Grants help campsite keep the magic of the great outdoors alive for youngsters
02nd March 2022
For generations it has been an annual treat for youngsters who are part of the Scouts, Guides and other youth groups – a summer camp full of outdoor activities and games away from home and school. But like the rest of the world, the global pandemic meant that millions of young people missed out in the summers of 2020 and 2021.
Across the UK campsites had to close their gates and shutter all their facilities.
One such site was Hertfordshire’s Lees Wood Camp Site and activity centre near Chandler’s Cross. Lees Wood is a charity providing camping and indoor accommodation in a woodland setting of 70 acres specifically for Scouts, Guides and other youth groups. In addition, it provides outdoor activities such as climbing, an air rifle range, archery, assault course and nature trail. But all of these activities ended as Lees Wood remained closed between March 2020 and June this year.
Like many organisations in the area, the charity applied to Three Rivers District Council for grant support under its Restart programme.
Amanda Small, treasurer of Lees Wood, said: “With the site closed we had no income but still the bulk of our costs. Whilst everything was done to cut costs the site with its wooden buildings, campsite areas, grounds and woods still required to be maintained to ensure we had a viable campsite to come back to when able to reopen.”
All the activities were halted for over a year, and crucially, for two summers. One reprieve came August 2020 when a reconfiguration in line with Covid restrictions allowed local Scout and Guide groups to meet outside in dedicated field space free of any charges. But this was short-lived as new restrictions in October 2020 ended the outdoor meetings.
Amanda said: “It was a huge blow to us. We are fortunate that we are all volunteers so the labour cost is ok – but the running costs are still there, we still have to mow the grass and cut the trees for example.”
A £12,000 Restart grant via the council helped with essential running expenses such as utilities and site maintenance. Acres of grass need to be cut on a regular basis and infrastructure maintained including the alarm system, fire equipment, insurance, security. With a camp such as Lees Wood there is also a significant amount of woodland maintenance which needs constant attention including the removal of trees that have become dangerous.
Amanda added: “The money has kept us ticking over, because we are not likely to get much income until next Easter time almost – almost two years with no income. So we are really grateful to have had that grant through. It has made a huge difference.”
In recent months Lees Wood has been able to reopen its facilities and gradually move back towards welcoming youth groups back to camp and enjoy their facilities.
Cllr Sarah Nelmes, Leader of Three Rivers District Council, said: "Community groups and charities are the heart and soul of our society, and I am pleased that we are able to provide this grant to help them to meet the needs of their service, and service users during Covid.
“This fund will help local organisations resume their activities ad recover from the very difficult past eighteen months.”
Three Rivers District Council is continuing to support local businesses and other organisations affected by the global pandemic. Find out more about support for charities and voluntary organisations here: https://www.threerivers.gov.uk/egcl-page/community-grants#ThreeRiversCovidCommunityGrantFund