They excitedly form the shape of a large number '70' and then on the count of three, throw big handfuls of paint powder into the air. There are shrieks of delight as they are engulfed in the colourful cloud. It's a moment they will not forget.
Exactly 70 years earlier, at this same Isle of Wight residence, the very first Westbrook Crusader Camp is underway. In many ways, these Camps are worlds apart and yet in others they are so very alike. The clothing, the activities, the accommodation are all very different but the reason for being there is the same - to grow in their faith with other young people like them.
From that day to this, Urban Saints Westbrook has been running and hosting Camps like these two. 70 years of Camps full of fun, adventure and discipleship in an idyllic island setting, described by one of the volunteer leaders of the latest Camp as "a thin place, where heaven and earth seem to meet." Over the years many young people have had significant faith experiences during their stay here and even those who haven't will hold a special place in their hearts for this special place.
Urban Saints Westbrook was originally purchased in the late forties as a permanent memorial to the Crusader lads who were killed in the Second World War and the thousands of young people who enter the Westbrook House each year pass a plaque that commemorates that original intention. On the neighbouring wall is a large display of 70 group photos, each taken on the front steps of Urban Saints Westbrook. One photo for every year a Camp has run on site, gathered throughout the year by a whole host of previous visitors from down the years. It's a further, striking reminder of the huge legacy of Urban Saints Westbrook and the thousands who have gone before.
A leader passes this poignant display dressed in flowing ballgown, followed by another wearing a lab coat and a wild-haired wig. This is far from unusual - they're playing characters in a dramatised Cluedo-like activity. This summer's crop of young disciples will enjoy team challenges, intricate Escape Rooms, tree climbing, bushcraft and orienteering on this hot August day. Unbeknownst to them, Urban Saints Westbrook has another special visitor today too.
Peggy Penfold is the daughter of the very first Warden at Urban Saints Westbrook - A J Vereker. She has not been back here since her family moved away many years ago. The place has changed hugely and Peggy marvels at the range of opportunities the current Campers can enjoy. But there is much that is so very familiar too. The developing 'kitchen garden' (used to teach young visitors about ecology and sustainability) that is developing on site also brings back memories of her family having to learn to grow their own produce to keep the Centre going.
The current Camp has also had to adapt over the years and 2018 saw the first dual age group Camp taking place with young people ranging from 9 to 16. Numbers have increased by over 80% compared with 2017 and the two age streams seem to have worked well together. The main leader of the Camp, Corinne, has been hugely encouraged by the feedback from the Campers and by the hard work of her team:
"There was a lovely sense of community and togetherness across the whole Camp. Most of the young people said that they grew in their relationship with God through the Camp, with six saying that they made a first-time commitment (to Christ) or a recommitment whilst at Urban Saints Westbrook. The team was fantastic and worked well together, and we are so grateful to the many people who prayed for us during our time here."
The experience of this year's Camp, on the 70th anniversary of the very first example, highlights some of the secret of Westbrook's sustainability. 70 years of adapting to the changing needs of Camps and Campers alike. 70 years of playing host to committed, passionate volunteers who want to see young lives shaped for Christ. 70 years of being soaked in prayer. 70 years of seeing young people loved, discipled and launched into the world.
Thank God for 70 years of Urban Saints Westbrook!
Paul Windo - Communications Manager
Urban Saints Westbrook offers quality, bespoke residential experiences for youth groups, schools and churches. The team are taking bookings for Autumn 2018 and beyond into 2019.
For more information - or to make an online enquiry - visit the Urban Saints Westbrook website:
If you have visited Urban Saints Westbrook over the 70 years, we'd love you to get back in touch. You can sign up to become a 'Friend of Westbrook' and the team will keep you informed of all the upcoming developments:
Why not spend New Year with us at Urban Saints Westbrook? We host a New Year House Party for young people aged 14 to 18 and we'd love to welcome you as you welcome in 2019. Find out more on the NYHP website: