Catterick is already the largest British Army garrison in the world and over the next few years, further expansion will see it become the third-largest town in North Yorkshire. So what’s a posting there really like? AFFs North East Co-ordinator, Caroline Cossens, tells us more…
IF YOU’VE never been to Catterick you may not realise quite how big it is – there are 12 individual units based here together with HQ 4th Infantry Brigade and HQ North East.
All new infantry recruits also come through the garrison for their initial training at the Infantry Training Centre, but what’s it like for families? One spouse explained: “My husband did his training here and hasn’t been back since, but it’s changed a lot and it’s much better than we expected, especially as our last posting was living behind the wire in a remote location.”
Over the last few years the garrison has undergone considerable change, with the new Princes Gate retail park providing a much-needed town centre. Further improvements are coming with more shops, a new health centre and in excess of 300 new Service Family Accommodation (SFA) in the pipeline. A designer outlet opens at nearby Scotch Corner next year too.
Influx of people
Further rebasing under the Army2020 plans will see the number of soldiers and families increase, but this isn’t fazing those at garrison headquarters, as WO2 John Reynolds, military housing liaison officer (MHLO) for the area, explained.
He said: “In 2015 we co-ordinated the arrival and departure of no fewer than six regiments, so we’re well drilled in the organisation needed for unit moves. I’m confident we can make the changes as painless as possible.”
Housing in Catterick is a good standard with far fewer maintenance issues than in other areas, but it’s also widely spread. John’s advice for anyone relocating here is to realise how dispersed SFA is.
He added: “Your soldier’s posting may be to Catterick but you could be housed in Catterick Village, Darlington, RAF Leeming or Northallerton up to half an hour’s drive away.”
Settling into school
If you’re moving with a young family, there’s a wide choice of primary schools and a secondary school in Catterick, with two more in nearby Richmond. There are plans for a free school in September 2019 to accommodate the anticipated increase in pupil numbers with rebasing families arriving.
North Yorkshire County Council funds a unique team which supports Service children. Nickie Young, Service pupils’ champion in Catterick, said: “I’m here to connect with, and support, Service children through deployments, postings and life as a military child.
“I provide one-to-one support in school but we also hold emotional first aid courses for parents and teaching staff, a brilliant Service pupils’ day in the summer term and a Remembrance service in Ripon Cathedral.”
Access to dentists
There have been some issues with accessing dental care following closure of one of the practices. More than 50 families contacted AFF, some of whom were travelling up to 30 miles to see a dentist.
We worked with the dental commissioner to ensure that families had access to information and services. The advice is to use NHS Choices and search with your postcode; there are currently dentists within a three-mile radius who are accepting new patients.
Out and about
Catterick is located on the edge of the beautiful Yorkshire Dales and has excellent transport links thanks to its proximity to the A1. There are good bus links to Darlington, although Army spouse Jenny noted that it is not that easy to get to Northallerton or further afield.
“If you don’t drive, accessing dentists and hospitals can be a big deal,” she said.
However, as her friend Charlie explained, there’s plenty to do in Catterick itself: “There are always lots of events and activities on offer from the Army Welfare Service and other local groups and my kids have made loads of new friends that way.
“It’s also a good area for free days out; it’s easy to walk to Richmond or take a picnic down to the River Swale.”
Other amenities include the leisure centre, library, multi-screen cinema and even a nature reserve, Foxglove Covert – a little hidden gem tucked into a corner of the training area.
Army spouse Becka said that those living in Catterick hardly know they are in a garrison, adding: “[It] has had a bad reputation in the past, but it’s really changed in the last few years and become a much better place to live.”
Helen agreed: “I haven’t got anything negative to say about Catterick, we love it here and I’d be very happy to stay forever.”
Due a posting to the Catterick area and need some support? Contact Caroline at firstname.lastname@example.org