About Us

Butchers Coppice is a nationally recognised centre of excellence with outstanding facilities

Butchers Coppice is a 7½ acre site situated in the north west corner of Bournemouth, close to Bournemouth, Poole, Christchurch and Wimborne

the site is easily accessible by road, rail or air

if you’re looking for an adventure, you’ve come to the right place!

with an exceptional variety of activities available on-site and even more to do in the local area, there’s plenty to keep you busy for weeks!

on-site choose from eight different high ropes activities, archeryair rifle shootingTomahawk throwing and fencing, artificial simulated caving in the Cavebus, five different climbing wall activities, three different team work activities, three outdoor play activities and fourteen other indoor and outdoor activities!

nearby you’ll find even more to do… enjoy seven miles of award winning beaches, the New Forest, the Jurassic Coast or the beautiful Isle of Purbeck – there’s one of the largest selection of tourist attractions anywhere in the country, with something for everyone, and we’re the closest Scout campsite to Brownsea Island, the birthplace of Scouting!

Butchers Coppice is the perfect venue for meetings, corporate teambuilding events, indoor and outdoor youth residential experiences and adventurous activities for people of all ages

we welcome Scout and Guide Groups, schools and other bona-fide youth organisations from around the World

the campsite has three indoor accommodation centres; the Jubilee Centre sleeps 34, the Dad Atkins Centre sleeps 42 and the Explorer Centre has the potential to sleep up to 20

we also have the Butchers Coppice Caravan, sleeping up to six in one double and two twin rooms – ideal for a family, more mature campers or a smaller Explorer or Network group

the Jubilee Centre and Dad Atkins Centre have fully equipped kitchens, toilets, hot showers and central heating

the Explorer Centre has thermostatically controlled electric heating, a kitchen and a single toilet with the toilet and shower block just across the way

for campers we offer a choice of sites, either on the field or one of our individual copse sites

in addition to the toilet and shower facilities in the indoor accommodation centres, we have a modern toilet and shower block at the copse entrance to the field to serve campers and day/evening site visitors – the facilities, built in 2007, offer free male and female toilets and hot water showers as well as separate washing points – the block also includes separate disabled toilets and showers and a baby changing area

we are a member of the Association of Scout & Guide Centres

if you have any questions about the site please contact us


the Canford Estate from the Norman Conquest…

The history of the land now known as Butchers Coppice can be traced back over 800 years.  The site was originally part of the Canford Estate, held in trust for the Realm and controlled by the Lord of the Manor at Canford Manor, now known as Canford School.  The Canford Estate is steeped in history, having been occupied by the Walter de Eureux family (the Earls of Salisbury), the De Lacys (the Earls of Lincoln), the Montacutes (the Earls of Salisbury), Cardinal Henry Beaufort (the Bishop of Winchester), Henry Fitz-Roy (son of Henry VIII and Duke of Richmond), Henry Countenay (Marquis of Exeter), the Earls of Huntingdon and Baronet John Webb of Salisbury.

Canford School, formerly Canford Manor 

In 1840 the copse area of the site was owned by the trustees of the will of Sir John Webb and occupied by William Homer – this area of the site was then known as How Croft Wood.  There is no firm evidence of the lands original use, however, the word ‘coppice’ means a wood of small trees for periodical cutting. The wood, once cut, was used for local craft work as well as fuel for heating and cooking.  Surrounding the site were Durdells, Cudnell and West Howe Farms, with much of the surrounding land used for growing crops and grazing animals.  “Early each October one would find the swine foraging in How Croft Wood, fattening themselves on acorns – this area having an abundance of mature Oak trees”.  Most tenants on the Canford Estate would have kept an Estate Pig.

The altered tithe documents of Kinson from 1920 indicate that the rest of the land leased by William Homer in 1840 now belonged to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, but Butcher’s Coppice (as it was then referred to) appeared in a list of properties where ownership was simply marked as ‘various’, although someone had pencilled beside it ‘C. Estate’, so it’s fairly safe to assume it still belonged to the Canford Estate.  From 1846 the Canford Estate was owned by the Guest family, former South Wales Iron Masters.

the ghost of Butchers Coppice…

In the mid 18th Century the area surrounding Butchers Coppice was historically used by the smuggler Isaac Gulliver, whose men would carry contraband up from the chines in Poole Bay and take it across Cranborne Chase to be distributed all over Southern England.  Gulliver had several properties in the area, however, all of the contraband was stored in the tower at St Andrew’s Church in Kinson (the marks of the ropes used to haul it up can still be seen in the soft sandstone walls of the tower) and in several stone graves in the churchyard which were constructed for storage and never saw a coffin.  A network of tunnels were said to exist between the chines and the Kinson area, one of which ended inside the site of Butchers Coppice.  One day, just as a band of smugglers reached the end of the tunnel at the Coppice, Customs Officers arrived and the tunnel had to be quickly filled in, accidentally burying one of the smugglers alive.  The end of the old tunnel was said to be located between the new toilet block and the copse, where an old disconnected water tap now stands.  If you need to go to the loo late at night beware, sometimes you can still hear the scratching noise of the ghost of the buried smuggler trying to escape!

Smuggler Tunnels 

St Andrew’s Church, Kinson

Scouting begins in Bournemouth…

Scouting started early in Bournemouth, from it’s roots at nearby Brownsea Island in the summer of 1907.  The formal start of 1908 saw small gatherings in the Bournemouth area.  In June 1909 these were brought together into the Bournemouth Association.  Almost immediately there were problems finding suitable locations for meetings and activities.  Local headquarters were initially provided at Westover Chambers, courtesy of Mr G A Mooring Aldridge, and in 1926, a room in Canford Hall on St Peter’s Road was rented from the YMCA as a temporary District Headquarters.

