How The Towers shaped thousands of lives for generations
There's been great sadness at the possible closure of The Towers Outdoor Education Centre that has enriched the lives of generations of schoolchildren.
The Towers has helped shaped the lives of thousands of people – as each one will have a different but vivid memory of their North Wales adventure.
For Dean and Cheryl Jones it was a break away from home that they will never forget. They met, fell in love and are now married with children.
Now, with the outdoor adventure centre under threat of closure, they are among those who have spoken of the special meaning Towers has to them.
Dean said: “I would never have met my soul-mate if it wasn’t for Towers – it would be a great shame for it to close.”
The facility is based close to Betws-y-coed in the heart of beautiful Snowdonia and is run by Wolverhampton Council, giving children from schools across the city the chance to spread their wings both physically and emotionally.
But it has been closed since August last year after an inspection found it needed £200,000 of immediate work, along with £400,000 of structural works.
And a further £1.1 million would need to be spent on refurbishment and “modernisation” costs.
Now, people who visited the centre as teenagers have shared their memories with the Express & Star.
Dean Jones and Cheryl Worton, now Cheryl Jones, both studied at The Northicote School in Bushbury and first spoke with each other while on a school trip to Towers in 1990.
And now, 30 years later, the pair are still going strong – having three children – all because of that fateful meeting.
Dean, aged 45, said: “We were doing a lot of coursework and we went to the same school but never really spoke before.
“But we got chatting while we were at a table and she gave me some help with my project, we chatted a little bit throughout the work and went from there. We would not be together – or have the children – if not for Towers.
“I wanted to ask her to go out on the way back and obviously I had spent a lot of time talking to her, but I wasn’t sure what the response was going to be.
“So I asked one of my friends to ask her and we sat together on the way back and we went from there.”
The couple have three children – 19-year-old Lucy, 16-year-old George and 14-year-old Katie.
He added: “We were going out for two weeks, seeing each other in the evenings after school, and then I said ‘I think I’m going to marry you and spend the rest of my life with you’.
She said ‘don’t be daft’ but it really did come true. It was a really great week – something I will always remember because I had a great time.
“And it led to me meeting my wife, which you don’t expect when you’re 15.”
Towers is an imposing mock Tudor building that stands on a hill in the heart of Snowdonia. It is perfect for an adventure experience in the mountains, on the river or on the coast. People visiting it can try out canoeing, climbing and abseiling.
Visitors in recent years included the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who donned a hard hat and tried out some of the activities during a visit filled with laughter.
For children in landlocked Wolverhampton it is an eye-widening experience. It also provides them time away from home, often for the first time.
Jon Butler, from Pendeford, visited The Towers Outdoor Education Centre twice with two different schools.
Mr Butler was around nine years old when he first visited with St Bartholomew’s Junior School in 1991. And he returned roughly four years later with Pendeford High School, with the site holding “great memories” for him.
“We had sort-of dorm rooms – we had bunk beds,” the 38-year-old said.
“I’ve got some quite good memories of the stuff school kids usually get up to.
“It was like a big house from what I can remember and there was lots of activities – walking and abseiling,” he added.
“I remember that we did a map reading exercise one year, and the team I was on was moving the clues for the other teams which followed us – and we got caught doing it.
“We didn’t release the staff were watching us and we got caught and for two days we had to clean the boot room.
“For areas like Pendeford, and some of the more deprived areas, potentially these kids will not get an opportunity as we did and it gave us a good experience to try things like camping and volunteering.”
Steve Rogers, from Ettingshall Park, visited the centre in 1988 as a student at Parkfield School.
The 46-year-old said: “It was a great experience to be away from home with your school friends and the activities that we got to participate in, in beautiful surroundings, was amazing.
“I recall abseiling, orienteering, canoeing, gorge walking and even cross country skiing, all within one week.
“I’m not sure where you would get that experience in a such a short space of time.
“I still recall it and I think you would struggle to participate in this amount of activities and gain such an experience in such a short space of time. It was excellent value and great for character building.”