SCOUTING in Settle is alive and well and doing very well indeed, says its group chairman, Cherry Flitcroft.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, which has moved scouting activities online, the Settle group is flourishing, and brimming with new ideas, she says.

It, in common with other groups in the Ingleborough district, has suspended fees for a year for families struggling financially, after deciding to pay fees out of its reserves, and it is also busy fundraising for a new extension to its drill hall in Castleberg Lane.

The group has already carried out many improvements, since 2014 it has spent more than £70,000 on refurbishments and has £60,000 towards the £180,000 it needs to build the side extension, which will include a new internal access and lift to the hall on the first floor.

Cherry said she first went to Settle in 1999. She had volunteered as a cub scout leader to reopen the cub pack which had closed in the summer and had been invited to call in the drill hall to have a look round.

“The visit was an eye opener. The hall was then not owned by the group and no maintenance had been done on the building for a number of years and the interior reflected that, “she said.

The ceiling was sagging, bits were dropping off and landing on the floor because of damp and there was no plaster on a stud wall, with just nails poking out of the wood. Flooring and paster work also looked to be suffering from damp, there was no kitchen and just one gas heater to heat the whole hall. In addition, there was just the one unusable toilet and the roof was leaking.

“Never the less , cubs and scouts were meeting every week in the hall and having a great time but the beavers were meeting at St John’s Hall as the drill hall was inappropriate for them.

“What I also saw was amazing enthusiasm from the scout leader, Alex Macpherson - Mr Mac - and subsequently the same from the executive.

“Following a lot of hard work by our then secretary, Anne Foster, the group managed to gain ownership by adverse possession, registering the drill hall with the land registry in our name.”

Over the next few years, upgrading involved replacing the ceiling; plaster boarding the stud wall to create a storeroom/kitchen; and renewing part of the pitch pine flooring.

The side wall of the hall has been damp proofed and re-plastered, the roof has been made leak-proof, and two toilets have been installed at floor level.

A kitchen has been installed off the gallery, central heating put in, the electrics have been sorted and the inside re-painted.

“The probation service provided manpower, paint and other materials for certain aspects of the refurbishment which was a tremendous help,” said Cherry.

Once the improvements had been carried out, it meant the beavers could also meet in the drill hall along with the cubs and scouts.

Following the marathon refurbishment task, the group relaxed for a while before making plans for an extension to house a new safer entrance and other facilities to further upgrade the drill hall.

“Chris Maudsley, the then scout leader, had a draft plan drawn up for an extension and a further upgrade idea was born,” said Cherry.

“We asked Settle Town Council if they would ‘gift us’ the land to build on and they said yes, and we appointed Peter Lay as our architect.

“Our initial plans for the extension were extensive and turned out to be too expensive so a reapplication for planning permission went in with a smaller, but still useful addition, housing a new internal stairway and lift up to the hall level, re-siting of the kitchen, creating a cloakroom area, a disabled toilet with wet room facility, all on the main hall level and two new toilets, one with shower, off the gallery. “

Phase one would include work inside the existing building, while the second phase would be the extension itself.

Financial help for the first phase came from a variety of sources, and private donations, including Settle Rotary Club, Castleberg Masonic Lodge, North Yorkshire County Council and Craven District Council ward members Richard Welch, who died recently, and David Staveley. Money also came from Settle Town Council, The Craven Trust, Settle Middle School Legacy Fund, Skipton Building Society Foundation plus the group’s own fundraising.

Work in phase one included a new kitchen, LED lights, and wiring ready for the new extension.

Cherry said: “We have come a long way and still have £60,000 in our funds, including £50,000 from an anonymous legacy, but we’d like to complete our plans and create a building that makes scouting inclusive for all and the wider community too.

“We have still to raise a substantial amount of money for the extension. The total cost will be approximately £180,000. We have the £60,000 with a promise for another £10,000 if we can secure the balance required within two years.”

The group now has a new member of its executive who is devoted to hunting out trust funds and grants to help pay for the extensions, and once it is able, the group will be staging its own fundraising events.

Everything was going very well until the coronavirus pandemic hit and put a stop to everything.

“Many funding opportunities closed to us as they were redirected to projects directly related to pandemic relief, including the National Lottery. Face to face Scouting also halted, so we couldn’t fund raise ourselves,” said Cherry.

But, not to be disheartened, the group hopes to be able to re-start face to face scouting as soon as it is safe to do so, and to carry out its own fundraising. It is hoped trusts and grant providers will eventually look kindly on the group again and enable the scouts to complete its project.

“Please, when an opportunity arises support the scout group, whether it be at a fund raising event, at a community event or with suggestions of ways we can achieve our aim to make our ambition to bring the drill hall right up to 21st century standards for those in scouting now and in the future a reality,” says Cherry.

The Settle group welcomes any donations to help complete the extension plans. It is also accepting new youth members and volunteers to help out. Cherry Flitcroft, group chairman, can be contacted by email at: