Bouldering wall to close in asset review

The Barnabas Safe and Sound bouldering wall at Morpeth is back in business after getting volunteers and a make-over and seen there are (left to right) Instructors Louis Edgar-Mason and Hamish McMillian.
The Barnabas Safe and Sound bouldering wall at Morpeth is back in business after getting volunteers and a make-over and seen there are (left to right) Instructors Louis Edgar-Mason and Hamish McMillian.

The unique Morpeth Bouldering Wall is to close to help secure its charity owner’s future.

Barnabas Safe and Sound has decided to close the attraction at its Wellwood House base in Morpeth town centre as part of a review of assets.

The wall was installed five years ago with funding from the former Castle Morpeth Borough Council, but interest has waned and in recent months, it has been down to hosting just one session a week.

While it was enough to cover costs, Barnabas has seen other income fall and has had to consider how to make best use of its resources.

It says that closing the wall will allow it to rent out the space for offices or other commercial uses, providing a regular income stream.

The money will be used to fund youth work at the charity’s new Stobhill Centre and its housing-support services for young people in crisis.

Chief Executive Chris Menzies said: “At the moment, we are having to look very carefully at all of our income and expenditure.

“The bouldering wall was a fantastic initiative and a quite unique project in Northumberland, but the demand for the activities has been less and less and we were down to one session a week, which is not good use of the space.

“We need to maximise the income from our assets like Wellwood House. Doing that will make us more sustainable as a charity. Hopefully, we can generate income that we can re-invest in our activities.”

The review follows changes to the charity’s contract with Northumberland County Council for providing supported housing. Previously, it would receive a set annual sum, but now funding is only allocated as and when its accommodation is used. The referral system has also changed so that the charity can not accept tenants without going through the authority.

“We are getting less income than we expected from supported housing, which is due to changes in the way that referrals are managed by the council,” said Mr Menzies.

“It is very difficult for us to plan ahead because we don’t know how many tenants the council wants us to support so it means we have to be very prudent. We need to diversify to reduce our risks. We want to be there for the future.”

Barnabas will continue to invest in the Stobhill Centre, where it runs youth sessions every Friday and after-school provision on Tuesdays. In the New Year, it will begin consultation with young people to identify other potential activities.

“We are still very committed to supporting young people in Morpeth and we are investing more in Stobhill,” said Mr Menzies.