At this time of year we would usually be preparing for a busy Camps season and the beautiful campsite at Studland on the south coast of England is no exception. Sadly not in 2020, but as we contemplate a summer without sleeping under canvas at Studland, we wanted to explain a little about this historic site and what might be happening instead this year.
The story of Crusader/Urban Saints Camps at Studland goes back to 1933 when the first camp took place on the field at Manor Farm. Ralph Bankes owned much of the land around east Dorset, including Studland, and his sister (who was a Girl Crusader) persuaded him to allow the farmer to let us use the field. When Ralph Bankes left his estate to the National Trust on his death in 1981, there was a clause that Crusaders would still be able to camp there and, indeed, only Crusaders have ever been allowed to camp on this beautiful site, nestled at the bottom of the hills and just a few minutes’ walk from the beach.
The site is run by a group of volunteers who form the Studland Management Group and most of us have been involved in the site for many years serving on one or more of the Camps. There are several holidays that take place on the site; Dorset Venture (14 – 18’s) and Purbeck Venture (11- 16’s) and more recently we have started Chattabox for 8-11’s.
Dorset Venture and Purbeck Venture have been established Camps for many years and are both run by experienced volunteer teams, most of whom have been campers on the site themselves. Many of them still maintain friendships from those first camp experiences. There are often married couples who met at the site and still come, and their children now take a full part in camp - some even as leaders.
Each Camp aims to jam in as much activity as possible whether it is energetic or quiet to give them a unique Studland flavour. The young people really do meet with God in new ways - some for the first time and others deepening their walk with Him. The site is a really special and significant place - you can’t help but be moved by what God is doing from the sunrises to the sandy beaches through great people, food and fun.
For many years, The Studland Management Group felt that God was giving us a vision for a younger camp on the site and this vision has become a reality. Chattabox is a four-day ‘starter’ camp that introduces them to the joys of camping at Studland. It has proved to be hugely popular, with many children returning every year until they reach 11...and then we hand them on to Purbeck Venture.
What is even more exciting is that we are beginning to see some of the young people coming back to join our teenage helper programme at Chattabox once they turn 14. Our vision has always been that of journeying with them from their first experience at Chattabox, walking with them as they grow in faith over the years and then become part of the ongoing team running Studland Camps for future generations.
Several years ago there was a gap between two of the holidays and it was suggested that we might invite a few families to come and ‘site sit’ during that time – little did we know that this would become a ministry to families with the start of the first Family Camp at Studland. This year there should have been three Family Camps with about 60 families coming together over three holidays to have fun and learn more about Jesus.
A guest on a Family Camp last year said:
It was our first experience of an Urban Saints holiday and we were blown away by the location of the Camp, the perfect set up and the kindness and generosity of the team who cooked and cared for us.
The Camp is very informal and relaxed; the programme includes daily family devotionals, time on the beach and plenty of great food! It is encouraging to see families share experiences with each other on all aspects of daily living and faith; forming new friendships across all ages. It has been great to see God at work, giving families the time and space to relax together in beautiful surroundings. It is also a great recruiting ground for the other Camps, because as the children get older they come on Chattabox and then the other Camps.
There is no doubt that when you stand on the Studland site you can feel the presence of God and it amazes me to think of all the people who have decided to follow Jesus there in the past, and gone on to do great things for him. In fact all of the Camps running this year will have several leaders who attended a Crusader/Urban Saints Camp at Studland as a child. We believe in growing our own leaders at Studland!
Sharon Prior and the Studland Management Group
Sadly, there are no Studland Camps taking place over the summer of 2020. We hope to take the opportunity to make vital refurbishments and improvements to the site during this year - as COVID-19 regulations allow.
The Dorset Venture and Purbeck Venture teams are planning to run online and virtual programmes this summer to ensure that their regular campers will not miss out on their summer highlight. Hopefully this will also allow others to have a taste of the Studland camping experience - to encourage them to join us in 2021 and beyond!
You can find details of all our Camps alternatives in 2020 in our Events section - click here to discover more!