Region: South East

Disabled Facilities: Yes

Category: Day Trip Destinations

Address: Lower Upnor, Rochester, Kent ME2 4XB

Contact: +44 (0) 1634 719 933



History of Arethusa

This venue has LOtC quality Badge

The Arethusa Venture Centre (AVC) is part of Shaftesbury Young People, established as Shaftesbury Homes and Arethusa in 1843.  It was the brainchild of William Williams, a solicitor’s clerk, who witnessed some ruffians on a train, all manacled together, en route to deportation via Plymouth.  He spoke to the young people and was so shocked by their stories that he decided to do something to break the cycle of deprivation and poverty among street children from London.

Working with Lord Shaftesbury, they worked together to offer boys the opportunity to learn a trade or be trained for the Royal Navy or Merchant service aboard a disused ship which Lord Shaftesbury purloined from the Navy.  HMS Chichester, the first ship, was moored on the River Thames at Greenhithe.  The Chichester was followed by HMS Arethusa, famous for being the last Royal Navy warship to go into battle under sail, the figurehead from which can still be seen today at the AVC.

The ship was replaced in 1933 by the Peking (which was renamed the Arethusa) moored at Lower Upnor on the River Medway. Sport was also important and swimming was a core part of the curriculum, and when the ship moved to Upnor a purpose built swimming pool was built so boys no longer risked picking up diseases from polluted water.  To this day swimming is regarded as important and AVC provides a modern heated swimming pool for all residential groups.

In 1974 the Arethusa, the third training ship, was sold to the South Street Seaport Museum in the USA and reverted to the name Peking.  The shore based facilities at Lower Upnor, still owned by Shaftesbury Homes and Arethusa, were refurbished and the Arethusa Venture Centre set up for groups of inner city children to get out of London and enjoy the outdoors.  The Centre has grown over the years and today works with 7,000 children every year, many coming from disadvantaged backgrounds.


Arethusa Now:

The Centre has grown over the years and today works with 7,000 children every year, many coming from disadvantaged backgrounds. Arethusa is an established provider with 35 years experience running school journeys and adventurous activities.

Making new friends, outdoor learning and having fun are the key focuses at Arethusa where young people are encouraged to attempt things they have not done before, whether it is a river trip in a canoe or simply taking an active role in a teambuilding game.

For many KS2 children a visit to the Arethusa will be the highlight of their primary years.

For KS3/KS4 and teacher training, Arethusa provides an excellent team building package offering leadership, trust and communication skills through an exciting choice of activities. Programmes available for those at risk of exclusion,alternative currriculum projects etc.

Arethusa caters for children across the special needs spectrum and provides accommodation for those wirh disabilities.


Why is this venue great for School Trips and Educational Visits?

Arethusa offers a full selection of adventurous outdoor activities and links each of the activities to individual life skills and the S.E.A.L. Programme, providing outdoor challenge and adventure in a safe and caring environment.

Trained staff provide a friendly welcome and receive regular up-date training.  The importance placed on staff training is recognized by the IIP ( Investors in People award).

The centre holds an AALS license and is recognized by both the RYA and BCU.

The accommodation is extremely well equipped, and has English Tourist Board 3 Star rating.  Users also enjoy the benefits of a 22m indoor pool.

The Arethusa experience consistently provides excellent outcomes: better motivation, making new friends, improved listening skills, managing feelings, empathy, trust, confidence and developing greater independence.


What does a typical school trip or educational visit include?

Residential programmes provide for up to 4 sessions per day, with 3 sessions for Day Visits.

Programmes are designed to meet the needs of each group with themes such as Adventure, Life Skills, Living Together, Moving Forward, Team Building, Self Esteem and Personal Development.

“Dry” Activities include Archery, Climbing, High Ropes, Initiative Games, Trust Games, Orienteering and Bushcraft, whilst “Wet” Activities include Canoeing, Kayaking, Dinghy Sailing, Motor Boat and Raft Building.

Please include information regarding location.

Nearest Train line strain stations are Strood or Chatham, both have great links to London.

 What size groups do they cater for?

Residential capacity for 100 in 3 separate buildings.


What can they provide you with to support your school trip or
educational visit?

Worksheets can be supplied at Pre Visit.


Can you take photos, video or audio? Are there any copyright restrictions?

No restrictions subject to usual parental permissions.


How do you arrange a risk assessment?

Risk assessments supplied for activities together with operating procedures.  All visiting teachers encouraged to carry out a Pre Visit.


What are the contact details for their education officer?

Contact Operational Programme Manager or Senior Instructor (Education): Tel.01634 719933


What does it cost?

A supervising adult stays for free with every 10 young people (once minimum group numbers are met)

Bursaries available for children on FSM, Income Support etc.  Contact Office for details.


Is specific clothing required?

Waterproofs and wellies provided, together with all specialist equipment.


Do you have first aid on site?

All staff qualified in first aid and there is a Duty Instructor/First Aider available overnight.


What facilities do they have for school trips and educational visits?

Full catering facilities.  Self catering not permitted.

Facilities provided for day groups with packed lunch.


Are there disabled facilities?

• Residential accommodation & Dining Room

• Pool hoist

• Disabled Abseil

Please call number above about your specific needs.

Do you have any testimonials from previous customers who have visited you on an educational visit that we can include in your section?

“Staff are excellent and enhanced the groups experience” - Lewisham College

“Staff were fantastic at dealing with the individual needs of all the young people and encouraged them to foster more positive relationships with each other”  Langbourne Primary School

Age of Children / Pupils: 8 – 10 years 11 – 13 years 14 – 16 years College University

Type of Visit: Adventure Playgrounds Bushcraft Climbing Environment Centres High Ropes Outdoor Education Outdoor Pursuits Personal Development-Mentoring Residential School Trips Sports Team Building Water Sports

Curriculum Topics Covered: Citizenship Geography PE PSHE

Months Open: All Year Round January February March April May June July August September October November December