upnor statue

What Happened to Arethusa Venture Centre?

When we first moved to Upnor, we’d see kids from the Venture Centre out on the water in their kayaks almost every day, but recently we wondered why that’s no longer the case.

According to the charity that owns the centre, Shaftesbury Young People, Arethusa Venture Centre closed down in 2019 due to lower demand and decreasing margins for the services offered.

We spoke with a representative from Shaftesbury Young People who gave us some insight into why it was closed and we did some digging to find out more information about the closure and what’s planned to take its place.

Arethusa Venture Centre from the outside
Arethusa Venture Centre in Upnor

Arethusa Venture Centre’s Closure

Built in 1935, the Arethusa Venture Centre closed its doors for good in 2019, apparently without much warning, but after many slow months of bookings. The charity behind the centre called it quits with a public statement put out on their website which can be viewed here.

Frustratingly (at least for many residents and visitors to Upnor) the public toilets near Upnor Beach were owned by Arethusa and thus are no longer open or accessible which has led to a rash of public fouling.

With that said, some residents welcome the closure as it will bring new development to the area, and for the time-being has reduced traffic and noise.


There was an auction held by Frederick Andrews Ltd to sell all assets, fixtures and fittings the Arethusa centre owned to raise funds before the sale. 625 lots were listed by Frederick Andrews on easyliveauction.com with the majority sold. For those curious, you can view the items that were up for auction here.


Popular with schools and local thrill-seekers, the site offered kayaking, sailing, paddle boarding and plenty more both with equipment available for rent and with instruction or group classes for institutions like local schools and colleges.

The activity centre had grass pitches, an indoor activity hall, plenty of storage and a jetty to launch small and personal water-craft from, but all are now going unused.

Alternatives to Arethusa

For all of those left high and dry by Arethusa Venture Centre’s closing, we’ve collected the opinions from our more active friends to give you the best options for the water sports and activities that were previously offered by Arethusa.

Kayaking / Canoeing

Rock Climbing Walls

Swimming Pools

Orienteering Options

All the above have maps available for download from the British Orienteering website here.

What’s planned for the site

The site has been sold for development to an unnamed buyer, but we don’t anticipate much happening for several years. Planning permission on River Medway’s waterfront is notoriously hard to come by, and the listed status of the HMS Arethusa’s figurehead must be taken into account. If the Esquire development in Upper Upnor is any indication, any development plans that disrupt the local residents will be met with strong and vociferous opposition.

We’ll be contacting the previous owners, and looking at the land registry to find more information – if you want to know what we find, join our mailing list here!

HMS Arethusa Figurehead in Lower Upnor
HMS Arethusa Figurehead at Upnor

Arethusa Figurehead

In January of 2019, the figurehead from the ship Arethusa (from which the activity centre gets its name and stands outside of the centre’s main building) was designated as a Grade II listed structure and as such is guaranteed protection by the government and council. This means that while Arethusa’s buildings and land may change hands, the figurehead (and thus likely the cannons too) will stay put and protected.

Comments (3):

  1. Kirsty

    September 19, 2020 at 9:52 am

    Hi – interesting article, were you able to find out any further information on who owns the site now and what will happen?

  2. brian chamberlain

    February 1, 2021 at 6:11 pm

    Interesting news shame about the new ownership

  3. David Taylor

    May 1, 2021 at 10:54 am

    Does anyone know who owns the site and is there any chance of the activities being re-opened


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