With some degree of optimism, the Bournemouth Association embarked on their first venture into the property market, purchasing a large private residence, ‘The Grange’ at 61 Wimborne Road, for £3,500 (with a £2,000 mortgage to supplement funds).  The property was adapted to provide a lecture room, Scouters and Rovers room, an office and workshop along with a scullery and kitchen.  The other two floors were converted into living accommodation and let to the then District Commissioner, Brigadier-General R F Sorsbie, at a rental covering the mortgage interest.

Camping at the time was provided through the kindness of Lord Wimborne, whose Canford Estate once covered most of what we now know as Bear Cross, Canford Heath and Wallisdown.  Lord Wimborne allowed temporary use of around twenty acres of land at Wallisdown, which was part of the ‘Old Drive’, retained by Lord Wimborne when Canford House became Canford School.  Considerable use was made of this training ground for the next two years, although it was very damp.

a new campsite…

Knowing that the use of the training ground made available by Lord Wimborne at Wallisdown was to cease, Mr G T Nichol, Assistant District Commissioner for Rover Scouts, persuaded his sister, Miss Eleanor B Nichol from Weston Super Mare, to purchase the two and a half acres of woodland known as Butcher’s Coppice from Lord Wimborne.  The purchase was made in July 1931 for the sum of £340 and arrangements were made to lease the land to Bournemouth Scout Association for camping and training purposes.  The lease, starting in 1932, was to run for seven years at a rent of £18 per annum with an option to purchase at any time, at the cost price.  A restrictive covenant was placed on the land indicating that no buildings should be erected on the property except for use in connection with the Boy Scout Association or 15 detached or 14 semi-detached private dwelling houses.

Scouts push their trek cart in through the Holloway Avenue entrance to the site  

Almost immediately work began at the site, with Rover Scouts erecting fences, making gates and helping construct wash houses and showers.  Construction of a swimming pool was well under way in early 1932 and the first camp rules were published under the jurisdiction of Frank ‘Dad’ Atkins, the first Warden of Butcher’s Coppice.  The swimming pool was built under arrangements with Bournemouth & District Gas and Water Company, who needed gravel to bury pipes to the new water works nearby.  By mid-summer parts of the copse had been cleared and camps were held each weekend from Whitsun, with several Troops also holding their weekly meetings at the site.  Early visitors remembered pushing their trek carts from other parts of the town, across the new estates, where they were bombarded with mud, stones and abuse by the locals, before reaching the relative sanctuary of the Coppice, which was, at that time, surrounded by farm and heath land.  Bournemouth was still a young town of separate villages, not the urban sprawl we see today.

The annual District Rover Camp and the County Rover Camp were both held at the Coppice in its first year and Rovers Own (Scout religious services) were held regularly in the already established Chapel.  The Association Camping Shield and the eliminating trial for the Emlyn County Trophy were also held at the site in the first season, both demonstrating the high standard of camping, aided by the extra camping practice now readily available since the acquisition of the Coppice.  Scouts in Hampshire still compete for the Emlyn Trophy today.  Scout Sports were also held at the Coppice and both sub Districts held their winter training courses here.

During 1933 the swimming pool was completed and, thanks to the unusually fine weather, summer camping increased.  Camping fees were 2d per camper, per night.

an early Butchers Coppice postcard

old campsite badge old campsite badge 1

early Butchers Coppice badges

The five acre field adjoining Butcher’s Coppice was purchased on 18 August 1934 for £1,200.  The field was then let to a tenant farmer, Mr H J Edwards of the stores in West Howe, at a rental of £5 per year.  The tenant became responsible for the maintenance of fences and hedges and the Scouts were to have complete possession from mid July, after the hay crop, until the end of September.

1934 was the Silver Jubilee of Scouting in Bournemouth and to mark the occasion campers came from as far away as Portsmouth (which at the time was considered quite extravagant!).  An international camp was held from 17-24 August 1935 and overall camping was double that of 1934.  The open-air Chapel, designed by Frank ‘Dad’ Atkins, was completed in 1935, when it was dedicated by the Rural Dean, the Reverend F C Learoyd.

1936 saw Scouts from as far as France and the very north of England, taking the number of camping nights to an all time high, 1,124, with the swimming pool being used by some 2,800 bathers.  All the usual camps and competitions, which by this time had become annual events, were held, along with fund raising events such as the woodland fete during the summer.  The wet season further emphasised the need for a permanent shelter, slightly alleviated by a gift from Gilwell Park in the form of a large tent to replace an older marquee which had been destroyed by gales in 1935.  By this time ‘Dad’ Atkins was furthering his dream for a permanent shelter.  In his annual report of 1936 he calculated the cost of materials for the building at between £75 and £100.

1937 and ‘Dad’ Atkins dream had been fulfilled.  Thanks to a generous gift from Alderman W Hayward a spacious hut, the first so called ‘Dad’s Hut’ had been built.  1937 also saw the Coronation of the King George VI, which was celebrated by a special day of sports, swimming, boxing and a campfire as part of a world link.  At these ceremonies a message from the King was read and a broadcast by Baden-Powell, the Chief Scout of the World, was heard.  During 1937 the option to purchase the copse was exercised and so Butchers Coppice was at last ours.

A national appeal was lunched in 1938 to raise £500,000 to finance the Movement and a special rally was held at the site as part of this fund raising.  Also at this time a bequest of the late Ralph Ogleby Davies of Branksome Park in the sum of £1,000 completely paid off the debt on the field and so the whole of Butchers Coppice was now fully paid for.  As a mark of respect (and gratitude) the field was named the Davies field and officially opened by the Mayor of Bournemouth.  Campers during 1938 included Scouts and Rovers from Norway, Holland and France.  Both the Hampshire weekend Rover camp and the joint Dorset and Hampshire Rover moot were held at Butchers Coppice.  Also in 1938 local Scout Groups donated trees to be planted along the north side of the field.  A cast plaque commemorating a Cornish Elm, planted by the 43rd Bournemouth Scout Group, was found in the hedgerow in the early 1980’s.  Sadly, the tree would not have survived the ravages of Dutch Elm disease in the early 70’s, if indeed it survived until then, however, the local Association Chairman provided Copper Beech trees, which were planted in the middle of the field and still thrive there today near the Shack.

