929


July 1930

The Beginnings of Learning Outside the Classroom

Ty’n y Berth School at Aberllefenni near Machynlleth in Wales enjoy the benefits of Outdoor Education on a school trip to Barmouth.

Ty'ny Berth School - Outdoor Education Trip Barmouth


May 1936

The Royal Opening

In early May 1936 the Duke of York (King George VI) opened Margaret McMillan House. The first purpose-built outdoor centre created in memory of Margaret McMillan a pioneering spirit behind the movement for outdoor education.



The Evacuees

Throughout the Second World War Wide Horizons Townsend Centre and Wide Horizons Margaret McMillan House were used to shelter hundreds of London children.


The Evacuees- 1939 - 1945

29th June 1967

“For A Thousand Souls, for almost a Hundred Years.” Mark Bourne 1967

Ty’n y Berth School closes due to lack of funding, after nearly 100 years of providing education for Welsh school children.

The end of a Welsh School 1967



The Dawn of ILEA

The Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) was developed as the education authority for the twelve inner London boroughs. During the next five years ILEA acquired five outdoor education centres: Townsend, Ty’n y Berth, Bryn Coedwig, Horton Kirby and Margaret McMillan House.


ILEA -1965


The Natural Study Centre (aka Wide Horizons Environment Centre)

ILEA took over the site from London County Council, which had thrived from providing Botany Boxes, aiding schools in the study of living organisms.

ILEA furthered this work into 12 London boroughs.



Bryn Coedwig is Reborn

Forest Hill School identified Bryn Coedwig Mountain Centre as an ideal base for the training of pupils in hill-walking and mountaineering skills. With the help of the incoming ILEA it was able to purchase the building and convert it into a well-equipped mountain centre.


Bryn Coedwig -1971


Education Reform Act 1988

The Government announced on 4th February 1988 that it would abolish the ILEA in 1990 as part of the Education Reform Act 1988. The Inner London boroughs then became education authorities, and remain so today.



Lewisham and Greenwich LEA

Lewisham and Greenwich London Boroughs put in a bid to save the future of the six outdoor centres, with the goal of ensuring children and young people in London had access to the outdoors.



First Forest School in London

The London Boroughs established the first Forest School in London at Wide Horizons Environment Centre in Eltham, which still runs successfully today.




Wide Horizons – An Independent Charity

Wide Horizons Website Logo

Wide Horizons was formed to operate the six outdoor centres in 2004 as a result of a joint initiative between the London boroughs of Greenwich and Lewisham, after continued budget cuts in Outdoor Education.



Wide Horizons now provides Adventure to over 32,000 children every year.

Ace - Reaching the Top



95% of all local council-funded outdoor education centres have had their entire funding cut.



The Future Looks Bright for Walsall Children

With threats to close Bryntysilio Outdoor Education Centre in Llagollen, Wales, Wide Horizons stepped in to welcome the centre to the charity, ensuring they could continue to provide adventures to 1000s of children and young people every year.




Adventure Learning Partnerships

Wide Horizons introduces our exciting new initiative to build long term partnerships with schools where adventure is woven into the curriculum, ensuring lasting learning experiences and providing funding and opportunities for children to learn outside the classroom.

Two School boys grouped together


June 2012

Kate Middleton visits Wide Horizons

The Duchess of Cambridge visited the Wide Horizons centre in conjunction with ARK schools, working together with disadvantaged children from inner city backgrounds.

Kate Middleton



Bringing Adventure to You!

Wide Horizons operates our first Outreach Session with Sherington Primary.

Introducing the idea that adventure can happen anywhere – in the park, in your town hall or even your school playground.

“Learning in a different way has given those that learn through a more hands-on approach the chance to shine/excel.”

Eve Jones, Teacher at Sherrington Primary



Wide Horizons Woodland Centre

The Mayor of London awards Wide Horizons £9,465 to help set up a new Woodland Centre in the heart of London.




Adventure Learning Membership

Adventure Learning Membership scheme is launched to support schools in the development school’s Adventure Learning.