The nostalgic part of Wigan that lies at the heart of the Lake District

On the banks of Coniston Water, in the heart of the Lake District, lies a little piece of Wigan.
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Low Bank Ground lies an hour’s drive up the M6, followed by a half hour jaunt through winding country lanes.

It’s an iconic tourist destination, boasting stunning views of the glistening water at the foot of Old Man Fell, which towers over the small village for which the lake named.

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The outdoor pursuits centre, which on the beautiful shores of Coniston Water, gives children and adults the chance to truly enjoy the scenic expanse.

Wigan's coat of arms on the side of the Low Bank Ground building in ConistonWigan's coat of arms on the side of the Low Bank Ground building in Coniston
Wigan's coat of arms on the side of the Low Bank Ground building in Coniston
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More recently it has become synonymous with records week, where daredevils meet up annually to break different water speed records over a series of high adrenaline days.

From the car park, the centre’s connnection to Wigan becomes more obvious – with the borough’s coat of arms sitting proudly on the Low Bank Ground building.

Since purchasing the property in 1983, Wigan Council has used this site to help young people from the borough experience outdoor activities offered by the Cumbrian landscape.

(L-R) Orla Morrissy, Ether Freeney and Bobby Davies(L-R) Orla Morrissy, Ether Freeney and Bobby Davies
(L-R) Orla Morrissy, Ether Freeney and Bobby Davies
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Wiganers now in adulthood have nostalgic memories about the times spent kayaking, canoeing, ghyll scrambling, orienteering and fell walking during their week’s residential back in primary school.

To this day, Year 6 groups from the borough take the coach with their teachers 70 miles north to enjoy what is often their first taste of independence. Learning to tidy up after themselves, make the bed and even setting the table for meals is something of a new phenomenon for many.

Aoife Freeney, Bobby Davies, Orla Morrissy from Our Lady’s RC Primary School’s Year 6 group visited the site in May – with Bobby lauding their trip as a “brilliant team-building experience”.

They all listed kayaking and ghyll scrambling as their favourite activities, but what they took away from their trip was a new-found sense of independence.

Countless thousands of Wigan children have enjoyed Lakeland adventures at Low Bank GroundCountless thousands of Wigan children have enjoyed Lakeland adventures at Low Bank Ground
Countless thousands of Wigan children have enjoyed Lakeland adventures at Low Bank Ground
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“I’ve just taken my head away from it (being away from home),” said Bobby. “Obviously I’ve tried not to think about mum as I didn’t want to get sad.”

“At the start you wanted to see your parents,” Aoife chipped in. “As the week went on you almost thought nothing about them.”

Orla added: “My brother wrote me a letter and that made me feel so nice, but as soon as it got to Wednesday I completely forgot about the family. I am in a room with all my friends and get so much freedom and independence. My brother is 18 and he still remembers everything he did here when he was in Year 6.”

The trio, except Bobby, had never experienced scenery like it before and believed they would be more inclined to spend less time on their phones and more time outdoors in nature from now on.

What better place for outdoor activities?What better place for outdoor activities?
What better place for outdoor activities?
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From sharing bunk beds in the Highfield block to running down the fields towards the boathouse on the water’s edge to kayak, they all agreed that they would remember their experiences for a very long time.

Teacher Jessica Wallace, who grew up in Standish, still recalls her time at Low Bank Ground with fondness and now sees her pupils go through the same rite of passage.

“It’s my first time coming here with the Year 6s and I came here as a child as well,” Ms Wallace said. “It is something we’ve done every year and it is just fantastic, we’ve even booked again for next near.

“Being away from home allows them to learn more about themselves and not having everything done for them. We had a few that got homesick on the first couple of nights but that has passed.

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“So many of the activities have involved teamwork such as raft building, kayaking, canoeing, mountain walking. It’s all about teamwork and resilience, so many of them on the first few nights were tired and they’ve just powered through.

“You see them come out of their shells so much, on the first nights they were missing mums and dads and by the end of the week they are absolutely fine. So many had never been to the Lake District, even though it is practically on our doorstep.

Low Bank Ground on the shores of Coniston WaterLow Bank Ground on the shores of Coniston Water
Low Bank Ground on the shores of Coniston Water

“We sat around a campfire and I asked how many of them had roasted a marshmallow on a stick before and very few had. It is just nice for them to come and do things like this, being next to a lake, being on the water, it’s something not a lot of them have the opportunity to do.

“It has been brilliant for them to explore and use their skills. From so many tasks on this trip is that sense of achievement.

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“It’s lovely for us because you get to see a different side to them. It’s important that Wigan has this because if they didn’t, this trip would be far too expensive.

The centre was run by Brathay Trust for years until the council brought the service back in-house last year. It is now headed up by manager Adam Heathcote and his experienced team of instructors who design tailored programmes of activity to meet the requirements of customers, individuals and groups.

“For Wigan the big benefit is having the location away from the town and city to be able to facilitate groups coming out here for a reasonable price and give discounted and funded positions available for those who otherwise couldn’t come to the Lake District. That benefit cannot be measured really,” said Adam.

“Groups come out here and say things like ‘we have never seen a view like this’ and are awestruck. Children will ask what the dark patches on the ground are and it is because they’ve never seen the shadow of a cloud before.

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“The benefits for the local area here are really long-term, as now you get lots of people from Wigan coming to Coniston because they remember it from their childhood and want to come back here.

“Without tourism the village wouldn’t really survive. For private groups, they are staying here and they are going to go out into the village and use their pubs.”

The team offers a wide variety of equipment to support a varied activity programme of water sports, climbing, archery, bushcraft and problem-solving activities. Schools in the borough can use the facility at a discounted rate but now the site is offering corporate and private packages for businesses and families to take advantage of.

Since the council brought Low Bank Ground under the bracket of their Be Well team, it has attracted more than 20,000 people to enjoy the outdoor experiences.

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Earlier this year, the Confident Council Scrutiny Committee heard the site had £300,000 in place for further enhancements to diversify the offer for self-catering hire and larger groups.

It is hoped that once this funding is secure they can replace the jetty which has now been removed due to it coming to the end of its lifespan. Wigan Council also have high ambitions for the site, with plans to enhance the site further in the future.

To get more information or to book Low Bank Ground, visit the Wigan Council website here.