The new SPEC campus developments, including Ark and Rotunda, are coming along nicely

Phil discusses the latest developments at our residential retreat centre for young people.

WYM director Phil Ross with Bishop Nicholas Hudson at the SPEC residential retreat centre
WYM director Phil Ross with Bishop Nicholas Hudson at the SPEC residential retreat centre

The SPEC campus is now really taking shape and the schools and parishes of the diocese will have a truly special venue for their retreats from the beginning of the upcoming new academic year. We’re all working tirelessly just now on the final elements of an exceptionally complex project.

Many people remember the Waxwell estate as ‘The Grail’ and remember fondly the ladies of the Grail Community who owned the estate from 1947 until SPEC moved in a few years ago. We’re working careful with their longstanding legacy and hope that they will attend the ‘re-opening’ ceremony planned for this summer.

“The young people of the Diocese are going to be thrilled to discover the new resource that has been created for them.”

Bishop Nicholas Hudson

The rejuvenated and extended estate is simply stunning; set in seven acres of garden acting as a beautiful backdrop for our important work. The gardens bring peace, calm and space.

Within the estate we have a refurbished round building, called the Rotunda, which is an ideal conference venue and capable of seating 120 people. The Rotunda has full audio/visual capability through a projector system, WiFi, tea point and toilets.

We have a fully refurbished wooden cabin which is sat in a secluded part of the grounds; a lovely tranquil spot in the middle of a wooded glade. This cabin has two rooms with one dedicated to art and the other focusing on music, but it’s also perfect for a period of calm and contemplation.

The extended garden will gradually develop into a nature trail and we are blessed to have countless species of tree and plant in every corner for students to identify. We already have our rosary walk.

An artist's impression of the Ark, at the SPEC residential retreat centre
An artist’s impression of the Ark, at the SPEC residential retreat centre

Of course, the centrepiece of the campus is our new residential complex, a simply magnificent building designed specifically with today’s student in mind. The ‘Ark’ can sleep 90 people, with all bedrooms (bar the mini-dorms) being en-suite. We have a full commercial kitchen, a refectory and countless furnished break-out rooms; along with two large presentation suites.

Our mission is to form the young people of the diocese, to accompany them on their life journey through adolescence, and our extended estate will provide us with the best opportunity to fulfil this work.

Our schools and parishes tend to look to us for retreats for up to thirty-three weeks of the year and this of course means that the estate will be fallow for the other nineteen weeks. It is during these quiet times that we are able to open up the estate for external hires.

Each independent element of the estate can be hired and this includes accommodation and catering in the Ark.

If you would like to hear more about our work then maybe consider helping us financially with a donation; or if you see us as a venue for a future hire then please do get in touch with me.