Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Scouts bid to raise £5,300 to repair scout hut

THE scout group in Shiplake may have to fold if it cannot raise £5,300 to repair its headquarters

THE scout group in Shiplake may have to fold if it cannot raise £5,300 to repair its headquarters within the next few months.

The group, which has more than 40 beavers, cubs and scouts, has been meeting at a purpose-built wooden hut in Shiplake Row, opposite Orwells restaurant, for more than a decade.

However, the felt roof has started to leak, which is soaking and weakening the underlying timbers, and it is feared that the building might not survive another winter.

The roof is being regularly monitored and if it is deemed at risk of collapse, the group will be unable to use the building, which is about 20 years old.

The youngsters get together once a week and learn a range of skills including fire lighting, building shelters and map and compass reading. The beavers also have sleepovers at the hut.

Earlier this year, the scout leaders applied to South Oxfordshire District Council for a grant but the application was rejected because the authority doesn’t fund buildings owned by small local charities.

The scouts have also made the hut available for the community to hire but haven’t had enough bookings to raise significant funds.

Now they are appealing to businesses and members of the public for donations, saying a vital community asset will be lost if the repairs cannot be carried out.

The fundraising campaign is being spearheaded by 18-year-old Andrew Huyton, who is leader of the group’s cubs.

He is keen for the group to survive as his mother Kaeti Martin and aunt Debs Boughey launched the beavers section 12 years ago, enabling him to join.

Mr Huyton, from Binfield Heath, took over as cubs leader last year while his aunt remains leader of the overall group, which was founded more than 100 years ago.

He said: “Over the past few years, we’ve had a fair few storms and high winds which have ripped the felt off the roof and the surface underneath is damp in places.

“The hut is still safe but we don’t know for how much longer and we’d hate to have to close. A few builders have said we really ought to replace it by the end of the next winter.

“We tried taking bookings but that didn’t generate much interest, which is a shame. I suppose it isn’t the prettiest building but it’s in a beautiful location and has pretty big grounds. The hut is a very valuable asset. It isn’t worth much in terms of money but it plays such an important role in the life of the community.

“Over the years we’ve helped hundreds of young children to learn some fantastic skills and given them lots of opportunities to develop their confidence.

“We have worked with quite a few children who aren’t well. We’ve been on courses to learn how to deal with their conditions, so we’re very inclusive. Everyone in the area takes an interest in us and we’re very respected.

“I think a lot of children would be missing out if we couldn’t keep going – we give them the kind of experience they don’t necessarily get at home or in school. They learn things that are really going to help them in later life.

“Traditionally, we’ve always received letters of thanks from children and parents who really appreciate what we’ve done for them. They’re very enthusiastic and enjoy coming every week.”

The scouts plan to raise money through raffles with prizes donated by local businesses. Mr Huyton is in talks with several potential donors and hopes to announce some dates in the autumn.

Any money they raise above their target will go towards general improvements, such as redecorating the interior or a new patio.

Anybody who can help should email shiplake@thameschilternscouts.org.uk

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