Looking back at the activity centres

100 years of incredible experiences

12 December 2023

Chief guide Tracy Foster, chair of trustees Catherine Irwin and CEO Angela Salt reflect on the activity centres.  

As 2023 draws to a close, we wanted to reflect on Girlguiding’s time owning and operating 5 activity centres: Blackland Farm (West Sussex), Foxlease (Hampshire), Glenbrook (Derbyshire), Waddow Hall (Lancashire), and Ynysgain (Gwynedd). 

These are the last few weeks of us running these activity centres before they close on 31 December (with the exception of Ynysgain, which is currently being leased by Girlguiding Cymru).  

This decision to sell the activity centres was made with a very heavy heart. We simply don’t have the funds needed to invest in the properties to be fit for the future and keep operating. And we want to use our limited resources to support our members, and for more girls to have opportunities to experience adventure closer to home. 

A special thank you 

We want to say a very special thank you to everyone who’s been involved with the activity centres. The enthusiasm and commitment of volunteers and staff connected to the centres has been unparalleled over the years. The time and skills you have given has meant the world to everyone who has visited the centres, and everyone who’s experienced them will have a story to tell about the memories they made.  

We hope you’ll join us for a moment today in celebrating the wonderful guiding memories made at these special places. Here are some of our favourite facts about the centres:  

Blackland Farm (West Sussex) is a large, 120-acre site that was first leased to Girlguiding in 1938. Guides camped in the woods at Blackland Farm (West Sussex) during World War 2, when blackout regulations meant they had to camouflage their tents. After the war we began to see the Blackland Farm that exists today, with huts and campsites springing up all over the site.  

Foxlease (Hampshire) has a rich guiding history. It was the location of the first Girlguiding world camp in 1924, with 40 countries attending. A shop, post office and 10 bed hospital were set up for the occasion, and the campers went through 200 loaves of bread every day. During World War 2, it was used to train leaders, and later in the war it became a holiday location for members from bomb damaged areas. 

World Chief Guide Olave Baden-Powell officially opened Glenbrook (Derbyshire) in 1968, as an outdoor pursuits centre with camping for 20 tents. The toilets were originally latrines in the woods. As a Derbyshire centre, Glenbrook has offered lots of activities, including weaselling, a fun local rock-scrambling activity.    

The original manor house at Waddow Hall (Lancashire) dates from 1267, and the site has been used by Girlguiding since 1927. Waddow Hall had an eventful World War 2, when it was converted into a children’s hospital by the local council. Our president HRH The Duchess of Edinburgh visited the centre in 2011, and more recently, Waddow Hall was where we launched our new programme, with TV crews from Sky and the BBC. 

We have heard lots of stories from those who have felt a sense of belonging and community at these centres We share these memories, and they will always be with us. 

Adventure’s for all of us 

Adventures are part of every day in Girlguiding – thank you to everyone for giving girls opportunities to try new things and go on adventures, big and small, with their units. We know girls love adventure: 63,000 have achieved the new adventure badges since they launched earlier this year. There’s never been a better time to do something new and pioneering with your unit.  

When we made the announcement about the activity centres back in May, we promised to continue working to make sure girls can always access adventures, whoever they are and wherever they are from – and there’ll be more to share about adventure in the new year. 

Once again, our heartfelt thanks go to all adult members, volunteers and staff at the activity centres for helping girls to spend time with their guiding friends, try new things and feel the sense of belonging and warmth Girlguiding experiences can bring. Each of the three of us has had the opportunity to make unique guiding memories at the centres, which we treasure. We know that through our adventure work members will continue to have amazing experiences for years to come.  

Tracy Foster, chief guide 

Catherine Irwin, chair of the board  

Angela Salt, CEO