Grass was sown extensively around the site and the washing shelter, built some years earlier, was extended.  ‘Dad’s Hut’ was further improved by wood panelling and a permanent bike shelter was erected.  Fencing was also well under way.

dark days…

1939 was a very sad year for Butchers Coppice, when in September, Frank ‘Dad’ Atkins died suddenly at his home, aged 69, after spending 55 years in Bournemouth and having been actively involved in Scouting for the majority of these, though especially remembered for his 8 years at Butchers Coppice.  His funeral, at St Peter’s Church, where he was a chorister for many years, was attended by over 200 Scouts with representatives from every local Troop.  A memorial to Frank can be found on the oak altar in the Chapel attached to a plaque bearing an Irish blessing “may the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be always at your back, may the sunshine warm upon your face, the rain fall soft upon your fields and, until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand”.

Frank ‘Dad’ Atkins (centre) with the founder, Sir Robert Baden-Powell, (far left)

The start of the second world war stopped outdoor camping at Butchers Coppice and, therefore, ‘Dad’s Hut’ was used extensively for overnight sleeping.  The Davies field was requisitioned by the Ministry of Agriculture for crops for the whole duration of the war, although a new fence was erected to leave a small strip along the north side, which continued to be used for Scouting activities.  Unlit campfires were held every Saturday night and were attended by large numbers of Scouts, especially those serving in the allied armed forces from all over of the world, who happened to be in Bournemouth.  Often the campfires were held on the copse green because the crowds were too large for the campfire circle.  In wet weather they were held in ‘Dad’s Hut’.  Scouts Own services, held since the Coppice had opened, continued to be held in the Chapel on Sunday afternoons.

1940 saw the first major threat to Butchers Coppice from the then County Borough of Bournemouth.  They published their draft local plan and had designated the five acre field as ‘private open space’ – this might have meant that it would be designated as non-development land forever.  Forward looking Leaders and supporters of the day recognised that this new haven might not always be suited to the purposes of Scouting.  As a result of this insight, they fought the local council, who wanted to protect the site for their own interests.

At this time the Honorary Camp Warden was Mr T A (Alf) Dickens, Group Scout Master of the 17th Bournemouth Scout Group, once again a veteran of Scouting, who had joined as a Cub in 1911 before Cubs had officially started.  As a Scout in the First World War, Alf had helped at Waterloo Station to comfort wounded troops and later raised money to open a museum of models, many of which he had crafted himself.  Whilst Warden he made many articles for use at the Coppice, including the carved gates which once stood at the main gate of the site and markers for each camp site.  He also painted eight copy paintings of old masters for ‘Dad’s Hut’, some of which are still preserved today.  Also during his short time as Warden he registered the 1st Butchers Coppice Rover Crew, an early forerunner of today’s service crew.  Alf had a superb collection of memories as well as some wonderful photographs in his album.  He lived, until the 1980’s, at ‘Pixies Holt’, a beautiful cottage at Gods Blessing Green, Holt near Wimborne.  As far as we know, his collection was sent to his son in Australia upon his death, which was his wish.

In fact, another Warden also presided over the Coppice during the war years, though the exact dates are not known.  Miss Violet Oldham was primarily the Group Scout Master of the 1st Kinson Scout Group (later known as the 3rd Bournemouth Scout Group) but is also known to have been secretary to the Local Association.  Violet lived in a large house in East Howe, now known as the Thatched House Inn.

During November of 1944 an application was made for a licence to carry out repairs and extensions to the swimming pool, but was turned down by the building control office.  Later in the year the bottom and side of the pool cracked and began losing 120 gallons of water per day.  These cracks were filled with a bitumen solution.  It was also during this year that water purification treatment was introduced.

after the war…

When camping restrictions were lifted in 1946 the Davies field was still held by the Ministry of Agriculture and the copse was heavily used.  Food rationing continued but Butchers Coppice was granted a catering licence and so the providore was reborn.  14 July 1946 saw a very successful parent’s day with more than 150 on site.  Also the Chapel sanctuary was paved, a veranda erected at the front of ‘Dad’s Hut’, the interior of which had been improved by the panelling of the centre portion and the erection of a partition producing a Leaders room.  The Warden’s hut had been cleared of gear, panelled, and a fireplace built.  Due to the bad weather all through the season the Coppice and the strip of land available in the field had suffered severely and a great deal of work was necessary to rectify this.

From 1946, and for some time, little record appears to have been kept of the precise activities held at the Coppice, though it is known that the financial position of the Association had been strengthened by the sale of the headquarters at 61 Wimborne Road, much of the former activity carried out there being transferred to the Coppice.

In 1947 the Davies field was fully returned and resown with grass before being opened to campers in 1948 with a brand new providore.  Also during 1947 applications for work on the swimming pool were once again submitted, along with a plan for improved lavatory facilities.  The latter were agreed but plans for the pool were once again refused.  At this time a new flag pole had also been cut, to be erected in the centre of the field.  January 1948 saw a new water main laid, though the improvements to the toilet block were still under way.  During February the providore was broken into for the first time.

1948 saw the re-opening of the Coppice to visiting Troops, a jamborette being held, attended by the Mayor and Mayoress, Cllr W Moore, during which visiting Scouts came from as far as France, Switzerland, Malta, Belgium and Eire.  During this time local Scouters took a monthly turn as Coppice Steward, each having a theme of the month to cover one aspect of training.

