Summer playcamp returns for a 7th decade

We’re very fortunate to live where we do.  Never far from something picturesque and tranquil, easy access to stunning views.  Like the view from Woolley Edge, for example.  From this one particular spot, one is treated to rolling green fields as far as the eye can see, with Emley Moor Mast (and the slightly shorter, slimmer model) in the distance.

The blue tents punctuate the green landscape under dramatic skies.

Those looking towards Woolley Edge from afar will notice a strange phenomenon each summer; when one area of green suddenly sprouts a neat, uniform row of sky-blue tents. 

Since 2005, this has been the site of the Kirklees Summer Playcamp that sees 450 children spend 3 nights and 4 days in the great outdoors.  Not all at once of course – there are 6 dates across the summer holidays that families can book.  

Children playing a game called ‘Star Wars’, which involves throwing wet sponges at one another!

Children sleep in groups of 4 in the provided tents, on provided roll mats.  They take part in all sorts of activities and games such as Capture the Flag, archery, nature walks, campfire tales, and it all culminates in a disco on the final night. The cost of camp includes all meals and activities, as well as pick-up and drop-off from one of three locations (Huddersfield Bus Station, Dewsbury Bus Station and Woolley Edge Services).  It represents excellent value for money, working out at just £20.35 per night, and there are a limited number of  assisted places available for families in receipt of certain benefits.

The Kirklees Summer Playcamp as it is now has evolved over decades and changed sites numerous times before settling at Woolley Edge.  Whilst the organisation of the camp changed hands a few times in the early days, since 1988 the same two people have been at the helm, deftly steering through all the changes and obstacles thrown at them over the years.

Those two people are Jane and Duncan Haywood.  Jane told us of her previous involvement with playschemes before training as a teacher, and how she had “roped Duncan in as a fun thing to do”!  Their first year of volunteering at camp was 1976, and 12 years later they took the reins and have been in charge to this day.  Despite no longer living locally, they continued to deal with all of the organisation and operation of the camp, booking leave from their jobs in order to run things in the summer.  Both are now retired from successful careers in education and children’s services, and organise everything from a laptop in a spare room – a place they spend a considerable amount of time when bookings go live each year!

Jane and Duncan Haywood of Kirklees Summer Playcamp – they have been involved since 1976!

Their seemingly endless dedication to the Kirklees Summer Playcamp has resulted in them spending every single one of their 46 wedding anniversaries with Kirklees children at camp – that is, until last year when the 2020 camp had to be cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  Their commitment to the camp has not gone unrecognised, with Jane and Duncan both being awarded with an MBE for services to young people in 2005.

Over the decades, the way that the camp is financed has changed numerous times.  Originally, back in the 60s, it was simply a government-funded programme aimed at tackling some of the issues at the time such as rifts between communities and the way young people were viewed and treated.  Government cutbacks in the 70s resulted in the camp becoming an independent community organisation in order to raise funds, whilst receiving a grant from Kirklees Council.  

Of course, Jane and Duncan can’t organise and monitor 75 children at a time all by themselves.  They have a fantastic team of volunteers who come from all over the country to assist at one or more of the camps over the summer, many having previously lived in the area.  All volunteers are fully DBS checked and often have a background in education and working with children.  The camp is also registered as a residential option for those undertaking the Duke of Edinburgh Award, meaning that for some volunteers it will bring them one giant leap closer to achieving the award.

Gazebos provide welcome shelter from all weathers and ensure the fun can go on, come rain or shine.

Unfortunately, due to further cuts to local authority budgets from the government in 2018, Kirklees Council were no longer able to provide a grant to the camp.  This represented a massive loss to the camp’s funding and could have been a fatal blow.  However, all involved insisted that the show must go on.  

To fill the funding gap, volunteers stepped up to the challenge; sponsored walks, raffles, and competitions are a few examples of their fundraising efforts.  Jane and Duncan turned the organisation into an independent charity.

“We use Amazon Smile (a sister-site of Amazon, which donates to a chosen charity every time someone makes a purchase using it), Easy Fundraising, volunteers have asked for donations in lieu of wedding and birthday presents.  We’ve just had a huge campaign that has raised £5000 which we are hoping will be matched,” Jane explained.

They have previously had support from the One Community Organisation, and have recently been awarded a grant from The Sun as part of their 50th birthday celebrations.  The amount of funds raised has a direct correlation to the price and number of assisted places available at camp, and the intrepid organisers are thrilled that they can offer the assisted spots for just £20.50 this year.

We travelled from Huddersfield bus station to Woolley edge. Then the amazing staff took us to our tents as a group we unpacked. After we did that, we got into our groups.

Some of the lovely staff asked us what activities we wanted to do I picked loom bands with my best friend. We did about 4 activities before food we had chilli  and other things. After we ate, we got ready for a game in the woods. Then we got back into our tents and got into our pyjamas at about 7oclock then read or chilled for 30 minutes in our tent with our mates that we were in a tent with.

-Roxy, age 11

Kirklees Summer Playcamp is open to children aged 9-12 ordinarily.  However due to the 2020 camp being cancelled, which would have been the final year many children could attend, the rules have had a slight alteration.  If a child who is 13 this year was either booked or intending to book for 2020, they will be allowed to return for one last time this summer.  This is great news for the children who have made friends at camp that they return to see year after year!

I was a bit nervous about going to the summer camp because I’ve never camped before.  But it was really fun!  I made new friends really quickly and it was great to have lots of different activities to choose from.

My favourite part was the camp fire, telling stories and jokes to each other.

It was raining lots when we got picked up from the bus station but then it dried up and the weather was fantastic for the next few days.  It was like being on holiday in another world even though it was so close to where I live!

– M, age 12

Children playing in the woods at Woolley Edge

As for the 2021 camp, details around the subject of ‘Covid safety’ have yet to be finalised, but plans will reflect the current government guidelines at the time.

We think you will agree that the dedication and selflessness that Jane and Duncan Haywood have consistently displayed across many decades is truly inspirational.  Here’s hoping that they get to put their 2021 camp plans into action, and spend another wedding anniversary surrounded by Kirklees kids!

Bookings are now open for summer 2021. 

Please visit

https://www.kirkleessummerplaycamp.com/booking-page for details and to book.

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