Vicar's teenage group get cold shoulder

PUBLISHED: 12:58 30 July 2001 | UPDATED: 10:23 03 March 2010

A SUFFOLK clergyman's bid to reward teenagers for community work came to grief when the group was refused entry to a caravan site and branded potential troublemakers.

A SUFFOLK clergyman's bid to reward teenagers for community work came to grief when the group was refused entry to a caravan site and branded potential troublemakers.

The Rev Rodney Hurd, who runs the Apostolic Ark Church at Handford Hall School, Ipswich, led the party of four youngsters to the Lakeside County and Leisure Park in Saxmundham for a two-night stay to thank them for refurbishment work.

Instead the trip turned into a nightmare as the party was turned away on arrival and forced to spend nearly SEVEN hours in a minibus to find an alternative site in Suffolk.

Mr Hurd, 35, training adviser for Getting Connected which helps young people through work and education difficulties, said: "It was a big disappointment to be turned away like that. The youngsters were really gutted.

"The site owners said they refused entry because they didn't take groups.

"Yet there were only five of us and we were not really a group.

"They said it was up to their discretion and they had the right to refuse entry. They said they had a lot of trouble with young people in the past, " he said.

Mr Hurd told the owners he was thinking of returning next week with a church group but was told they would also be refused.

So Mr Hurd and his party found themselves back on the road again.

They went to two other places nearby. One didn't have showers and the other the group didn't fancy the facilities.

On the fourth attempt at Walberswick at 2.45pm the attendant wasn't about and the group of two boys and two girls aged between 16 and 17 didn't want to wait around.

Prices at the fifth site at Kessingland would have taken them over budget, so the group carried on their search until 6pm at North Denes in Lowestoft, where they finally booked in.

Then they squeezed in a barbecue and a trip to Lowestoft and after an overnight stay visited Great Yarmouth to come home a day early after their 100 mile plus round trip.

The young people – who had fallen out of mainstream education and employment – had been referred to YMCA Training through Learning Gateway.

As part of the programme they spent four days repairing the ceiling of the presentation room at YMCA Training in Ipswich, then painting the walls and putting up curtains.

Judy Walker, who runs Lakeside County and Leisure Park with her husband, first said they didn't allow groups.

When the Star pointed out that Lakeside's tariff list mentions group bookings, she said: "We do take Duke of Edinburgh award groups and skill groups but they are here for a specific purpose and not purely leisure." She added that teenagers in the past had caused problems.

"There isn't anything on the park for them to do. It is not a theme park. There are just two fishing lakes and a swimming pool. As there is nothing for them to do it creates boredom. It is a family park and we have to consider our guests."

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