SCOUTING FOR BOYS (AND GIRLS) ON BROWNSEA ISLAND
On the 24th January 1908, 109 years ago, Lord Baden Powell released his world famous book ‘Scouting For Boys’ – an all time best seller, second only to the Bible.
Baden Powell wrote a draft version, then called Boy Patrols, which he used and tested with 22 boys at a one week camp on Brownsea Island in the summer of 1907 laying the foundations for the worldwide Scouting movement.
Brownsea Island, just off the coast of Dorset, is now owned by the National Trust. Scout and Guide Groups are welcomed with open arms to visit the ‘birthplace’ of Scouting. There are even the facilities to camp there just like Baden-Powell did. We took a visit to discover what the island had to offer and it definitely didn’t disappoint us! This is what we found out -
Brownsea Island is the perfect place for Scouts to hold their summer camps or interim training camps for international adventures. National Trust are 100% supportive of The Scout Association and cater really well to all the needs of each group creating their own real island adventure.
To get to Brownsea Island you will need to head to Poole Quay or Sandbanks and catch the local ferry. The ferry company, Brownsea Island Ferries, is separate to the National Trust and bookings will need to be made directly with them. Look out for the brightly coloured yellow boats and you know you are in the right place. I think it is a very exciting way to start your trip – It makes the island feel special and sacred compared to mainland UK. You feel like you are being taken to somewhere untouched by the majority of the general public.
Once the group arrive on the Quay they will be met by a campsite warden who will help transport luggage to the campsite and gather the group for an initial induction to the site and the island
For camping experiences the island is open from April to September, and the site can hold up to 200 campers per night. Your group can camp on the very site that Lord Baden Powell used in 1907. – due to wear and tear this site is being rested but you can camp next to it, the actual pitch is still available to visit. You will be pleased to hear that the facilities have been upgraded since that first Scout camp – quite recently to be exact. There are toilets and showers, with disabled facilities too.
The National Trust offer the great service of equipment hire, so you don’t have to bring everything with you. I have never seen an equipment store so well stocked – it was like walking into a ‘Go Outdoors’ store. Things have certainly changed since the days of my Guide Camps where we used old fashioned ridge tents that smelt musty, as they only had one outing a year!
The campsite is in a great location, a 25 minute walk from the quay which is far enough up the island to be away from the main flow of tourists, just below the famous memorial stone with views of the beach.
If camping isn’t really your thing then there is the option to hire out South Shore Lodge which is a Victorian cottage providing hostel style accommodation for up to 24 people in bunk beds.
In terms of activities there is plenty to see and do on the island. Did you know that Brownsea Island is a Scout centre of excellence for nature and the environment (SCENE)?The first Outdoor centre Scout Centre in the UK to achieve this status. SCENE was developed during the 1990’s as an initiative of the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM) and there are currently only 27 in the world.
At the outdoor centre they run a programme of led and self-led activities. Many of them have an environmental focus which can help your group to work towards the World Scout Environment badge. In addition to this there are sporting activities such as archery and low ropes and water activities where qualified instructors can lead sessions.
We thoroughly enjoyed our day on Brownsea Island, there was plenty to see and do in a really great natural environment that is yet to be spoilt by the modern world. The only downside of our trip was that we didn’t see any of their famous residents – the red squirrels! So there is only one thing for it, we will have to make plans to visit again!
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