Our history

Bowles was established as a charity for young people in 1964.  Our former royal patron, the Duke of Edinburgh joined the team right at the start, and supported Bowles and outdoor education for young people throughout the rest of his life.

The Outdoor Centre has developed steadily over the past 50 years and now boasts accommodation for 140 plus a wide range of outdoor activity facilities.

History and the Charitable Trust

Bowles was purchased in the early 1960s by John Walters a visionary founder who titled his creation The Bowles Rock Climbing Gymnasium. In 1964 with the support of the Duke of Edinburgh, the Bowles Rocks Trust was created as an independent charity whose aim is to support young people through outdoor learning and development.

During the 1980s the teambuilding and experiential learning arm of Bowles was developed in order to help raise money for the charity’s work with young people – an early social enterprise model. Bowles L&D has worked with a long list of local and multinational companies over the years, specialising in the early days in apprenticeships for organisations like British Gas, and currently providing soft skills development for teams and leaders. Today the Bowles Organisation runs leadership development, team development and team-building courses for businesses, particularly apprentices.

Present day

Bowles is an outdoor education centre at Bowles Rocks. It is located in East Sussex near the Kent border, five miles south of Tunbridge Wells, postcode TN3 9LW.

The centre has 140 beds, two ski slopes, an indoor pool, archery range and high ropes courses as well as the Bowles Rocks sandstone crag. The centre specialises in residential courses, outdoor activities, personal and team development and experiential learning. It is a valuable regional resource for schools, youth and community groups, businesses and families.

Notable people

Former patrons of the trust include the Duke of EdinburghBrian Blessed and Richard Branson.