Coronavirus: Downe Scout Activity Centre to be sold due to pandemic

By Sue Nicholson
BBC News

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image copyrightGoogle
image captionThe Downe Scout Activity Centre welcomed 20,000 visitors every year before the pandemic

An activity centre used by generations of scouts and school children is to be sold due to the impact of the pandemic.

The Downe Scout Activity Centre, on the Bromley-Kent border, was set up in 1929 by Scout Association founder Lord Baden-Powell to train scout leaders.

The hostel and conference centre, Baden-Powell House in South Kensington, London, will also be sold.

The Scout Association said a "drastic downturn" in income since March had led to "severe financial difficulty".

It added that a "massive drop in commercial activity" had already resulted in a number of difficult decisions, including cutting services and making 100 redundancies.

The site, which comprises 86 acres of mostly woodland, regularly welcomed 20,000 annual visitors before the pandemic.

It offered day visits and residential experiences for scouts, guides, schools and other youth groups, as well as activities such as abseiling, archery and shelter building.

image copyrightDowne Scout Activity Centre
image captionThe site has a tented village, along with camp sites and accommodation blocks

People who used the centre have been reminiscing on social media about the "heartbreaking" news.

One said many children and adults had benefited from "a real outdoor experience", while another said her parents had met through scouting and the site had been "such a huge part of peoples lives for so many years".

Others described the site as "scouting history" and many supporters have suggested crowdfunding as a way to raise the money needed to keep the Downe camp.

The Scout Association said it would do everything possible "to make sure that the legacies are honoured and heritage preserved".

"The sale of the assets will allow us to replenish our cash reserves and focus on supporting local scout groups through this pandemic and in the future".

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