History and Development
Girlguiding Cheshire Forest purchased an area of woodland in Sandiway in the late 70’s.The land had been left untouched for years. The ground was covered in fallen trees, brambles and nettles.
Through hours of volunteer effort, 17 acres were transformed into a thriving activity centre. This now comprises of a residential building, campsites, habitat areas and activity areas. The centre is used by Girlguiding members from all over Cheshire: Warrington/Widnes to the North, Middlewich to the East, Malpas to the South and Chester to the West. It is also available for use by other recognised youth groups where space allows.
The original residential building was erected in the 1980s, was pre-fabricated and unsuitable for disabled members and mixed groups. It was expensive to heat and showing signs of age. In 2010 following a consultation process with our young members, the County Trustees agreed that a replacement residential building should be built.
The development of the design and fundraising then began. Members from all Guiding sections were involved, putting forward their ideas as to what should be included in the new building. Finally after completing land and ecology surveys, etc. planning permission was granted in 2015.
In 2016 it was agreed by the County Trustees that although there were insufficient funds to complete the build, the project should be started. The shell, activity room and dining room would be built first, with the bedrooms and kitchen fit out to follow in phase 2 when sufficient funds had been raised. It was extremely difficult to receive any funding through grants as we seem to be ineligible in many cases. We are extremely grateful for any external support that we received.
The new residential building is located on an area previously used as a campsite. It is a terraced site with views over existing woodland. The land was cleared in February 2016 (to conform to ecological requirements). Excavation began in mid October 2016. Phase 1 was completed in October 2017. The new residential building (named The Lookout) sleeps 30 plus leaders in en-suite rooms of 4/6. It has full disabled facilities including a bedroom with hoist and care facilities. Phase 2 was completed in October 2018. In October 2019 we had a formal opening ceremony, with HRH Sophie Wessex, President of Girlguiding, also attended by Amanda Medler, Chief Guide.
The Lookout is in a raised location and has direct access to an outdoor deck area and the surrounding woodland. The design and materials used were chosen so that the building fits well in the woodland setting.
The adaptable design of the new building and the increase in number of residents enables greater use than the previous dated building, particularly to those requiring disabled facilities and mixed groups. Our architects (Walker Simpson) won two prestigious awards for the design of the building.
This was a huge project for Girlguiding Cheshire Forest to undertake but now it’s complete, members have a building that is adaptable and inclusive. It offers unique outdoor experiences in a safe rural environment, particularly for young people who do not have access to the countryside in their normal everyday lives.
The next project was the Ranger Den. This was situated on Willow campsite and was another pre-fabricated building, previously used as a doctor’s surgery. This building has been replaced on the same site with a brand new purpose built structure. Planning permission was granted in 2021. Construction started in March 2022, it was finished in August 2022 and will open for bookings in January 2023. The design and materials are similar to those used for The Lookout.
The original (old) residential building now houses the Pettypool shop, has a large indoor activity room and provides some additional storage.