A decade of dreaming has formally ended at an Aldingbourne site.
The Duke of Richmond declared the headquarters of the Aldingbourne Trust as formally open in his role as the charity’s patron.
The ceremony and celebration at the £4m Quarry Building at the Aldingbourne Country Centre was the result of planning by the trust which dated back to 2009.
The Duke said: “The Quarry Building is the culmination of 10 years of designing, securing support, funding and construction.
“It offers a new vision for social care – where local businesses, the community and people who have learning disabilities and/or autism can learn, work and prosper.
“It’s a model which is attracting international attention. The impressive building is a new West Sussex gem which I would encourage everyone to visit.”
The Duke’s family have supported the Aldingbourne Trust, for many years. His father opened the centre’s wood recycling project in 2006.
Some of this wood is powering the three-storey Quarry Building, which came into use last September.
The country centre is in Blackmill Lane, just north of the A27.
It boasts an indoor slide, a cafe, meeting rooms and a shop for members of the public to use.
Two of the centre’s members, Sean Simmonds and James Weller, spoke to guests about how much they enjoy being involved with all the opportunities on offer at the centre and their pride in the Quarry Building.
James said: “The new building means a lot to me. It is a place to chat to the public, a place to work, have fun and learn new skills.”
Representatives of the Aldingbourne Trust took the chance at last Thursday’s opening ceremony to thank everyone involved in supporting its fundraising to develop and improve the facilities at the country centre.
This included people who had jumped out of planes, scaled the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth, cycled across the UK and Europe, and run marathons.
Special thanks were also given to the Coast to Capital local economic partnership for its backing.
Tony Middleton, its chief operating officer, said: “We are delighted to support the Aldingbourne Trust. The space here is truly inspiring.”
The country centre also has an open farm, new children’s play areas, a horse rug washing and repair service, and a horticulture area.
The Aldingbourne Trust is an award-winning charity that helps people with learning disabilities and/or autism to have the same chances as everyone else to live independent lives.
It was founded in August, 1978, by three parents whose sons were at a Mencap rural training site near Yeovil and were facing an uncertain future.
The parents leased 15 acres at Aldingbourne House, a 60-bed holiday home for patients with a learning disability run by Surrey Health Authority.
They had no experience of training or horticulture but made a success of the new venture.