PLANS to sell off a Christian centre that provided outdoor
activities for thousands of children for almost two decades have
been described as a "huge disappointment" by the man who started
Keith Leighton, who has managed the centre, Woodland Camp, in
Lambourne End, Essex, since 1995, said that he was "heartbroken"
that its owners, the Methodist Church in Tower Hamlets, had put it
on the market.
"Their only interest is in getting as much money as possible,"
he said. "This is such a wonderful place to bring young people to
God. . . They are losing a potentially massive asset. They are
looking inwards instead of outward. They forget that what we are
meant to be doing here is following Jesus; it's tragic.
"This place has brought many, many people to Christ. It is a
Christian centre, bringing Christians from all round the world as
well as Britain; but this is the end of it."
The camp, which is expected to sell for well above its guide
price of £740,000, is on the north-east edge of London, in green
belt land, yet is less than a mile from the nearest Underground
The Methodist Church has owned the 17.3-acre site since 1938,
when it acquired it in a deal with Essex and the former London
County Councils. It was originally intended as a charity, providing
holidays for children from the East End of London, but Mr Leighton
said that it was derelict when he approached the owners 18 years
ago with a plan for a young people's activity centre.
"It has taken nearly 20 years to get to this position," Mr
Leighton said. "Now it's a fantastic place; people love coming
here; they call it God's Little Kingdom. How can a Church, a
Christian organisation, do this?"
The chief executive officer of the Methodist Church in Tower
Hamlets, Peter Barlow, said: "It's not a core part of the
charitable business for the Methodist Church in Tower Hamlets. So,
rather than just manage a pile of liabilities . . . the funds will
be much better used in work that we can do directly for the young
people of the East End. . .
"As an asset, it could be sweated a lot harder, but that is
difficult for us, given its remoteness from Tower Hamlets, and it
would probably be better run by someone whose industry that