Scouting has a long history in Sheffield, launching its first group in Grenoside in 1910.
Over 100 years on, this group – the 14th Sheffield Scouts – is still going strong, running weekly sessions and regular activities from its base on Salt Box Lane. This base is also the headquarters for the wider Grenoside Scouts and Guides, a partnership which began around 70 years ago, and which – as of 2019 – is booming with over 150 members, across its cubs, beavers, scouts, rainbows, brownies and guides groups.
“We’re proud to be running a hugely successful group, helping to shape local children into trustworthy little people who can go on to make an active contribution to society,” says group scout leader Dan Hopkins, who himself joined Grenoside as a cub at eight years old. Now aged 44, Dan’s three sons, Alex, Ben and Will, are all also members of the group.
“The activities the groups provide are fantastic,” adds Dan.
“In the summer months we get out and about a lot, and are lucky to have Grenoside Woods on our doorstep. We plays games in the woods, do map work, compass work, tracking, identifying all different sorts of nature, exploring the natural world and surroundings, pioneering, and learning traditional bushcraft skills.
“As we live in a multicultural society, we also spend time teaching the children about different cultures, different religions, and about the importance of respecting themselves and other people.
“Most importantly, we wrap everything up in a great deal of fun. We do canoeing at Oughtibridge, visit the observatory, go climbing, and spend a lot of time in Hesley Woods, where there’s an enormous amount to do. We also go camping as often as we possibly can.”
Grenoside Scouts and Guides is extremely proud of its partnership. After years of meeting as separate groups in cold and draughty halls, the idea of having a building suitable for both scouts and guides was proposed in 1944. Negotiations for a building and land took over three years and the whole project took almost five years to complete.
At a meeting in July 1947, it was agreed to approach Wortley Rural District Council about a piece of land near to the Workhouse on Saltbox Lane. This land came with a brick building which could be converted into toilets. By July 1948, the land had been purchased at a cost of £190 and the hut was officially opened in September that year by the then-chief scout, Lord Rowallan. Planning permission had been granted on the condition that this ‘temporary’ structure would be replaced within ten years with a permanent structure. It wasn’t demolished until the mid 1980s, 30 years after its useful life was supposed to be over.
In 1980, a new activity centre was opened on the site. This was a supplementary building to the hut and had previously been a scout headquarters at Firth Park School. Like all wooden buildings, maintenance was an ongoing concern, and in the early 1990s the decision was taken to build a new brick headquarters. After much fundraising the current headquarters was opened in 1996.
“Amazingly, we’re now looking to expand this building, hopefully doubling it in size,” Dan explains.
“We want to double the size of the hall, and provide an outdoor toilet and washdown facility. The work will cost about £60,000, and we began fundraising for this three years ago. As of today, we’re halfway to our goal, and have lots of events planned throughout 2019 to help get us closer to the final amount, including jumble sales, summer fairs, and galas, and – of course – our big annual bonfire night event, which always does really well.”
Today, Grenoside Scouts and Guides runs seven weekly group meetings from its hut, and is always on the lookout for volunteers to help out at its various events and activities.
“Adults giving their time to keep these sessions running is the biggest challenge we face – and also the reason we’re so successful,” Dan says.
“We can’t do it without them, and we’re always keen to welcome new volunteers into the organisation. About 80 per cent of our volunteers and group leaders have joined us due to an association with a child member, and some of the leaders still working there today have been there since I was a scout myself.
“We know that, these days, everyone’s lives are so busy, and we don’t expect people to do more than they can, but we really do rely on people’s time to enable us to do all we do. We’re keen to heat from enthusiastic adults with something to offer, who can spare anything from an hour or two a week for a regular meeting, to just a couple of hours every so often to help out with various activities.
“They’re lucky, with my children now all involved, I think they know they can get at least 15 years out of me!”
Dan’s mum, Monica Dyson, joins the group’s appeal, having seen firsthand the difference groups like this make to children in the community.
“i remember the feeling of pride I felt when Dan joined the cubs,” she says.
“I always maintain that belonging to scouts made him into the man he is. Organisations like Grenoside Scouts and Guides are so worthwhile to our children.”