Surf city

31st July 1998 at 01:00

Winmarleigh Hall, Lancaster. Sounds posh, doesn't it? And so it is, or should we say "and so IT is", because at this marvellous Victorian estate, complete with mullion-windowed mansion, landscaped gardens, parks and woodland, the past zooms to meet the present at IT camp. It looks like Lara Croft's stately home made flesh. Run by education travel company NST Europe, campers are promised three to four hours IT work a day, which leaves plenty of time for the extra-curricular activities on offer.

Who goes?

Nine to 13-year-old Bill Gateses with an adrenaline addiction. The sort for whom anything that Lara can do on screen, they want to do off it. The bad news is, it's for school groups only, but if your school isn't one of them, they can still take small groups of friends (minimum 10).


IT nirvana - everyone gets his or her own PC. There's also desktop publishing, the latest hardware and software, digital cameras, scanners and palmtops. Once out of the IT suite, bodies are shaken out of any virtual reality torpor by a selection of outdoor pursuits, which include abseiling, archery, mountain and quad biking and ropes courses.

What will they learn?

To surf, of course. Not point breaks but global superhighways and information networks. The courses have been designed by teachers (and are national curriculum-compatible) and schools can choose modules to back up particular areas of study. Otherwise, campers can dive in and out of CD-Roms, produce posters, program robots, create spreadsheets or use multi-sensor control technology. That's before they even think about a high ropes course.

What will they live on?

"A delicious and nutritious balanced diet carefully planned to restore energy expended during the day's activities," says the brochure - rather like the first-aid parcels in Tomb Raider in fact. Although it is unlikely that aspiring Ms Crofts would take up the offer of cocoa at bedtime.

What goes on when the sun goes down?

Talent shows, treasure hunts, wacky races, quizzes and discos to name but a few entertainments. Older campers may be tempted to sneak a few minutes traipsing up and down the croquet lawn, pretending to be on the set of a Merchant Ivory film.

Lodgings Grand. Pupils share four, six or eight-bedded rooms, all withen-suite facilities.

Keeping in touch

There's not likely to be much time for idle chit chat, but there are two public phone boxes on the premises if children want to call home. Parents are discouraged from phoning the office unless there's a real emergency.

Getting there You're on your own here, although NST can organise a coach for groups if required.

What does it cost?

Weekends: Pounds 56 per head; Monday to Friday: Pounds 129.

And if they hate itI NST doesn't have a policy on this for the simple reason that it has never occurred.

Contact: NST, Chiltern House, Bristol Avenue, Blackpool, Lancashire FY2 0FA. Tel: 01253 596659

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