New Wickham scout hut is opened more than six years after fire

AT LAST! Front, UK Chief Commissioner for Scouts Wayne Bulpitt with Scouts and leaders at the official opening of 1st Wickham new hut at Wickham CofE School. Picture: Allan Hutchings (13758-174)
AT LAST! Front, UK Chief Commissioner for Scouts Wayne Bulpitt with Scouts and leaders at the official opening of 1st Wickham new hut at Wickham CofE School. Picture: Allan Hutchings (13758-174)
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SIX-and-a-half years ago the 1st Wickham Scout group saw its headquarters go up in flames, destroyed by youths playing with fireworks.

But the group didn’t let itself get beaten by the arson attack and has been busy fundraising to create a new £140,000 HQ ever since.

And this weekend, dozens of the current group members were joined by former Scouts and leaders to watch UK Chief Commissioner Wayne Bulpitt cut a ribbon and declare the new centre open.

Mr Bulpitt said: ‘Scouting thrives best when it’s a key part of its community and it’s obvious here how many people get involved.

‘It’s been six-and-a-half years of grief, pain and frustration and lots of hard work where everyone has pulled together to help the leader make Scouting continue here.’

Group Scout leader Barry Samways said: ‘The fire was devastating.

‘One minute things are all go and you’ve got a nice purpose-built place and then suddenly that’s gone and you’ve got move around.’

For two-and-a-half years they were based at Lyon’s Copse in Shedfield, and since then they’ve been based at Wickham Community Centre.

Mr Samways added: ‘But we’ve got through it and we’ve come out the other end with this marvellous building. It’s going to make life so much easier for all the leaders.

‘We have a lock-up where we keep the camping gear, but in the community centre we only have a cupboard that we are trying to run four sections out of. It’s been difficult.’

Joe Simmons, 18, now a leader was a Scout at the time of the fire. He said: ‘The worst thing was that we lost a lot of our equipment and a lot of the fundraising has been about replacing that.’

And Explorer Scout Thomas Baker, 17, said: ‘It will be so much better now that we won’t need to book rooms in the centre or anything. We can do what we want when we want, and we have this area where we can do it in private.’

The new centre is next to Wickham Church of England School in Buddens Road, Wickham, which has given the group permission to use its grounds out of hours.

And county commissioner Adam Jollams presented the group with a plaque to ark its 100 anniversary – in 2009.

They have been waiting ever since for a place to hang it.

The community and local shops, including the Co-op have been busy helping with the fundraising.