A coalition Government minister opened a former national park learning centre that has been transformed into a youth hostel.
Tim Loughton, a junior minister in the Department for Education, planted an apple tree in the grounds of Losehill Hall, following its £2m conversion into the YHA’s hostel for Castleton.
The property was sold off by the Peak District National Park Authority as part of its money-saving measures after the Government slashed its budget by 28 per cent.
The YHA bought the hall and undertook an extensive year-long refurbishment to create a 144-bed hostel with an environmental learning and activity centre for young people and holidaymakers.
The 36-room hall is expected to be used by about 22,000 people each year.
Mr Loughton, Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, said: “YHA, and the hands-on experiences it offers children through its youth hostel network, gives young people real-0life experience.
“It triggers their imagination, encourages teamwork and really brings them out of their shells.
“YHA, and the activities it provides young people, is a great example of how kids’ imaginations can be inspired and engaged without the use of computer games and DVDs.”
YHA (England and Wales) chief executive Caroline White said: “YHA Castleton Losehill Hall sets the benchmark for youth hostels.
“The accommodation and resources are world-class and enable us to continue providing a unique experience in the Derbyshire countryside to all users.”
The official opening was attended by YHA trustees and groups in Derbyshire and South Yorkshire who have helped transform of the former Gothic mansion and its grounds, including the Peak District National Park Authority, Sheffield Children’s University and Bolsover Woodland Enterprise.
Watching children from a Rochdale school re-enact a battle scene at the opening, Mr Loughton said it was ‘refreshing to see health and safety policy not preventing kids doing what they do naturally’.
Andrew Bingham, Tory MP for the High Peak, added: “Not only will it benefit the many tourists who flock to the High Peak, but it will also provide a great boost to the local economy.”