Be prepared to help the Scouts finish their hall

Be prepared to help the Scouts finish their hall
Left to Right: David McGuiness (Snettisham Scouts Chairman), Chris Seare (Group Leader), Rob Shears (Snettisham Scouts Secretary) with their model of the completed hall.

It has proved a busy year of grafting for the Snettisham Scout Group, but their hard work is finally being realised as their new hall starts to take shape.

Snettisham Scouts are a long-running group; they were formed on 12th May 1932 and until recently ran from their hall in the village. This was sold last year for £100,000, but the group have been very kindly allowed to use the premises while building has been underway at ‘Jimmy’s Field’, near Snettisham beach.

In the early 1930s, Dr. Learoyd purchased a 20-acre plot of land with the intention of turning it into a scout camp site. His main objective was to have a site within close proximity to the sea where they can invite poorer troops from London.

With the help of the Scouts, scores of trees and bushes were planted, a well was dug out and a pump erected, latrines were made, a gate put up, and the field was christened ‘Diglea’, where hundreds of boys descended upon during the summer holidays.

After a scout trip to Belgium was cancelled due to war being declared in 1939, the Scouts stayed behind filling sandbags and beginning their messenger service for the war.

Diglea was taken over by the RAF and the American Air Force, and soon became known as ‘Tent City’: in place of all of their trees and bushes were concrete slabs and heaps of iron and girders. After the war, Dr. Learoyd sold the majority of the land but kept 3 acres and gifted it to the Scouts.

On the subject of naming the field, it was the doctor’s wish for them to honour Snettisham scout Jimmy Otway, who lost his life fighting in the war; thus, Jimmy’s Field was born.

For the last 70 years, the field has seen scouts from around the world come down to camp, as scout-owned land is quite a rarity. However, the premises lacked a lot of facilities to accommodate Snettisham Scouts full time.

“For years we’ve been talking about building something down here. Eventually, a couple of years ago we decided to go ahead with it. We’ve sold the hall in the village which has given us enough money to start this,” says David McGuiness, Snettisham Scouts Chairman.

In September 2018, Park Lane Hall was sold, with Lord Robert Fellowes cutting the first turf in December. Building then started in the new year and progress has been somewhat thwarted.

“We’re about as far as we can go at the moment. Unfortunately, we’ve lost our project manager to ill health. So, we’re a bit stymied at the moment,” David says.

“We’re waiting for roof to go on and outside cladding. We’re a bit short of manpower. We have a scout fellowship active support unit and we were going to do all of the work, but we’re all well into our 70s and we’re finding that we can’t do it. We’ve got the kit but what we need is locals to support us.”

The scouts wish to thank Coastal Building Norfolk for their hard work in building the hall.

The work is being funded by the sale of the Hall, with local businesses and locals stepping in to help; Tesco are paying for flooring, Adrian Flux will be funding for a set of toilets, an electrician scout leader from King’s Lynn will be coming in and a local Brownie girl’s father who is a plumber has agreed to help.

Once built, the group hope that the hall will become a fixture for the wider community:

“The idea of this is that it’s a Snettisham Scouts building, so it’s good for the whole area and nearby scout groups can hire the field and hall,” David says. “It’ll be open to mostly uniformed groups but eventually we hope to hire it out to the community.”

Led by group leader Chris Seare, the scouts enjoy cooking on fires, air rifle shooting, archery, and they do a carol service at the church on Remembrance Day. They have also helped out at the Hunstanton Bonfire Night by cleaning the site the day after.

They are hopeful that by early spring the hall will be fully functional and ready to move in. They are also planning a big opening ceremony to mark the occasion.

“It’s going to be the biggest thing in scouting in this area for a long, long time. Because most scouts don’t own their land but hire. It’ll more than pay for itself when it’s up and running,” says Rob Shears, Secretary for Snettisham Scouts.

You can check on the building progress enquire about volunteering for the rest of the building work on their Facebook page ‘1st Snettisham Scout Group’. If interested in joining the Scouts, you can visit them on Thursday evenings at their temporary accommodation at Snettisham Parish Church Hall, Station Road.

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