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New Activity Barn will Open for Young People in Winchester

Winchester Scouts to Revitalise Activity Centre with the Help of Major Donations

A nearly derelict activity space that provides shooting and archery practice for more than 1,000 local Scouts is to be renovated with the help of a massive contribution from local donors.

Colin and Viv Brooks, longtime residents of Winchester and supporters of Scouting, have donated £60,000 towards the revitalisation of the Activity Barn at the Pinsent campsite at Teg Down.

The current structure is falling apart and open to the elements; the money will be used to provide a lit, covered space so various supervised activities can continue all year round. So far this year, hundreds of Scouts aged between six and 18 have taken part in activities at the facility, practising air-rifle shooting and archery in particular. The renovation will allow many more people to participate much more often.

Part of the money has come from the sale of Leachpond Copse, which was originally given by the nation to Lord Nelson in thanks for his victory at the Battle of the Nile in 1798. This special wood near Fareham was bought in 1993 by Viv’s late father, Brian ‘Brandy’ Blunt, who became Mayor of Winchester in 1996. Brandy championed the development of young people in his home town of Bishop’s Waltham, and during his mayoralty he also became president of Meon Valley Scout District, where he remained for 23 years until his death in 2019.

Colin and Viv’s donation will make a considerable contribution to the cost of the barn’s renewal, which is scheduled for completion next Easter. There are also plans to add a bouldering wall, should enough additional donations come through.

“We are honoured and privileged to have been able to support Winchester, and our love of Pinsent,” they said. “On behalf of the Blunt and Brooks families we are fortunate enough to be able to leave a legacy to Winchester Scouts for the ongoing development, providing fun and skills training for both young people and the supporting adult volunteers who make it all happen. Pinsent was, is, and will be of great important to the young people of Winchester, through Scouting.”

This project is part-funded by the UK government throught the UK Shared Prosperity Fund by £38,000

For more information about Scouts in Winchester visit .

(Captions for pictures:

1. Colin Brooks, Richard Mendelsohn Chair of Winchester Scouts, Viv Brooks and Robin Cook District Commissioner for Winchester District Scouts.

2. Former Mayor of Winchester, Brian ‘Blandy’ Blunt, Viv’s late father.)


Notes for editors:

Winchester Scouts are fortunate enough to have their own campsite local to the city. Pinsent is well known by all those who have passed through Scouting in Winchester. It has been in their possession since 1935, when it was gifted to Winchester Scouts by a Major Pinsent, who purchased the six-acre site with two colleagues, so as to provide somewhere for young people to enjoy the outdoors in a safe environment and help prepare them with skills for life.

The site has undergone many changes over the years, and it is a very popular venue for outdoor activities and camps. Winchester Scout groups also use the site for evening meetings where the people can light fires and cook on them, play wide games, and learn about the abundant local flora and fauna. Many groups from all over Hampshire and beyond use the site for both weekend and summer camps. This year there have been over 50 separate camps and over 85 evening sessions. The site is also used by other Youth organisations.

A dedicated Pinsent Activities team was formed in 2008 initially to provide crate stacking and archery for Scouts aged six to 18.  In 2012 an old barn of 1940s construction existing on the site was cleared for use as an air-rifle and archery range, providing a safe and sheltered area for these activities. However, as the barn has no roof or lighting it can only be used during the spring and summer during daylight hours – when it’s not raining.

The new barn will enable these activities no matter the weather, the time of day or year. We are also planning to include a bouldering wall in due course when we raise more funds, something that could not be contemplated without a roofed building. In the last year the Activities team have supported approximately 1,000 Scouts. A year-round operation could take this up to over 1,400.  All the activities are instructed and supervised by adult Scout volunteers who give their time freely.

To further enhance the outdoor experience for young people in scouts so as to develop their appreciation of the great outdoors in a safe environment, Winchester Scouts are also raising funds to build a new Campsite Amenity building at Pinsent.  The site for this building is already set aside, architect’s plans are ready and planning consent has been obtained.  The foundations have been laid, and fundraising has begun for construction.

The new Campsite Amenity building will provide support for campers at Pinsent in the form of showers, washing facilities, toilets and washing-up facilities as well as a large undercover space for outdoor activities to continue in inclement weather all the year round. It will also provide covered overnight stays for younger Scouts who are not old enough to camp outside. The new building will support more frequent use of Pinsent campsite all year round, whereas, at the moment, it is only suitable for the older young people. All these activities are aimed at developing young people’s experience of the outdoor world and educating them with skills for life.

