History of Charnwood

This is a potted history of the Charnwood International Scout and Guide camps. You will see that some of our information is a little sketchy in places – if you have facts, figures or memories that would help fill things out, please contact us!

1980 – The Start of Charnwood

The idea of the Charnwood camps came about in the late seventies, as a way of celebrating existing and long-established international links held by both Guiding and Scouting groups across Leicestershire County. Initially envisaged as a camp of maybe 300-400, no-one at that time could imagine a camp of 2,500 young people and 600 staff and service crew on a 45 acre site of the Bardon Estate.

Held at the foot of the highest point in Leicestershire, Bardon Hill, Charnwood 80 had eight subcamps named after the planets.

On the Saturday, as guides and scouts arrived, the heavens opened and torrential rain turned the site into a quagmire. That didn’t stop the Tanzanian group; used to walking barefoot in the bush, they stripped off shoes and socks and squelched their way to their campsite! Jacobeth Matthews made history by being the first Girl Guide from Swaziland to represent her country at an International Guide and Scout camp. All in all, 21 countries were represented, with around 500 international visitors.

Scouts and Guides from

Hong Kong and Finland

Tunisian Guides and Scouts

St Peters, Oadby

1985 – Medieval at Stanford Hall

For Charnwood 85, the camp moved to the grounds of Stanford Hall, right on the Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire border. The theme was Medieval, and saw knights and fair maidens from many different countries enjoying a week of fun and friendship.

1991 – The Return Visit to Stanford Hall

To avoid a clash with other county international camps, there was a gap of six years before Charnwood 91. Held at Stanford Hall for the second time, the subcamps were named after continents. This was the year of the necker wave, when The Dell – an open air amphitheatre – became a rainbow blur of spinning neckers. 3,000 campers from 20 countries were spread between nine subcamps. A contingent of Jordanian Guides were visited by royalty when Princess Bassma Bint-Talal, head of the Guide Movement at that time in Jordan, came to see what they were getting up to. Other international visitors came from as far afield as Nepal and New Zealand.

Opening in the Dell

Europe Subcamp

The Princess Visit

1996 – Special Invitation to Belvoir Castle

At the invitation of the Duke of Rutland, Charnwood 96 moved to a site in the grounds of Belvoir Castle. The theme, chosen by the scouts and guides themselves, was Movieland, and tents were pitched on a sloping site facing the castle, with a huge Hollywood-style Charnwood sign at the top of the hill. 15 countries were represented at this camp, with a group of Romanian Scouts (from a troop set up in an orphanage) able to visit thanks to the fundraising efforts of people across Leicestershire.

2001 – Back to Stanford Hall

Charnwood 2001 saw a return to Stanford Hall, and a ‘Round the World’ theme. International campers from 16 countries and a total of 2,500 scout and guides were based in Aeroplane to Australia, Boat to Barbados, Sleighride to Sweden, (did Rudolph ever get back his antlers and flashing red nose?) Ship to China, Train to Timbuktu, or Mule to Mexico, with staff floating in a Balloon to Brazil. Charley Wood was the camp mascot, and quote of the camp came from a visiting parent, who said “The Village (centre) is like the world you wish your children could grow up in.”

2006 – A new site at Whatton House

Charnwood 2006 saw a move to a new site – the grounds of Whatton House, owned by the Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire. 3,000 campers travelled through time to fit in with the theme of ‘Through the Ages’. Senior Section rocked in their faux fur Stone Age look, and royalty was spotted down in Tudors when Henry VIII turned up!

2011 – Return visit to Whatton House

Whatton House also generously hosted both Charnwood 2011 and 2016. Charnwood 2011 took as its theme ‘Habitats’, and with 4,000 campers, the camp was growing both in size and popularity. Who could forget the huge inflatable ramp for participants to zorb down – or the water cannon over Ocean’s gateway, which soaked passers-by (and quite a few hot scouts and guides) at regular intervals… It was also the year that the service team ‘planked’ everywhere they could; it was not unusual to find someone suddenly stop and lay down on a table!

2016 – Another visit to Whatton House

Charnwood 2016 welcomed 5,000 campers to ‘A World of Entertainment’, beginning with the Fabulous Fifties and working through the decades up to the Non-stop Noughties. The site was 25% bigger than in 2011, with over 6km of power cable, 4km of computer cable, and 1.3km of festoon lighting laid by staff. 460 international campers were welcomed from 22 different countries – including a large group of international staff.  The Mercy Scouts from Uganda brought hand-made bracelets with them, and every bracelet purchased during camp bought either a mosquito net or safe water for five children for a year.

The opening and closing ceremonies (and evening entertainments) were held in a marquee 45 x 60m – big enough (if everyone breathed in) to fit everyone in. The 1000 Stars Street Fair saw all sorts of celebrities from across the ages joining in the fun, and Jerome the Gnome tried out all the activities he could.

2019 – A new site, Cattows Farm

As to Charnwood 2019, plans are underway to hold the next camp at Cattows Farm, in Heather, Leicestershire. Will it be even bigger and better than what has gone before? Who knows – but are you going to help #BePartOf the next Charnwood story…?