In 1952 the local council notified the local Association that 2.3 acres of the Davies field was to compulsorily purchased for the erection of flats.  This was to be one of the fiercest battles in the long history of Butchers Coppice.  Strong objections were immediately tabled and a public enquiry was held on the 23 September.  This was the result of some weeks of heated discussions and, to the delight of all concerned with the Coppice, the plans were upturned.  A small strip was, however, taken from the eastern end of the field to make a public footpath along Duck Lane.

1953 saw the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and celebrations were held everywhere.  Some local Groups held special celebration camps at the Coppice and it was, therefore, host to a great many visitors during the year including, as was by this time often the case, the Mayor.

The swimming pool was finally reconditioned in 1954 at a cost of £300 and in 1956 a hut, named in memory of the Reverend Claude Beckwith, District Commissioner, was constructed for Scouters in charge of camps.  The Reverend Claude Beckwith had given many years of service to Scouting in Bournemouth and especially at the Coppice.  It is after him that the ‘Beckwith Banner’, a keenly contested trophy, was named.

the Reverend Claude Beckwith, District Commissioner

By 1957 the Coppice was firmly established as a centre of Scouting activity for both local boys and campers from other towns and countries.

Though voluntary labour had always been freely available it was clear that paid labour would be required for some of the more ambitious plans in the development of the site.  Maintenance continued to be the task of the many volunteers from throughout the town.

The water supply and drainage were by now adequate and so an electric cable was laid, a signal for the old gas lamps in ‘Dad’s Hut’ and the Warden’s hut to disappear.  Money was needed to finance the increased facilities at the Coppice and so a Scout fair was held at the Town Hall in the hope of raising £1,000, which was achieved.

In 1958 the wooden hut given by Alderman Hayward twenty years earlier and the original ‘Dad’s Hut’ was deemed inadequate and defective, and plans were drawn up for a larger hall with room for an office and kitchen at an estimated cost of £3,000.  With the assistance of a grant from the Ministry of Education, work on the new ‘Dad’s Hut’, now known as the ‘Dad Atkins Centre’, was started.  A plaque just inside the entrance to the new ‘Dad’s Hut’ read “this hut was opened by His Worship the Mayor of Bournemouth, Councillor Deric S Scott, on the 19th May 1962 to replace an earlier ‘Dad’s Hut’, so named as a tribute to Frank (Dad) Atkins, first warden of Butchers Coppice.  The building was made possible by a legacy from the estate of Mr Spenlove Brown, a donation in memory of Pop Hale, Group Scout Master of the 54th Bournemouth Scouts, a donation in memory of John Rooke, Assistant Scout Master of the 20th Bournemouth Scouts, gifts and help from friends of Scouting, and by money raised through the combined efforts of Cubs, Scouts, Scouters and lay members of Bournemouth Executive Committee and Butcher’s Coppice Sub Committee.”.

F V ‘Pop’ Hale, Group Scout Master, 54th Bournemouth Scout Group

plaque celebrating the opening of the new Dad’s Hut in 1962

The first Wood Badge course was held at the Coppice in November of 1959 and John Kear, still a keen supporter of the Coppice and current serving member of our Management Committee, took over as Warden in 1960.

August 1961 saw seven Japanese Scouts (probably the site’s furthest travelled campers at the time) camping at the Coppice as part of their London International Senior Scout Patrol Adventure as guests of the 11th St Marylebone, London, Scout Group.  This group were the first Japanese Scout Group to visit Britain since World War II and Butchers Coppice was their first ‘Adventure’ base.  The group, together with their hosts, were fortunate, during their stay, to have a private visit to Brownsea Island just three months after the recluse owner, Mary Bonham-Christie, died and before ownership passed to the National Trust and the island was opened to visitors.

the group, left to right: Hayao Yokogawa, Sadahiko Mizutani, Joshio Higuehi, Shinichiro Ueshima

In 1963 the Coppice saw the Cubs of Bournemouth perform a pageant of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, whilst Scouts and Senior Scouts gave demonstrations in camping and pioneering.  Later that year the Senior Scouts of the town found themselves hosts to the annual “County Senioree” with nearly 400 Seniors camping at the site.  Another preliminary Wood Badge course was also held here during 1963.

During the following years, 1964 and 1965, hopes started for the much needed extension of ‘Dad’s Hut’.  By this time the site was being used much more often, following the moderate decline in use during the post war years.  The Coppice was now being manned each weekend by various Scouters from all over the town, who’s skills enabled training and testing of Scouts in outdoor pursuits.  The first full Wood Badge course was run at the site in 1964, when the swimming pool was also much improved by the introduction of filtration units.


another Butchers Coppice postcard showing the swimming pool, undated

an early site brochure from c1960-1965

As a result of the advanced party report of 1966 a Venture Unit started at the Coppice in that year, replacing the Senior and Rover Sections.  Also, the ever successful ‘Father and Son’ camp was once again held here.  Much more use was made of the Coppice in the summer of 1966, with in excess of 1,200 Scouts camping here from as far away as America, Germany, Finland, Switzerland and Austria, not to mention the many local Scouts.  2,000 day visitors came to the site, especially on Whit Sunday, when the Mayor and Mayoress came to see the many improved facilities at the site.  Also in 1966, Jim Cassidy took over as Warden. Jim went on to be our longest serving Warden to date, 26 years, from 1966 to 1992.  Jim remained a keen supporter of the site up until he passed away in January 2012 – Jim will always be remembered for his exceptional service to Butchers Coppice.

In 1969 plans were drawn up for the construction of the former toilet block at a cost of £3,000 – this facility was demolished thirty-eight years later, in 2007, following the construction of the present toilet and shower facilities, and to make way for a new Explorer Scout Centre.

During 1974 over 60 Scout Troops and Cub Packs from across the UK, including one from Lurgen in Northern Ireland, and several small parties from many parts of the world visited Butchers Coppice.  A new venture was a combined Scout and Guide camp, which was recorded as being run ‘efficiently and to the highest camping standards’.

The Coppice was now being used regularly for County and District training courses, committee meetings, District Scout Councils, many different fundraising events and even a Dog show!

In early 1975 Butchers Coppice featured in a Scout programme on Radio Solent.  Several new projects were completed including a third garage, which was used to store Gang Show scenery.  New pioneering equipment was purchased and several remedial jobs were carried out on the swimming pool, copse sites and the buildings in general.

In 1977 a second indoor accommodation centre, the ‘Jubilee Pack Holiday Centre’, was opened, named to commemorate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.  The centre, located in the field, served visitors well for twenty-nine years before major renovation in 2006 through our fundraising project ‘Target 2007’, when new dormitories, central heating, disabled facilities and showers were added to enhance the facilities. The building is now known as the ‘Jubilee Centre’.

1985 saw further improvements to ‘Dad’s Hut’, principally disabled access to the centre.  Jean Sherring became Warden in 1992 for five years until 1997.

Sadly the campsite fell into disrepair in the mid 1990’s and the swimming pool suffered significant damage.  The campsite had a very bad reputation for being run down, so plans were drawn up to sell Butchers Coppice to a property developer for several million pounds.  Whilst the sale was going through a small group of Leaders from Bournemouth, led by Bob Oliver, set to work restoring basic facilities at the campsite.  Planning permission for the sale of Butchers Coppice and the creation of a new Scout campsite at Berry Hill near Muscliffe were later refused by Bournemouth Borough Council and again in May 2003 by the Planning Inspectorate after an appeal by the proposed developers.  Bob was appointed Site Manager in 1997.

a new beginning…

In 2003, following the restoration of basic facilities at Butchers Coppice, our fundraising project ‘Target 2007’ was launched by Talbot Massey, who was appointed development co-ordinator, and the active site Management Committee.  The plan was to raise a staggering £1m to further improve the facilities at the site and to establish it as a nationally recognised centre of excellence.  2007 was significant as it marked the Centenary of Scouting and marked the 75th anniversary of the campsite.  As the closest Scout campsite to Brownsea Island, the birthplace of Scouting, Butchers Coppice would once again host visitors from around the globe.

As the swimming pool was no longer able to retain water, and would cost so much money to repair and then operate, the decision was taken in 2003 to fill it in.  Once the area had been levelled, a portable building, which had been kindly donated to the site, was brought in by crane and put in place over the old swimming pool – this became our new games room, offering activities for the wetter days of the English summer.  Also in 2003, work began on a new outdoor covered archery range in the copse area. The Management Committee reported an increase in income, with indoor fees up by 18% and outdoor fees up by 64%, although this was offset by higher expenditure – new equipment, including new cookers for both indoor accommodation centres, replacement abseiling kit and new maintenance equipment had been purchased.  The ‘Target 2007’ appeal got off to a good start with several donations coming in, aided by the transfer of the balances of the old ‘Butchers Coppice Development Fund’ and the ‘Friends of the Coppice’ fund.

the old swimming pool is filled and levelled, 2003

the games room is lifted in sections by crane, 2003

In 2005, the Management Committee reported that over 6,500 young people, together with Leaders and teachers, took advantage of the expanding facilities and activities that Butchers Coppice had to offer, with a total of 4,962 camper nights at the site.  In addition, over 10,000 members of the community attended three public events – a Community Fun Day in April, the Mayor of Bournemouth’s Community BBQ in September and the Daily Echo sponsored family fireworks display and bonfire in November.

The significant increase in use led to an increase in income, particularly adventurous activities, which increased by 173% on the previous year.  The shop also reported a 65% increase in profits.  ‘Target 2007’ income also grew significantly, thanks to major grants and donations from The Garfield Weston Foundation, SITA Environmental Trust, the Pinewood Shore Branch of the Foresters, The Community Foundation, the National Lottery ‘Awards for All’, the 8th Bournemouth Scout Group, the Rank Foundation, the Bournemouth Red Arrows Association and Boscombe & Southbourne Rotary Club.  Thanks to the improved financial position, the Management Committee was able to approve the extension of the Jubilee Centre, which started in November at a cost of in the region of £130,000, and to go ahead with the construction of an indoor air rifle shooting range, which was later named the Centenary Hut, to celebrate the Centenary of Scouting.

Thanks to the grant from the SITA Environmental Trust, work started on clearing overgrown brambles, removing old fencing and constructing new internal fencing – this resulted in an increase in camping space in the field and a smarter, more environmentally friendly site.

field boundaries cleared back, 2005

the Parade Ground is cleared, 2005

Also in 2005, both entrances were smartened up and a new welcome sign was erected at the Holloway Avenue entrance – a gift from the Bournemouth Stour District Beaver Scouts.  The parade ground and remaining copse sites were also opened up, fenced and seeded, the campfire circle was ranch fenced and the entrance painted.  A new entrance to the Chapel was constructed and scrubs were planted around the boundary.  Further improvements were also made to the outdoor covered archery range, with lighting installed and new safety netting put in place.  In addition to the small team of regular volunteers, the site welcomed the assistance of The Wessex Autistic Society, the Churches Housing Association, Bournemouth Borough Council’s Children’s Service and Oakmead College of Technology, who spent two days transforming the rough grass verge at the Duck Lane entrance in to a safe pathway to provide easy and safe access for wheelchair users, parents with prams and other pedestrians.  Also, in October, twelve students and staff from Bournemouth University gave up a Saturday to open up the climbing complex by clearing overhanging holly trees and old fencing and preparing it for a new bouldering wall and new fencing – they installed the new fencing over two wet afternoons in November.

The site had extensive press coverage in 2005, thanks to the community events, and ‘Target 2007’ became the chosen charity for the Red Arrows display over Bournemouth in August and was one of the Mayor of Bournemouth’s five chosen charities for the year – we were pleased and honoured to be chosen by both.  The Red Arrows display raised an amazing £20,500 – a record to a charity in the Association’s ten year history. Butchers Coppice was also grateful to the Pinewood Shore Branch of the Foresters for continuing their fundraising partnership, and to the Daily Echo for its continued endorsement of the ‘Target 2007’ appeal.