For further information contact Robin Cook, the Winchester District Commissioner on 07976 123385

The UK Shared Prosperity Fund is a central pillar of the UK government’s Levelling Up agenda and provides £2.6 billion of funding for local investment by March 2025. The Fund aims to improve pride in place and increase life chances across the UK investing in communities and place, supporting local business, and people and skills. For more information, visit



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News & Blogs

12/09/2023 By Richard Mendelsohn

SWAN a long, but brief History

The first SWAN Norfolk Broads Sailing Expedition took place in 1950 led by ‘The Admiral’ Geoff Keighley (1924 – 2008). He took a group of 15 Senior and Patrol Leaders from the 26th Shrewsbury Scout Troop, on 4 cabin yachts with only one week’s sailing experience. The week was such a success it was run as a 26th Shrewsbury event again the following year and then again and so on until 1964. In 1964 Shropshire scouts joined the expedition for the first time this was the start of expansion that would result in the SWAN we know today. With members from all over the country brought by Scout leaders who were once scouts themselves on the SWAN expedition.  It now includes members from as far afield as Shropshire, Hampshire, Devon, Mid-Wales, Cheshire, Cambridgeshire, Sussex, Kent, Derbyshire, Surrey, Wiltshire, Norfolk and Cumbria.  As a result, the numbers sailing each year are around 80, split across up to 20 boats.

This expansion resulted in the formalisation of the SWAN training scheme which was developed by Geoff Keighley, Bryn Evans and Kester Keighley and formalised at a meeting in The Forest of Dean in 1980. The training scheme created covered more than the requirements for the Royal Yachting Association (R.Y.A.) National Keelboat Certificates and in 1995, SWAN, through a local sailing school started to award RYA certificates alongside the SWAN levels.

The scheme was revised in 2010 in conjunction with the SWAN leadership and agreed by Gordon “Rusty” Carter of the Baden Powel School of sailing, Brundall, Norfolk.

The expedition has always had a high standard of training, enabling people as young as 17 to become competent skippers of inland yachts on tidal waters.

Many people have come and gone through the years and they all say one thing;

“I can't wait till next year!!!”

Basic SWAN Expedition Information

The week-long expedition starts in Wroxham, Norfolk on Friday evening and involves meeting your crew for the week, discussing meal plans, briefings and dinner. Saturday morning, breakfast; then to the local supermarket in our crews to purchase supplies for the week. We have lunch at the HQ and then pick up the boats at 2pm and set sail!

For the next 7 days the expedition explores the Norfolk Broads, mooring for the night at different locations. Most of the boats don't have engines so use is made of tides and wind to get around.  Typically, the expedition covers 130 km. in the week.  The day starts at sunrise, getting the boats ready to sail to maximise daylight.  Some days will involve cooking on the go and sailing for the whole day until the evening destination is reached. Other days less distance is travelled and time is taken sailing on some of the broads (lakes) located on the ‘Broads’’ rivers. This could be training time, games or rafting up on mudweights to have lunch.

Once the expedition reaches its destination for the night, the fleet moors up.  The boats are made ready for sleeping; cooking and eating dinner in crews takes place; ‘Gatherings’ and then bed.  Gathering groups are made up of 6-8 similar aged participants and meet each night on one of the boats. They are either social gatherings (games) or are training gatherings led by one of the experienced skippers on specific aspects of broads sailing (e.g. tides and navigation).  The sailing plan is dependent on weather and changes are made if needed.

On the last Friday the boats are returned to the boat yards around midday.  Boats are tidied and kit packed ready for handover the following morning.  On Friday evening there is a celebration night including songs and fish and chips.  The expedition sleeps on the boats one final night and Saturday morning goodbyes are said before groups travel home.

Part of the expedition is a training programme which aims to progress people to skipper level (obtain a Scout Adventurous Activity Permit (Yachting)). There is a progress book to complete and 4 levels to work through. The programme is challenging and can take one or even more expeditions to progress a level.  Permit assessment weekends each year ensure new skippers are assessed and current permit holders’ assessment is reviewed.  Passing this gives you a Scout Yachting Permit which allows you to be a skipper and take charge of your own boat.  Your permit lasts for five years before needing to be renewed and can be used in scouting outside of SWAN.

The SWAN Expedition is currently administered within Peterborough Scout District and managed by the SWAN Scout Active Support Unit.

Facebook Page: (1) The SWAN Expedition | Facebook

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Winchester District Scouts


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