IN 1998 the YMCA National Centre at Lakeside, on the shores of Windermere, had been providing holidays for young people for more than 40 years.

During the summer there were around 150 children at the centre each week.

Local children also got an opportunity to experience the activities on offer by joining a day camp. These lasted from Monday to Friday but children went home on a bus provided for them each night.

All sorts of activities were offered, including problem-solving games, team games, pond dipping, rock climbing, abseiling, canoeing, rafting and sailing.

The theme of all the activities was fun. There was little or no competition involved and many of the games and sports taught children to work together.

Qualified instructors oversaw the activities with some 30 temporary staff taken on each summer.

During the week-long holiday camps American-style counsellors looked after children and made sure they were comfortable and not missing home too much.

Children taking part in day camps were relaxed and happy. Jack Etteridge, ten, of Witherslack, enjoyed helping his team mates to scale the indoor climbing wall.

He said: “I’ve been here before and I love it. It’s the best week of my year. Climbing is my favourite activity, but I enjoy canoeing as well. It’s fun working with other children and making new friends.”

Other youngsters braved the wet weather to try traversing a small rock outcrop hidden in the woodland around the centre. Each child had a partner to guide them across the rock.

An exciting new activity was the ‘King Swing’, a variation on a tree-swing.

Jonathan Bowyer, marketing director of the centre, said: “There are so many benefits for children who take part in these sorts of holidays.

“It’s a supportive environment for children who may never have stayed away from home before. Children have to learn how to organise themselves, they have to take responsibility for their own actions and for their equipment.

"Often it's a life-changing experience and the success of it is proved by the fact that most of them come back year after year."