When I met Eddie Langdon at the Scout House on Jamaica Road, the day was spitting rain and we ran inside to get out of the wind. Grim though the exterior of the building on the corner of Southwark Park may look, inside it is a rabbit-warren of rooms, halls and corridors. Eddie keeps the hall in immaculate condition so that local parties and some classes can happen there but explains that the rest has now mostly been abandoned. The building is facing demolition in the near future so managing it’s decline is the main job at the moment.
So what’s happening at the Scout House?
The House has been an increasing burden on local scouting as we’ve just not been able to make enough money to put it to rights. But now I’m pleased to say we have made a deal with a developer to build us a new hall and better facilities in return for a block of eight flats on six storeys overlooking the park. The deal gives us a great opportunity to continue to provide an even better place for Southwark Scouting on Jamaica Road Rotherhithe and to offer great spaces to the SE16 community for hire. The plans have been submitted to the Council for planning permission (15/AP/1074) and now we are finalising the details with the developer. It’s a long thin site so we are very aware of the need to take the Park and our other neighbours into account.
Scouting was part of my childhood like many others. What’s it like these days?
Well, the first thing to say is that we now take girls and boys on equal terms. We still wear a uniform but it’s become simpler and easier to find – a red sweat shirt and scarf, jeans and trainers. The woggle still holds the scarf in place so everything is comfortable and works well in the outdoors. We still have the same goals: to stretch youngsters in life skills and help them make friends through outdoor activities. We meet each week in three age groups: Beaver colony (6-8 yr olds), Cub pack (9-10 yr olds) and Scout troupe (11-14 yr olds). The most important thing is the outdoor activities that give our youngsters real experience of the world and build their ability to work with others as a team.
What sort of trips do you take them on then?
We use a load of different spaces and locations. Many of our outdoor actives are near at home but some of the adventures take us away from London. For example, a few years ago, we built a teepee in the woods which was a great success; we stayed overnight in the shelter we had built ourselves and cooked our own meal. When we came back, we decided it would be a great addition to the Manor Road site and got permission to rebuild the teepee in Bermondsey!. It was a great experience for everyone.
For some years now, I’ve led Swallows and Amazons trips that take the group in canoes down some inland waterway and the youngsters set up camp with what they’ve brought with them and then we cook on a steel fireplace that Kevin Boyes at the Farm’s forge made for us. It’s amazing to see how for youngsters brought up in urban settings, this sort of experience just opens up their minds and hearts to new potentials. You can take the kids out of London but you can’t take London out of the kids! We regularly have to face up to prejudice from locals who find the idea of a group of urban youngsters in their neck of the woods threatening. It’s lovely when we can prove that our young people are responsible and caring rather than rowdy and mischievous!
So what’s the picture of Scouting in SE16 today?
We have four groups for young people 6 to 14 yrs old all meeting during term time. At the Scout House, the 14th Bermondsey meet on Thursdays 18:30-20:30 under the leadership of Darren Lodge; they cater for all three age groups but obviously are currently looking to move to another temporary home. The 16th Bermondsey meet at Manor Methodist church on Galleywall Road SE16; I lead that troupe and once again, we cater for all three age groups. Beavers (6-8 yr olds) meet on Fridays 17:45-18:45 followed at 19:00-21:00 by the Scouts (11-14 yr olds); the Cubs meet on Thursdays 19:00-20:30. All together we get about 80 kids and have about 20 leaders in the 16th Bermondsey. The two smaller troupes are 20th Bermondsey run by Jane Wood who meet in the hall of Mary Magdalene in Purbrook Street, SE1 and the 1st Rotherhithe run by Jamie Wood at St Mary the Virgin, Rotherhithe. Jamie hopes to find support for a move to Docklands Settlements in Salter Road meeting 18:30-20:00 for both Beavers and Cubs.
To join up or offer to help out, contact The Scout Association