Butchers Coppice was the venue for a number of different Adult and Young Leader training courses during the year including First Response First Aid and adventurous activity instructor courses for archery, air rifle shooting, climbing and abseiling.  Many of these courses were financially supported by The Community Foundation for Bournemouth, Dorset & Poole – The Community Foundation also granted funds to purchase new archery and shooting equipment.

a new pedestrian entrance pathway is laid, 2005

a new path is laid in the copse, 2005

work on the first archery range, 2005

new fencing is installed around the site, 2005

The early success of ‘Target 2007’ continued to gather momentum and, in 2006, the Management Committee reported that over 7,000 young people and Leaders took advantage of the facilities and activities at the site, including abseiling, climbing, archery, air rifle shooting and orienteering.  In addition, over 12,000 (a record number) members of the community attended three public events, the Community Fun Day in April, the first Bournemouth Roadways Safety event in September and the annual family fireworks display and bonfire in November.

The decision to continue pursuing National Lottery funding paid dividends.  The application to the ‘Reaching Communities Fund’ of ‘Big Lottery’ resulted in a grant of £52,270 towards the cost of building and maintaining the much needed new toilet and shower block.  The ‘Target 2007’ appeal was also boosted during the year thanks to major grants, donations and pledges from the Rotary Club of Bournemouth, Bournemouth North Rotary Club, the Royal Bank of Scotland, the Gilbert & Sullivan Operatic Society, the Pinewood Shore Branch of the Foresters, the Treloar Fund, Coutts Charitable Trust, the Richard Cadbury Charitable Trust, the Talbot Village Trust, the Valentine Trust, the Clothworkers Foundation, the Alice Ellen Cooper Dean Charitable Foundation, the Anton Jurgens Charitable Trust, the Richard Kirkman Trust, HSBC Bank, the Community Foundation, the Bisgood Charitable Trust, the SITA Trust and Bournemouth Stour District Beavers.  As a result of being one of the five Bournemouth Mayor’s charities, Butchers Coppice was also presented with a cheque for £6,400.  The total pledged and received income to the end of 2006 totalled nearly £400,000.

Thanks to the success of the ‘Target 2007’ appeal, not only was the building of the Jubilee Centre extension completed and opened in April at a cost of £130,000 and the new indoor shooting range completed in November at a cost of £18,268, but also the Management Committee was able to approve the building of the new replacement toilet and shower block, which started in December at an estimated cost of £175,000, and the planned refurbishment and extension of the staff building, housing the manager’s office, site reception, shop and the service team and instructors room.  Work also began on the construction of the new bouldering wall around the outer perimeter of the climbing complex.

The local press continued to support Butchers Coppice through 2006, covering our community events, the opening of the Jubilee Centre extension and for being a Mayor’s charity.  The publicity resulted in Butchers Coppice having various equipment donated.  We were also pleased to read, in a letter published in the Bournemouth Daily Echo, the site being described as “the jewel in West Howe’s crown”.

Throughout the year the site hosted several District and County events including Young Leader training, a cooking competition, Cub camps, Leader training, badge courses, a Bournemouth Scout Band training weekend, a camping competition, Beaver fun evenings and various District AGM’s, committee and Leaders meetings.  Most Bournemouth Scout Groups made use of the facilities – many on a regular basis, particularly for evening meetings.  As well as the Beavers, Cubs, Scouts and Explorers other users included Rainbows, Brownies, Guides, Oakmead College of Technology, the Youth Cancer Trust, the ATC, youth clubs, a Christian Club, the Home Education Community, the Australian Volleyball team, Young Firefighters, Korean Society, various schools, a youth motorcycle display team, a choir and a caravan club.  The site also welcomed school and Scout groups from Italy, France, Sweden, Holland and Germany as well as several local families for birthday parties and outings.

General improvements and maintenance as well as some of the improvements under ‘Target 2007’ continued to be carried out by the site service team with regular voluntary help from Headway Dorset.  Four ‘work weekends’ were organised in the quieter months where help was received from several Scout Groups and the ATC based at Oakmead College of Technology.

construction of the bouldering wall, 2006

construction of the Centenary Hut, 2006




the Jubilee Centre extension, 2006

2007 saw the fourth successive year of increased use, with visitor numbers at record levels – nearly 10,000 young people and Leaders took advantage of the facilities on day and evening visits and camper nights totalled a record 7,303 – 650% of the numbers recorded in 1936.  In addition, around 12,000 members of the community attended our three regular public events – the Community Fun Day in April, the Bournemouth Roadways Safety Event in September and family fireworks display and bonfire in November.

There was a change of management half way through 2007 – Bob Oliver, after 10 years in charge, handed over management to Darren Gilbert, the current Site Manager.  Bob remains a daytime warden.  The volunteer service team, with some re-organisation, continued to welcome visitors, maintain the site and undertake professional work on development projects.  The main development during the year was the £180,000 new toilet and shower block, which was partly funded by the Big Lottery.  The new toilet and shower block was opened by the Mayor of Bournemouth, Cllr Bob Chapman, in May.

Other developments in 2007 included the Shack – a £9,400 wooden outdoor covered classroom, which proved to be a popular addition to the site’s facilities, Kear Way, connecting the main Holloway Avenue car park to a new car park for Jubilee Centre users, new indoor games for the games room and, thanks to the SITA Trust, a £16,500 refurbishment to reception, which included a new reception and information area, a smart and practical office, improved shop and a service team and instructors room with kitchen.  A new computer with broadband internet connection was also installed in the office thanks to BT Connections.


