The Gilwell Oak : Scouting rediscovers its roots

Today’s blog has been written by Caroline Pantling, Heritage Service Manager with the Scout Association. Their Heritage Team have recently won the Woodland Trust’s 2017 Tree of the Year competition. 

The Scout Association Heritage Team have used this quirky competition, run by The Woodland Trust, to raise the profile of Gilwell’s historic landscape and Scouting’s fascinating heritage. Having won the public vote to become England’s Tree of the Year the Oak then faced competition from the other home nations and were appointed UK Tree of the Year by a panel of experts and became the UK’s representative for the European Tree of the Year.


The Gilwell Oak has become renowned throughout the world. Scouting’s founder, Robert Baden-Powell used the oak tree as an analogy for the growth of Scouting. He referred to the experimental camp run for 20 boys on Brownsea Island in 1907 as the acorn from which the oak tree of Scouting grew. Today the Gilwell Oak sits at the heart of a Scout Adventure centre which welcomes over 40,000 young people every year.


The Gilwell Oak is located on edge of Gilwell’s Training Ground. The training offered at Gilwell Park was the first of its kind, Scout leaders from around the world attended training at Gilwell. On their return home many set up their own training centres to pass on their learning. In this way the legend of Gilwell spread and the idyllic scene of Scouts taking shelter from the summer sun (or rain) under the branches of the Training Ground’s most iconic tree became well known.


For many Scouts around the world a trip to Gilwell Park is a long held dream, hundreds visit Gilwell each year to pay homage to those who have gone before and to, maybe, collect a leaf and an acorn from its longest standing resident.

The Debut of the Historic Buildings Network (HBN)

In our latest guest blog, Clare HuntCuratorial Manager at Southend Museums Service, tells the story of the emergence of a new network for SHARE Museums East.

I have a habit of saying things like ‘Would anyone be interested in a historic buildings network?’ Well, of course they were, and at a very busy launch event last September we decided what our priorities would be for the group as far as event themes. I like to think that the HBN events will not all be training as such, but networking or case study days where we can nose about in each other’s buildings and unearth handy information and mutual frustrations!

Prittlewell Priory smThe first event for the HBN was about interpreting historic buildings – the top subject identified at last year’s launch meeting. I decided to set it in Southend where we have two beautiful listed buildings, Southchurch Hall and Prittlewell Priory, which have had radically different approaches to interpretation.

All in all I think everyone enjoyed poking around our lovely buildings and the 8 delegates included curators from the National Trust and English Heritage who are obviously taking an active interest in other historic sites in the region and enjoyed seeing how other organizations cope with the challenges that complicated and crumbling buildings bring!

Southchurch Hall smI certainly enjoyed showing our buildings off whilst giving the group some case studies about the differing methods we have used to explain our buildings to the visiting public. Assisting this were Rob Colby-Blake (pictured here in full Tudor regalia at Southchurch Hall) who explained the way schools are introduced to Southend’s sites, and Cathy Terry from Norfolk Museums who talked about her dynamic Mayors and Magnates project at Strangers’ Hall in Norwich.

Our plans are that the next HBN event will concentrate on conservation and the historic environment. The lovely conservators in our network will be organizing this so keep a look out on the SHARE calendar as it will be full of helpful information and essential for those who are trying to keep old buildings and their contents in good order.

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