Bolton School Former Pupils

Outdoor Pursuits Centres

“Yonder in the heather there’s a bed for sleeping,

Drink for one a'thirst, ripe blackberries to eat,

And the pool is clear to travel-weary feet."

Gerard Manley Hopkins


The proliferation of Camps and Journeys in the School’s calendar led to several attempts in the closing years of Richard Poskitt’s headship to search for a common base for camps, hikes and outdoor training, looking in Wales, Derbyshire and the Lake District for likely sites.

It came as a surprise when the search ended in the Howgill Fells of what was then the Yorkshire Dales National Park near Sedbergh, now Cumbria, an area not well-known at the time.

The site at Cautley, a former vicarage on the A683 to Kirkby Stephen, was a surprise for most staff, but with a donation from a generous School family it rapidly proved popular to both Divisions as a base for many outdoor activities, with a powerful drive from the Head teachers, Margaret Higginson and David Baggley, who proved their enthusiasm by leading working parties to modify and beautify the premises for new possibilities.

Although walking in the area of the fells was not going to be easy (it took a long time to negotiate circular routes, for example), the delights of the Spout waterfall and its valley with a bronze-age settlement, to say nothing of the temperance hotel, encouraged the energy needed to master the climb to the summit of the steep hillside adjacent to the house.

Parties of all kinds – hiking, reading, French, biology and geology – were interspersed with working, painting and gardening and tea parties.  Once the vagaries of the Raeburn stove in the kitchens had been overcome, the delights of both building and environs became much appreciated.

The farming character of the neighbourhood was pronounced when we arrived, and it was important to share good relations with it, even though noisy widegames on the fell at midnight pushed them a long way at times.  Our distance from Sedbergh was generally advantageous, though shopping was the down-side of that.  Miss Armitstead, a neighbour and verger of the chapel across the road, held a key and would act for incoming parties, lighting a fire and receiving milk orders.  We occasionally augmented the chapel congregation and once provided instrumental accompaniment, too.

Each staffroom had a representative who took bookings and acted as overseer, and virtually made the house their home-welcome for a time.  For about twenty years we used, developed and enjoyed these splendid facilities, until finances needed reconsideration.  A new Centre would be found, and the vicarage was sold.


Circumstances were changing and a lease was sought of premises on the Lowther Estate near Penrith.  The new Head, Alan Wright, already had a cottage in Askham, and a youth centre opposite it became available, called Robin Cottage – an amalgamation of cottages.  The lease was taken and we moved in.  In a village this time, we had to rethink our plans.

Basically, the countryside was enclosed now, and most of our activities had to be relocated.  There were splendid walks in the Lowther estate, and in the direction of Pooley Bridge were the delights of Ullswater: further south was Haweswater and the eastern fells.  There were also new commercial locations now to be enjoyed, only needing different transport arrangements to be considered.

Robin Cottage was a different shape too, and dormitories were a different number.  Catering was no problem: there was a shop nearby, too.

The Head had close ties in the area so it was easy to take advantage of them, particularly the splendid chef at the neighbouring hotel.  We also provided support at the local church, where we transposed our Christmas Festival.

It was understood from the beginning that this was only temporary, so a search continued for a permanent home.


Indeed it was only a handful of years before the lease on premises at Patterdale, where a youth organization from Tyneside was giving up its lease on extensive developments at the Hall, came on the market, and the lease was purchased for the two Bolton Schools.

These premises were something we had never seen before.  They included accommodation, catering, equipment and storage facilities, with access to the lake –

a much more commercial location.  While the programme we had developed hitherto had been based on School staff and their limitations in time and skill, there was the possibility of something much grander and wider-reaching.

Patterdale Hall is the residential and adventure learning centre managed by Bolton School.  The Hall is ideally situated at the southern end of Lake Ullswater in the Lake District and is just two hours' drive by coach from Bolton. 

The centre exists to serve the needs of the School and to run the extensive outdoor programme offered at Bolton School, which involves residential courses, day trips from Bolton School and expeditions that travel further afield.  Patterdale Hall is also used by the School for numerous other activities including creative writing courses, business enterprise programmes, Duke of Edinburgh expeditions and subject-specific visits.  Years 4, 5 and 6 of the Junior Girls' and Junior Boys' Schools visit each year as do all Boys' Division Senior School year groups and select Girls' Division year groups.

The Hall is available for hire by external clients and you can learn more about our quality outdoor education courses combined with a warm, welcoming atmosphere at Patterdale Hall here:

Patterdale Hall

Patterdale Hall