Thousands of beavers, cubs and scouts will enjoy their outdoor adventures in a new home after plans to ship their Scout Camp half a mile south were passed by Salford City Council.
Middlewood Scout Camp in Worsley, Salford, has been home to Greater Manchester West Scouts for over 70 years.
It’s well-known not just in Greater Manchester but by Scouts throughout the UK and overseas too.
It opened in 1943 across 22 acres of green space and woodland with space for 800 young people.
Children have been coming to this spot in the middle of Worsley Woods for generations to camp out, try their hand at outdoor and survival skills, and to generally enjoy the beautiful, secluded surroundings.
But landowners Peel Holdings have allowed the Royal Horticultural Society to start developing the UK’s fifth national garden here.
It’s a huge £30m development across 156 acres of woodland which when complete in 2019 will bring tens of thousands of tourists to the area.
Middlewood Scout Camp is slap bang in the middle of this land being handed over to the RHS, and so has to close.
Under the plans, the camp will be relocated around half a mile to the south west to a new 30-acre purpose-built facility at Hollin Wood.
Peel Investments (North) Ltd have been talking to Greater Manchester West County Scout Council since around 2012, offering Hollin Wood for free, and helping out with paying for planning applications and the like.
This formerly agricultural land is eight acres larger than Middlewood and can hold up to 1,000 young people.
Andy Farrell, County Commissioner for Greater Manchester West Scouts, says he and his groups are excited by the move even if it’s tinged with sadness.
“Middlewood is part of the heritage not just of Worsley and Salford, or even Greater Manchester, but of the country itself.
“But at a time when services and funding for young people are getting cut it’s really fantastic to be involved in a project that’s going to offer a 21st century experience.
“We’ve got plans to install archery, rifle ranges, tomahawks and axe-throwing.
“That last one’s very popular, as you can probably imagine.
“Using a dead tree trunk – we’d never cut down one that was living – you make a boss or target like a dartboard, then you throw axes at it.”
That’s alongside all the other camping and outdoor fun and games that Hollin Wood promises.
“From day one we’re having a site office, toilets, showers, shop and a meeting hall that we intend to offer to the community at a reasonable cost.”
How much work is there to go to clear spaces at Hollin Wood?
“A lot,” says Andy.
“The way Hollin Wood is set up is different to Middlewood.
“So on one side you’ve got dense wood, on the other you’ve got open fields. It’s perfect for “wide games”; large-scale manhunt-type situations that can go on all night.”
Sounds like fun.
The 34-year-old has had his own Scouting experiences at Middlewood, starting with a day out at the Worsley camp as a cub at the age of just six.
“It’s the kind of place we would bring young people to build on their basic skills and teambuilding.”
And while it’s provided a base for so many years, the set-up and access is not ideal, so it was a no-brainer for the Scouts to make the move.
There have been concerns that traffic and access could blight the Scouts’ new home.
The main driving entrance will be from Grange Road in Worsley.
Some residents have complained that it’ll bring unwanted traffic to a congested area, but Salford council passed the plans, finding the benefits of the new camp outweighed the amount of traffic impact.
So is Middlewood empty now?
“Far from it,” says Andy
“As soon as people got wind that it was closing, bookings went through the roof.”
Middlewood will stay open until December 2016.
Andy says the Scouts will aim to sign the lease for Hollin Wood by the end of September, with a plan to move in and open up by January 2017.
“It’s not just Salford; every group in the county uses this camp. It’s great that we’ll be able to continue to provide outdoor adventures for children and young people across the region,” Andy concluded.