The birthplace of Scouting and Guiding

On 1 August 1907 20 boys pitched their tents on Brownsea Island, little realizing how important and far-reaching their week would be. Lord Baden-Powell's experimental camp, based on scouting skills learnt in the army during the Boer War, set the foundation of the Scouting and Guiding movements today.

The first camp

Lord Baden-Powell was famous for his success during the Boer War and had used boys to assist the troops during the Siege of Mafeking. He thought to introduce some of the scouting and military skills to young boys back at home. He was keen to hold an experimental camp to test out some of his ideas and when Charles van Raalte invited him to hold it on Brownsea Island he agreed.

Baden-Powell valued the outdoors, nature, good ethics and practical skills and planned his 8 day camp to reflect this. The boys were from mixed backgrounds; 10 from the Boys Brigade in Poole and Bournemouth and 10 from public schools.

The boys were all involved in plenty of activities underway at the original camp including:

  • Tracking, fire lighting, cooking and observation
  • Study of birds, plants, animals and stars
  • There were sessions on loyalty, courage, unselfishness, charity and thrift

During the week long camp, the boys learnt how to cook, look after themselves and work together as part of a small team. Adventure, learning by doing and self-reliance were at the core of the Brownsea Island camp. In the evenings, Baden- Powell inspired them with campfire ‘yarns’ about the heroes of old. The camp was a great success and its legacy still lives on today.

Traditional Scouting activities
Scouting and Guiding
Traditional Scouting activities

After the camp

Soon after his experimental camp, Lord Baden-Powell published his book 'Scouting for Boys'. It was intended as advice for already existing groups and organisations, such as the Boys Brigade, but quickly became the handbook for a new movement that spread worldwide to become Scouting and Guiding that we know today.

In 1910, with the help of his sister Agnes, Girl Guiding was launched to meet the increasing demand from girls wanting to join in. By the time Lord Baden-Powell died in 1941, the Scouting movement had grown into an international organisation. In 1910 it had 108,000 members and today has over 40 million Scouts and 10 million Guides worldwide.

After the death of Charles van Raalte, his wife Florence stayed on Brownsea until 1925 when it passed to Mary Bonham-Christie. She allowed a Scout camp of 500 people in 1932 to celebrate their silver jubilee, but after that camps were no longer permitted until the National Trust took ownership in 1963. The island was officially re-opened by Lady Baden-Powell and the camp area was cleared and re-opened a few years later.

In 1967, a commemorative stone was erected near the campsite and is still a popular site for enrolments and investitures today.

The Scout Stone, Brownsea Island, Dorset
The Scout Stone, Brownsea Island, Dorset
The Scout Stone, Brownsea Island, Dorset

Sampling the Scouting life today

After the National Trust reopened the island in 1963, the original campsite was cleared and regular camps began again. Today, thousands of Scouts and Guides flock to the island every year to celebrate their heritage and test out their survival skills. The Outdoor Centre is located near the site of Baden-Powell’s experimental camp and is the perfect place for your very own adventure; from spending the night under the stars to fun outdoor activities.

The Brownsea Island Outdoor Centre
Outdoor Centre
The Brownsea Island Outdoor Centre


Why not drop by and, while you recharge with a cuppa, check out the Scouting and Guiding displays at the Trading Post. You can learn about Lord Baden-Powell’s legacy and pick up a memento of your visit, including badges and postcards. If you drop by in the colder months the rangers light the campfire and invite you to warm your toes and toast marshmallows.

Overnight adventures

With a large campsite and bunkhouse, everyone can have a unique overnight experience at the Outdoor Centre. So why not start planning your overnight adventure today and learn to live life like a true Scout. 

Camping at Brownsea Island
Camping at Brownsea Island
Camping at Brownsea Island