Forestry Education and Learning Projects

Whittingham Baden Powell Scouts 2016

The Highly Commended Excellence in Forestry went to this scout group who link activities with conservation issues.

1st Whittingham Baden Powell Scout Group

Managed by: Ms Ninnette Gray

Highly Commended: Excellence in Forestry 2016


1st Whittingham Baden Powell Scout Group was formed in 2005 by Ninette Gray as her children had reached an age where she wanted some structured outdoor activity for them.

Ninette works as an architect but has a passion for the outdoors and has created an environment for children of all ages to play, learn and develop in the outdoors -very much in keeping with Baden Powell’s original vision of scouting. The Group comprises Beavers, Cubs, Scouts, Senior Scouts and Rovers for adults.

Ninette is supported by various adult volunteers, many of them parent of scouting children. The emphasis at each stage of scouting changes as the participants grow, so beavers learn about participating and cooperating, cubs about basic outdoorsmanship and scouts more formal plant and wildlife identification and tracking and pioneering skills.

Across the age range, about 25% of the time is spent on the core curriculum of the scout movement. The remaining 75% reflects the leader’s interest in the outdoors. As well as play, wild food and shelter building, visits are organised to local sawmills and joiners to demonstrate how trees become products. The children work towards badges and, for the older members, mapping their skills and activities towards the Duke of Edinburgh award. Through scouting, young people are able to gain outdoor experience and skills, learn to work in teams and develop their personal confidence.

Despite the beauty of Northumberland, unemployment is relatively high, and there is a desire to expose the children to different jobs or sectors that they could consider. There is also a lot of sports and activities like canoeing, and a second expedition to Africa is being organised. Working on forestry and conservation projects in another country is a great way for young people to come together and find common ground through which to bridge cultural differences.


Inevitably, there is a significant duty of care and responsibility in terms of Health and Safety, Risk Assessments and Child Protection, but the leaders apply solid common sense to all of these.

Risk assessments are carried out formally and dynamically; formal activities like rock climbing need to be staffed by qualified instructors, and the roll is recorded each week to maintain good records. However, Ninette says she feels well supported by the B-PSA Scouts’ Association, and the paperwork does not get in the way of getting outside and having adventures.


1st Whittingham is a remarkable demonstration of what can be achieved if the leader or volunteers are determined to lead a full programme of activities.

Linking scouting activities with knowledge of forests and forest management is a great way of engaging young people with conservation issues. All of the children are enthusiastic about trees and the outdoors but are too busy having fun to realise they are learning a lot of lessons that will help them in later life.

For further information, visit

Author: Mike Page

Award Sponser: