Exmouth Camp closes for good in ‘incredibly sad’ decision by Bristol City Council over repair costs

Mayor Marvin Rees, who was among the thousands of children to visit Exmouth Camp, called the decision ‘incredibly sad’

An outdoor camp visited by thousands of school children from Bristol has been closed for good by the city council in a move described as ‘incredibly sad’ by mayor Marvin Rees.

Exmouth Camp, also known as Bristol Schools Camp or Avon Youth Camp, had been an annual destination for families and school children from Bristol, who were initially invited by owner OBE Edith Pratt in the 1920s.

When Miss Pratt died in 1959, she passed the site at Orcombe Point into the hands of National Trust with the wish that it continued to be used by city children.

But with the camp last used in 2019, Bristol City Council, which lease the land, has now said it will not reopen due to a lack of money available to pay for needed repairs to buildings on the site.

In its proposed budget for 2022/23, officers said finding an alternative use for the land or passing the lease on to another organisation would save £30,000.

Exmouth Camp, last open to school children from Bristol in 2019, is now permanently closed
Exmouth Camp, last open to school children from Bristol in 2019, is now permanently closed
Exmouth Camp, last open to school children from Bristol in 2019, is now permanently closed

The move to end Bristol’s association with the camp will sadden many people who will remember visiting in their childhood, including the city mayor.

Mr Rees went to the camp as a 14-year-old in 1986 with St George School, now City Academy.

He told BristolWorld: “There are lots of heart-breaking things but in terms of city nostalgia its incredibly sad.”

He added: “But like many things it hasn't been well maintained over the years and it is now in a state of disrepair to the point where the buildings are dangerous.

“To bring it up to spec is large sum of money, running into the millions of pounds, so we can’t open because we don’t have the money.

“It is costing us money every year just to keep it closed and maintain so we’ve made the sad decision to stop that and to see it close for good.”

Mr Rees said efforts had been made over the years to find money to renovate the camp, but they had been unsuccessful.

A website run by managers of the camp shows the site was last used in August 2019.

It shows images and videos of activities including watersports, orienteering and environmental work such as hedgerow building.

Children from Redland Green School and Brentry Primary School were among the last to enjoy it.

A Facebook group called Exmouth Community UK has also provided a platform for people to share pictures, old and more recent, of the camp.

As part of the proposed budget for 2022/23, the plan states that discussions would start between Bristol City Council and the National Trust on the council ending its responsibility of annual lease of the camp, or to find a new alternative use.

It states: “This is a traded service and school numbers have significantly declined over the past 10 years resulting in a financial loss for the council. The buildings on the site are currently condemned.”

The budget goes before a Full Council meeting for a decision on February 15.