HUNDREDS of disappointed children have become the latest victims of the foot-and-mouth crisis after their annual school trips were cancelled.

Lancashire County Council has closed its five outdoor activity centres, including Hothersall Lodge, near Ribchester, and Whitehough, Barley, near Nelson, to help prevent the spread of the disease.

It throws into doubt trips planned by schools over the coming weeks until the risk of disease disappears and the "all clear" is given. Education bosses will review the situation weekly.

The first "casualties" of the decision, which was announced on Friday, were 31 Year Six pupils at St Alban's Primary School, Blackburn, who were due to travel to Hothersall Lodge yesterday to begin a week of activities such as canoeing, orienteering and fell walking.

The children and their parents spent months saving the £130 they each had to contribute towards the cost of the annual trip.

"We had 31 very disappointed children when we were told about the decision to close the centre," said head Peter Keegan. "They'd been looking forward to the trip all year. It's quite a big deal for them and quite often it's their only opportunity to have a trip like this."

School staff have arranged a week of alternative events closer to home to keep the pupils occupied. Yesterday they enjoyed a trip to Waves swimming pool, Blackburn, and they will be taken ice skating and on other trips during the week.

"We'd already changed our plans for the week to swap a planned moorland walk for one along the coast instead because of the restrictions on going into the country but the whole lot had to be cancelled when the outdoor centres were closed," said Mr Keegan.

"Hothersall Lodge is fully booked so there wasn't the chance to re-arrange the visit for later in the spring."

The school held fund-raising events to help towards the cost of the week and that money has been spent on the alternative events instead. Parents will be refunded the money they had raised.

Year Six pupils from schools across East Lancashire traditionally enjoy a trip to an outward bound centre at this time of year. It was not clear how long the centres, four in Lancashire and Tower Wood in the Lake District, will be closed for.

A county council spokesman said: "We took the decision to suspend visits to our outdoor education facilities following advice received from MAFF.

"Scientific evidence suggests any risk is minimal but we decided to take no risk with the future of farming in Lancashire. We take our responsibilities in the countryside seriously and would encourage others to respect the restrictions in place during this outbreak."