Scouting in Aylesford

The Scout movement was formed by Baden-Powell who had returned to England a national hero, after defending the town of Mafeking (Mafikeng as it is now spelled) for seven months from the besieging Boer troops, the first real British triumph in the Boer War.

When he returned to England, he discovered that many boys and young men were avidly reading his book Aids to Scouting. This book was intended as a military training manual, teaching soldiers techniques such as observation, tracking, and initiative... Baden Powell ran the first trial camp of Boy Scouts at Brownsea Island, Dorset during August 1-9th 1907

Aylesford has been associated with the Scout movement for over 80 years. In the early 1920’s the Pilgrims Hall at the Friars was used as a venue for scouting activities and in 1926 Mr Copley Hewitt the owner at that time was presented with the badge of Silver Wolf by Lord Baden Powell. This badge is the highest honour in scouting.

Lord Baden Powel
Mr Copley-Hewitt (right) and Lord Baden Powell (centre) At Aylesford Friary 1926
The year BP went on his Great Marathon promoting Scouting in Africa

Malling District Formative Years

The Malling Scout District was initially formed in 1947 and consisted of many civil parishes, of which Aylesford was one.


Malling District was formed on 14th September 1946, the Imperial Headquarters of The Boy Scouts Association, issued a Warrant 9 May 1947 showing the extent of Malling District to be the "Malling Rural District" consisting of the Civil Parishes of:

Addington - Aylesford - Birling - Borough Green - Burham - Ditton - Ightham - Leybourne - East Malling - West Malling Mereworth - Offham - East Peckham - West Peckham - Platt - Plaxtol - Ryarsh - Shipbourne - Snodland - Stansted Trottiscliffe - Wateringbury - Wouldham - Wrotham

On 2nd September 1952, the County Commissioner approved a reduction in the area of Malling Rural District with the below names Civil Parishes having been transferred out:

Aylesford (only that part North and East of the River Medway) - Burham - East Peckham - Wouldham

The Old Forge

The Aylesford Scout Group has had its home in the Old Forge on the banks of the River Medway for over 50 years. Over this period the hut had seen a new tin roof fitted and a flood barrier built around it to protect nearby homes against the rising water levels of the River Medway. During 2005/06 the hut was flooded twice. Since the group moved into the Old Forge some 50 years earlier, it had never been serviced with fresh water or toilets facilities. In recent years the group has grown in numbers. In 2003 the group consisted of 46 boys aged between 6 and 14. In 2008 it has 98 children, boys and girls with waiting lists in all sections.

Phoenix Explorers

Venture Scout units were finally suspended in 2003, and new District Explorer Scouts for 14 –18 year olds and Network Scouts 18 – 25 year olds were formed. In February 2007 membership at Aylesford was extended to include boys and girls in the newly formed Phoenix Explorer Unit. The name was derived from the mythological bird rising from the ashes. The relationship between the Old Forge, and a rising new youth unit in the East of the Malling District being the main spirit and theme in the name.

Time to move

After retuning from a Group Summer camp in August 2003 the Group was given a severe blow to its very existence. The current landlady who had leased the Old Forge to the Group for many years at a peppercorn rent, wished to sell the land off, asking the Scouts to vacate the premises. Solicitors were involved and dialogue between the Landlady and Group broke down. During 2005 / 06 a new committee formed to find a resolution, dialogue was regained and more time gained to rectify a dire situation.

In October 2006 during a very publicly broadcasted whole Group fund raising event “The Everest Challenge” The Kent Messenger news group ran a series of articles regarding the plight of the Group, which also included advice and best wishes from the famous Mountaineer Chris Bonnington. During this period members of the Scout Group Committee approached the Parish Council for help as they were outgrowing the Old Forge and it was no longer really fit for purpose. The Parish Council offered on a 99-year lease a piece of land adjacent to Yoakley Woods. With the tireless help of Borough Councillors Dave Smith and John Balcombe planning permission was applied for and granted for a new building on the site.

This new centre will be a centre of excellence, which will offer up to date facilities for young people able bodied and special needs alike to be able to develop to their full potential.

At this time an informal partnership between the Parish and Group was also formed whereby the Scouts and Explorers alike could utilise the Yoakley woods for some of its Scouting activities, assist in its maintenance and environmental upkeep.

In 2007 some of our Cubs Scouts and Explorers visited the World Jamboree at Hylands Park in Essex to celebrate with over 28 million other Scouts worldwide, 100 years of Scouting.

This latest news and history about a new hut is a massive leap forward, it gives promise for a more secure and purposeful next 100 years of Scouting in Aylesford.

By the time the Scouting bicentenary comes around we will all be dead and buried, sad but true. At least you can rest in peace knowing you have done something good for the future youth and community in Aylesford and surrounding villages.

Councillors, Committee, Sponsors, Leaders, helpers, Beavers, Cubs Scouts and Explorers
Thank you all

Written by John Roberts, former Scout Leader & Phoenix Explorer Leader, aka ‘Bosun’

During 2012/13 our Landlady demanded that the Scout Group vacate the Old Forge, and we moved back to The Friars in September 2013. At that time the Group experienced falling numbers, due in part to the lack of facilities, so with hindsight vacating the Old Forge was a good move!

All sections meet at the Friars and our numbers have expanded from 34 to over 90 children, and from 6 Adult leaders to 14. (2014 scouting census)