Swapping their paddles and harnesses in favour of overalls and tools

a recruitment process dedicated to team dynamics, the immediate future
of Actual Reality looks like it’s being carried by its front-line
staff, whilst its board wrestles with the local authority to secure the
castles future.    

a dramatic rally of support from over 5000 campaigners using the social
networking website, Facebook the work of a great team of instructors
might have been saved.   Having joined the Facebook campaign and having
engaged in the discussion boards, I was passionate about the cause and
decided that I should ‘do my bit’.

"I was passionate about the cause and decided that I should – do my bit"

was one of those spur of the moment decisions that have punctuated my
life over the years.  I decided to take part in a march in support of
the work of the company ‘Actual Reality’, an outdoor education provider
who operates out of a picturesque castle on the West coast of


recent months the activities of one of Scotland’s premier outdoor
education centres has been put under threat.   The centre based at
Castle Toward, was closed by the building’s owners, Argyll and Bute
Council in November last year following a combination of both fire
stipulations and overdue maintenance needs not undertaken by the

landed in Glasgow on Thursday and was keen to get to grips with the
issues at first hand. It was then that I was introduced to the
dedicated staff of Castle Toward.  Uncertain about their professional
futures, the atmosphere was light and hardworking.     I took
photographs of banners on the castle advertising the forthcoming march
and public meeting.



pressure applied by local community stakeholders together with the
‘Facebook 5000’ did make a difference and at public meeting, the
council made an apparent u-turn.  The council representatives declared
their intent to work alongside Actual Reality to resolve the problems
and re-open the castle on 1st March enabling kids from all over
Scotland to benefit once again.

"the ‘Facebook 5000’ did make a difference"

closure threat to the outdoor activity residential education centre has
attracted almost 1,400 signatures on a petition calling for it to stay
open and the council obviously listened. 

early January, following the closure and amid heavy criticism of Argyll
and Bute Council for its handling of the situation, local supporters
requested that South Cowal Community Council facilitate a public
meeting to discuss the situation, with council officers in attendance.

of Argyll and Bute Council and Actual Reality Learning and Leadership
Ltd had a very positive meeting on 22nd January which cut ‘the Gordian

a gathering of supporters around the bandstand in Dunoon, at a public
meeting on Saturday 30th January, Dr Chris Mason speaking on behalf of
the Directors of Actual Reality explained, “the 1st March opening date
is a great step forward and the company is now engaged in negotiations
with a view of buying the castle and a proportion of the estate from
Argyll and Bute”.

"the 1st March opening date is a great step forward"

Image courtesy of Dunoon Observer and Argyllshire Standard

the Facebook campaigners are still gearing up to fight the rest of the
war in support of buying the castle, staff at the castle are fighting
their own battle at the front line leading up to the 1st March. 

a push to complete remedial works required in order that Castle Toward
is fully occupied and used for residential accommodation, it’s all
hands on deck, with instructors swapping their paddles and harnesses in
favour of overalls and tools. 


council released a statement saying, “If the agreed works are completed
to the satisfaction of both parties, Castle Toward will be able to be
used by Actual Reality for the delivery of its outdoor education


an official statement released by Actual Reality it was confirmed
“Castle Toward is a beacon, a bright light on the radar of Scottish
education provision whose contribution to the skills, knowledge,
attitudes and understanding of countless young people is legend.  We
are now all going to work together to carry that capacity forward for
future generations thus helping to develop the confident and
responsible citizens and contributors upon whom so much will depend as
we face more and more complicated options for a sustainable future”.

“Pedro” Clark, Senior Instructor for Castle Toward, overseeing an
18-strong team of outdoor educators said “It’s fantastic that everyone
has rallied so hard to get the place ready for the kids when they start
coming again.”

"It’s fantastic that everyone has rallied so hard"

during the interview when describing how staff are recruited Pete
explained, “unlike some other centres up and down the country, it’s not
about being macho or testosterone fuelled, it’s not about whether a
person has the best kit or has the most qualifications. It’s about
whether they will fit in and contribute positively to the team.”

the comments left on the discussion board of the Facebook group, it’s
clear that the team make a big difference to 6000 or so kids who pass
through the centre every year before considering the secondary positive
effects the castle brings to the surrounding local community.   

"my thoughts rest on the Castle Toward instructors and their battle I think they will win"

my limited time sitting in the staff room and sharing tea-breaks with
the crew, I left feeling inspired that the castle is in safe hands. 
The front-line instructors are a light hearted and passionate bunch. 
They are the heart-beat of the castle without whom, the castle just
turns into a  Victorian pile of stone and mortar. 


one member of the ‘Facebook 5000’ and reflecting on my experience
whilst on my flight down to Gatwick, my thoughts rest on the Castle
Toward instructors and their battle I think they will win.   


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