Kear Way, named after John Kear, former Warden of Butchers Coppice and member of our Management Committee 

Grants of just over £127,000 from Biffaward, the Big Lottery Children’s Play Fund (via Bournemouth Borough Council), the Lottery Breathing Places programme and Wessex Water enabled environmental projects to be carried out and work to start on our new outdoor play facilities, the adventure playground, agility trail and trampolines – these were completed in 2008.  The driveway and main car park were re-surfaced, the Holloway Avenue entrance landscaped, the fencing of the field inside perimeter completed, the Chapel fenced and turfed, the parade ground and Copse Site 6 turfed, the Dad Atkins Centre path ranch fenced, copse trees pollarded and deadwooded and hedging was been planted between Field Site A and the new toilet and shower block and between the site for the proposed Explorer Scout Centre and the Jubilee Centre.  The old toilet block was demolished to make way for the ground-level trampolines.

The Scout Centenary helped to make 2007 an interesting year, with visitors from several countries including South Korea and France.  The Bournemouth Family Centenary Camp in May was the biggest camping event and it also gave us the second television publicity of the year.



construction of the new toilet and shower block, 2007

2008 was once again a year of broken records, with approximately 15,500 visitors, excluding the annual Fun Day and fireworks events, both of which attracted several thousand visitors.  A total of 8,298 camper nights were recorded, up a further 14% on the previous year.  The Management Committee reported that camping fees had increased by 27% and adventurous activity fees had increased by 135%.  The shop also showed a large increase in both turnover and profit.

‘Target 2007’ officially came to a close in 2008 – raising a total of almost £600,000 over a four year period.  The final ‘Target 2007’ developments were completed – the adventure playground, agility trail and ground-level trampolines, which were funded by a successful bid for over £80,000 by The Children’s Department of Bournemouth Borough Council to the ‘Children’s Play Fund’ of ‘Big Lottery’.  The official opening of these facilities was made in March 2008 by two Scouts and a Brownie, supported by The High Sheriff of Dorset, the Editor and Deputy Editor of the Daily Echo and the three local Councillors.  The outdoor play facilities proved very popular and no doubt played a part in the site’s increased use, especially by local families.

Also completed in 2008 was the refit of the climbing complex.  A new internal staircase was fitted to allow easier and safer access to the top.  New climbing and abseiling boards were fitted, with a new grid system installed to allow climbing routes to be changed easily from time to time, to keep up the challenge.  A step and overhang were also included.

Although the ‘Target 2007’ developments were completed, ongoing maintenance and other developments continued.  Work started on the new BBC Breathing Places wildlife garden with the support of BBC Radio Solent (who ran two broadcasts from the site and we were featured on TV!).  Plants, bench seating, a bird hide, bird tables and a garden shed were donated by local garden centres, which helped to bring the new facility to life.  Also during 2008, over 100 trees were planted, thanks to donations by Stewarts Garden Centre and the Woodland Trust.


the adventure playground, climbing wall and wildlife garden, 2008

2009 was another fantastic year for Butchers Coppice.  Camping fees showed a further increase of 64% and activity fees were up by 56%.  17,279 visitors were recorded with 13,118 camper nights – another record for the site.  88 Scout Groups/Units (including 22 of the 24 Bournemouth Groups/Units) camped and/or used the facilities on at least one occasion.  21 Guide Companies and 51 other widely different organisations (such as Young Firefighters, Coping with Chaos [20 youngsters with 20 carers on two occasions], Sea and Air Cadets, Dorset Scope, Addington Clinic, Elmrise Primary School, Kings High Secondary School, West Howe Baptist Church, Playplus, Young Carers, Barnardo’s, Craft Club, Duke of Edinburgh Award training, Tops Nursery, Wessex Diving, St Pauls Youth Club, Wessex Majorettes and Bournemouth Youth Service) took advantage of the facilities.  Youth groups from France, Germany, Holland, Italy and Portugal were welcomed to Butchers Coppice. 98 local families held a children’s activity birthday party at the site.

The adventurous activities were very busy throughout the year and the instructors were called upon a record number of times.  The archery recorded 2,921 participants, air rifle shooting 1,924 and climbing and/or abseiling 1,874.  The records showed that 6,765 children and young people used the free outdoor play facilities.  The facility recording the most use was the agility trail with 4,816 ‘hits’ followed closely by the ground-level trampolines with 4,786 and the adventure playground with 4,634.

In addition to ongoing maintenance, several developments took place during the year.  CCTV was installed, the old copse woodpile was cleared, turfed and hedged to make a new activity area, the entrance to reception was made safer, giving easier access for wheelchairs and pushchairs, facilities to house a town Scout museum were put in place, a new gate was erected at the campfire entrance in memory of Cliff Gee, an ex-21st Bournemouth Scout and 4th Bournemouth Leader, 14 altar fire stands were constructed, screening was erected and a ‘classroom’ situated in the wildlife garden.  A small orchard was planted, and the ground prepared to create a meadow between the wildlife garden and the field entrance drive.  Over 300 trees (mainly common beech for hedging) and many shrubs were also planted.

campfire circle entrance gates in memory of Clifford Gee

2009 also saw the start of the £60,000 renovation of the Dad Atkins Centre, the start of the construction of a new £20,000 auto-belay rock climbing wall, with automatic descenders on the tower and also the start of the construction of a £12,000 crate stacking challenge, also with automatic descenders.

2010 was another solid year for Butchers Coppice with a further increase in visitors – records indicate that 18,092 visitors passed through the gates, either for a day visit, weekend or week-long stay – some even longer.  Development continued at the same pace as recent years – the major refurbishment of the Dad Atkins Centre was completed along with the new crate stacking challenge and the new auto-belay rock climbing wall – all three were officially opened by The Mayor of Bournemouth, Councillor Beryl Baxter CMgr, MCMI, the fourth Mayor of Bournemouth to make an official visit to the site in the last six years.  During her visit The Mayor also tried out the new giant campfire leader’s chair, ‘Nick’s Chair’, donated in memory of Alan Nichols, an ex-24th Bournemouth Scout and a Leader and Commissioner in London.

