For those not involved with Scouts, the very name Barrwood has an almost mythical quality as being the place that schoolfriends would regularly disappear to “somewhere outside Denny”. They would return with tales of campfires, outdoor activities and lots of fun times.
Generations have made their way to the campsite to gain skills, forge friendships and benefit from time outdoors.
This year Barrwood Scout Campsite celebrates its centenary and the Trust which now runs it is looking forward to those making use of its facilities getting back to pre-pandemic levels.
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In 2019 it was used by over 7200 Scouts, but these numbers fell to just 2715 last year with the site only opening around the middle of 2021.
A booklet detailing the history of the campsite has been produced, mainly from a series of logs compiled over the last 100 years, giving information of the history of the land, developments and landmark moments.
Sir Ian Bolton was the land owner who bequeathed Barrwood to the trustees for the Boy Scout Movement in 1946. The event was marked with a ceremony and the planting of a copper beech tree.
His name was synonymous with Scouting Stirlingshire. A chartered accountant, he was Lord Lieutenant of Stirlingshire and awarded the KBE and OBE for services to Scouting.
When he retired as County Commissioner in 1966 after 50 years service he invited all Scouts to meet at a midnight campfire – with almost 1000 assembling.
He died in 1982 aged 92.
The first Patrol Leaders’ Training Course was held at Barrwood in 1922, although the land had been used for Scout camps as far back as 1914.
The log book noted: “In those days it was well known that it was much too cold or damp to camp out in Scotland before July, but as a great adventure and experiment, a joint weekend camp for the Patrol Leaders and Seconds was arranged for the Barrwood in June, in a bell tent – no-one got pneumonia in the sunshine.”
There was a large influx of campers in 1940 when with more intensive wartime agriculture, many Scout troops lost their usual campsites and Barrwood became the Falkirk District weekend camping ground and was well used as everyone looked for a release from wartime worries.
Visitors’ Day started in 1943 when General Sir John Shea, Commissioner for London, handed over Barrwood Certificates to the successful Patrol Leaders and over the years a succession of well-known Scout and other personalities have attended, along with hundreds of visitors. These have included several Chief Scouts and in 2012 adventurer and the top Scout at that time, Bear Grylls, arrived by helicopter.
In 2010 the Visitors’ Day became the Regional Fun Day and the most recent one on June 11 was attended by around 800 Scouts, Lord Lieutenant of Stirling and Falkirk, Alan Simpson, and Andrew Sharkey, Chief Commissioner of Scotland.
During the 1950s, the Falkirk May holiday weekend became recognised as the opening weekend of the camp, when up to 200 Scouts would arrive but in the years that followed the numbers grew.
A tree was planted in 1996 to mark the 50th anniversary, another copper beech, with all areas of Scouting represented in the simple service.
Over the years the landscape of Barrwood may have changed slightly to accommodate the growing number of young people and their leaders making use of the facility but the environment still offers an opportunity to be involved in a growing number of outdoor activities.
Gale force winds have impacted on the trees in the area but this year 410 saplings were received from the Woodland Trust and planted as the Scouts contribution to The Queen’s Green Canopy to mark the Platinum Jubilee.
The original swimming pool is no longer in use but instead the reservoir is used for a variety of water activities.
The campfire circle has also been upgraded to improve the focal part of the campsite.
Roads and buildings have been developed as needed – the first car park was only built in 1965 – while the there have been outdoor buildings constructed, including composting toilets, as well as a Beaver Play Area for the youngest members of the movement.
Hamish Scott is the current chair of the trustees and has a long association with Barrwood having made his first visit almost six decades ago in 1964.
He says his highlights as a Scout include attaining the Barrwood Certificate course, winning the Falkirk District flag and being runner up in the County flag.
In the booklet, he writes: “It is my belief that the Barrwood is very much a “thin place”: both when it is empty, still, full of bird song and the wind blowing through the trees; equally when it is full of excited noisy Scouts gaining new skills, self-confidence, and most of all, enjoying themselves.
The final words go to those who have compiled the centenary publication: “The Barrwood has seen many changes over the years, but its aim has never changed: to create a safe environment where young people of all ages can experience Scouting and develop into young adults with the skills and attitudes to serve them and society better in the future.”