Part 1: Brief reviews based on my experience of running one or more residential visits with primary age children at the following centres.
Broadleas (now known as Dartmoor Activity Centre) Haytor – Owned by a trust with links to the Boys Brigade: Set in its own ground (5 acres) it is easily accessible near Haytor. Camping (over 100) and Indoor options (a class). Fairly basic self catering accomodation but the setting, the grounds and the ‘Turner Hall’ (a good all weather large room for indoor games etc). are what make it a favourite with me at least.
Dartmoor Youth Hostel (YHA – Bellever) Great situation in the heart of Dartmoor on the edge of Bellever Forest. Only real options for groups are half board or full board – deals can be had out of season in discussion with the warden. Bedroom / dormitory accommodation is very good. Downstairs accommodation is ‘cosy’ with small sitting room small spartan games room and drafty barn if available! Garden also available for Centre based activities. A class of 30 with staff is possible but almost to capacity.
Below are the two Dartmoor Centres originally run by Devon County Council now part of the Babcock/LDP portfolio commissioned by Devon to deliver many of their services.
Pixies Holt: Just above Dartmeet on the Ashburton-Princetown road. Very comfortable, fully catered and offering a range of activities such as guided walks, caving, shelter building, rock climbing, orienteering, bushcraft etc. These are delivered mainly by freelancers well known to and approved by the Centre management. Pleasant grounds for play and activities. Comfortably big enough for a whole class.
Dartmoor Training Centre: Near Princetown. Similar setup to Pixies Holt but offering self catering accommodation and a more remote feeling moorland setting with the East Dart just outside.
The Pengelly Centre: Belonging to the caving fraternity this is very basic, self catering accommodation for up to about 20 plus staff.
Bachelors Hall: Princetown. Basic converted barn sleeping up to 20 plus one staff room. Other sleeping option small lounge or tent! Great position in the heart of Dartmoor a mile from Princetown. (Now leased by Launceston College) but may be open to other group use.
Start Bay Centre: Slapton. Former Devon residential Centre now owned (and substantially refurbished) by the Field Studies Council (FSC) – owners of the Slapton Field Studies Centre a mile down the road. Includes large enclosed garden with wildlife pond (fenced) and low ropes course. Various activity packages offered from the FSC. www.field-studies-council.org/centres/slapton/startbay.aspx
Links to centres that I have visited but not used myself
YHA Okehampton: Bracken Tor House and Bracken Tor Lodge – Both separate from the main hostel and available for exclusive hire. Can accommodate a whole class. www.yha.org.uk/hostel/okehampton-bracken-tor
Bernard’s Acre Moorland Centre; Belstone nr. Okehampton
I recently visited this ‘chalet style’ centre which is currently being refurbished. It is in a fantastic location on the river Taw (at the end of the garden) surrounded by open moorland. It has a comfortable open plan lounge/dining/kitchen area and sleeps 24 in small dormitories. There is room for camping outside although the extra people coming inside would make the indoor living accommodation a little cramped. There is also a fire pit and outdoor seating. The grounds are enclosed (river on one side) and provide lots of play opportunities. www.bernardsacre.org.uk
Other Devon Centres that I am aware of/have been told about
Balcombe Woods (Young Spirit) www.youngspirit.co.uk
Moorland Hall (Peter Tavy Nr. Tavistock) Family run business www.moorlandhall.co.uk
Exmoor Centre: Small Bunkhouse nr. Lynton and Lymouth, North Devon – mix of indoor and camping might accommodate a class – looks like a great setting. www.exmoorcentre.co.uk
Pinkery Centre: Simondsbath Exmoor: Just over the border in Somerset but run by Exmoor National Park which straddles both counties. The Pinkery Centre in a high moorland setting and staff are keen to further develop their links with schools. www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/learning/pinkery-centre