Alfie is continuing on in his scouting pursuits. He is in awe of the creator of the worldwide movement, Lord Baden-Powell (BP) and feels very special that they share the same birthday. Alfie’s other hero isn’t me, it’s Bear Grylls, and Bear has escalated even further in hero status since Alfie found out he’s the current Chief Scout.
Yesterday there was a scouting excursion to the Baden-Powell Scout Centre in Pennant Hills. I’d never been there nor even heard of it. I loaded up my people-mover with a bunch of extras and out we went for an afternoon of orienteering.
I didn’t know what to expect except for perhaps an antique and very basic hall.
I was very surprised to find that the scout centre is situated on 36 hectares (88 acres) of land that back onto the Lane Cove National Park. It was a lovely surprise to find such large and beautiful and spacious grounds in a medium-density area of Sydney.
The centre was in full-swing when we arrived with it being used by not just the scouts but by multiple groups from the community. One of the homes on the property is where the verger lives and she greeted me enthusiastically with a wide smile and took me on a quick tour.
The centre was built in 1929 under the direction of Hartley MacAllister who led a team of very dedicated scouts who donated their time and services for free. During the Great Depression the centre became a permanent camp site for those who were out of work. Grateful to have a place to live, they used their skills and worked hard to create beautiful gardens with sandstone flagging, an outdoor chapel, sandstone paths, and ampitheatre and camping flats. A lot of these features are today, Heritage Listed. The Centre has a very rich history with it’s most significant event being when Lord and Lady Baden-Powell visited the centre in 1931. One of the original buildings on the site is Pax Hill and it is full of charm and character. Apparently this building was created to be a replica of BP’s home in Kenya. I loved the wide verandah and the proportions of the rooms. The formal lounge opens onto the verandah and a feature of this room is an enormous stone fireplace. I was unable to photograph it as the room was being used by musicians rehearsing for an upcoming musical. The house has commercial cooking facilities and is often used for weddings and other formal occasions.
As I wandered around, snooping into every nook and cranny, it became very obvious that so much of what is there today is because of all the people who have donated their time and skills and labour to create something very special. So selfless! As you walk around you see a lot of people who are all giving their time to teach young boys and girls new skills and they’re all doing it with such enthusiasm and dedication that it’s quite humbling.
Alfie loved his first experience of orienteering. He was in a group of four boys his age and off they ran with a map and a walkie-talkie. They had to find clues that were hidden somewhere amongst the 36 hectares. I followed along taking photos. His group was back at the base first and then they sorted their clues of letters to form a sentence that became part of a story.
Lord Baden-Powell died in 1941 at the age of 83. His wife continued on his work until she died in 1977. (She must have been considerably younger as he was 55 when they married and they raised three children).
BP’s final message to his scouts was, ‘Try to leave the world a little better than you found it’. That is as relevant today as it was back then and those final words continue to inspire young people all over the world.
Long live the scouts!
Baden-Powell Scout Centre: Pomona Street, Pennant Hills, NSW Ph: 02 9484 2278