A new exhibition will explore 73 years of scouting at the RHS Bridgewater.

Salford provided opportunities for young people in the Northwest to develop camping skills and take part in outdoor activities.

The 154-acre plot is now a world-class garden and visitor attraction, but for many people, it retains a strong connection with childhood adventure as for over half a century, the grounds of Worsley New Hall was home to Middlewood Scout Camp.

It was the comments from visitors about their childhood experiences that inspired the idea of the exploration into the site’s history and a social media appeal launched by RHS in autumn 2021 resulted in hundreds of submissions which included comments, letters, photographs, and film.

Scouts sitting on terraces outside heavily damaged Worsley New Hall. Circa 1949, original image undated. Cunliffe Family Collection © Victor Cunliffe

Through the memories and archives of those who spent time there, the exhibition aims to tell the story of Middlewood Scout Camp and will feature photography, films, and personal stories as it offers a glimpse into the past.

Phil Rigby, who was the last warden of Middlewood Scout Camp, is one of the contributors. Rigby, who grew up nearby by Worsley, expressed how significant it had been to him and his friends.

He said: “I was just besotted with the place, I thought this was just tremendous, you know and that started what turned out to be a very long scouting career. There’s a generation that would come and tell you that they were the best days of our lives.”

Rigby has been caring for the site for 20 years up until its closure in 2016 and has an impact on many young visitors. The exhibition aims to recognise his contributions alongside others.

Scouts outside their tent at Middlewood Scout Camp. Cunliffe Family Collection © Victor Cunliffe 

As well as the nostalgic look into the past, the exhibition includes the team who are creating the next generation of Scout camp: Hollinwood Scout Camp.

The camp is based on 30-acre woodland site on Chat Moss, Greater Manchester and is the focus of a £250k fundraising campaign aiming to build the first stage of essential facilities.

Ste Butterworth, Hollinwood Scout Camp Warden, said: “Middlewood was important not just because of the place but the space and the opportunities it offered. We want the new camp to inspire young people to get outdoors and learn skills for life just as we did.”

The exhibition is free to visitors, but usual charges to the garden will apply. Salford residents can visit for free on Salford Free Tuesdays.

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