Nick’s Chair, the giant campfire leaders chair, in memory of Alan Nichols

In addition to the crate stacking challenge and auto-belay rock climbing wall, work also began on the largest and most significant investment in to activities to date – the new high ropes course.  Including six activities; the Gladiator Challenge, the high all-aboard, high see-saw, Leap of Faith, Jacobs Ladder and manual-belay crate stacking, the new £50,000 facility was designed to cover a gap, appealing to teenagers.  With this new facility and the six new activities it brought to Butchers Coppice, the site has truly met it’s aspiration to become one of the leading activity centres in the South of England.  The construction took just over a week in December 2010, and was followed by the first of our ERCA high ropes training courses, which took place in heavy snow one weekend just before Christmas.  As well as the work on the new high ropes course, work also began on the new archery range – the new range is around five times bigger than the previous range, allowing more participants to take part and enabling us to offer longer range archery.  Archery has been one of our most popular activities at the site since it was first introduced.

high ropes course, introduced in 2010

Also in 2010 the new Bournemouth Scout Shop opened at Butchers Coppice, stocking uniform, the iScout clothing range, badges and Scouting souvenirs, and our Bournemouth Scout Museum opened for the very first time!

2011 was yet another record year – the site welcomed over 19,500 visitors, nearly 10 times as many as in 2003.  Visitors included Scouts from Estonia, Germany, Holland and Portugal as well as a Polish Scout Troop from London.  The new archery range was completed in early 2011 thanks to The SITA Trust and the Fencing Centre and other improvements were made including new sign posting around the site, artificial grass in the picnic area outside the games room and the creation of a new BBQ area with help from the local Green Goals Community Fund and Bournemouth Local Involvement Network.  We also took delivery of 48 new pioneering poles thanks to a grant from the Hall and Woodhouse Community Chest.

new artificial grass in the picnic area, 2011

2012 saw a slight decline in visitors, we believe largely due to the Olympics, which gripped the country through the summer.  18,600 visitors came to Butchers Coppice across the year with 11,156 camper nights recorded.  As ever, several developments went ahead during the year – the Birds Nest swing was added to the adventure playground, the low and medium team challenges were constructed in the copse area of the site, fire squares throughout Butchers Coppice, including the one in the campfire circle, were replaced, the new Bournemouth Scouts District Office and a staff toilet were opened early in spring and funds were raised to enable a zip wire to be installed which incorporates a powerfan descender.  The zip wire (one of the longest runs in the south of England) spans virtually the full length of the field, running from the Duck Lane entrance to the high ropes area.  The powerfan uses the huge new pole installed for the zip wire – when you step off the high platform and after an initial free-fall drop the powerfan gently lowers you to the ground.  New five-a-side football, volleyball and rounders equipment was purchased and installed on the field for use during the summer.  Over 9 days in October and November a professional tree survey was carried out followed by the necessary safety work being completed including tree felling (with approval of Bournemouth Council), crowning and dead wooding.  Work also continued on the Explorer Centre.

zip wire, introduced 2012

At the end of the year improvements were started to the Chapel including a new entrance gateway in memory of Jim Cassidy, the site’s longest serving warden (1966-1992), together with improvements to the wildlife garden in memory of Cliff Dell, a great supporter of Butchers Coppice as well as a local Cub Scout Leader.  Site work was also started to enlarge and improve copse site 3.

new Chapel gateway in memory of Jim Cassidy 

The Explorer Centre was finally completed in 2013, becoming home to the Genesis Explorer Scout Unit and providing a much needed meeting and training room, with many of the County Adult Training courses moving to Butchers Coppice.  Improvements were completed in the Chapel including the erection of a new Memory Post to remember those who have Gone Home.  Following the success of a project to enlarge copse site 2 work began on enlarging copse site 3 so it could cope with larger groups.  The field was also re-seeded and graded.

the Explorer Centre, completed in 2013

In 2014 works were undertaken to improve the drainage and prevent flooding near the Jubilee Centre, a new set of mattresses were made up for the Dad Atkins Centre, there were further improvements to the archery range, the bouldering wall was completely replaced and a new container was purchased for the high ropes equipment.  The remainder of the car park was resurfaced to provide easy access to the Jubilee Centre and Explorer Centre, particularly for our less able visitors.

The main project in 2015 was the improvements to the kitchen in the Jubilee Centre.  Work started after October half term with the centre closed for two months for the work to take place.  The project centred around the kitchen but involved various changes to the layout of the building including moving the entrance to the main hall in to the main corridor and splitting one of the former 4-bed bedrooms in to two new 2-bed bedrooms to create a corridor through to a new entrance to the ladies toilets and showers – all of this meant that the kitchen was almost doubled in size to make it better suited to catering for larger groups and easier to keep clean and tidy




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Little changed at Butchers Coppice over 2016 as the District Operations Team, who are responsible for looking after all of the assets of Bournemouth Scouts, were focussed on the significant refurbishment of our Iford Scout Centre, which was very dated and no longer fit for purpose.  At a cost of around £40,000 the building was stripped back to bare brick and completely rebuilt inside to provide a new fresh, light and welcoming meeting space.  The Centre is now home to the 32nd Bournemouth Scout Group and a local nursery pre-school.  Things at Butchers Coppice remained as busy as ever through the year despite a challenging year for site volunteers.  Butchers Coppice also became a Calor Gas official stockist in 2016, with a small supply of propane, butane and patio gas cylinders for Scout Groups and local customers.

It was very much business as usual through 2017 as attentions turned back to Butchers Coppice after the completion of works at Iford Scout Centre.  The Chapel area was refreshed and the tuck shop, Harry’s Provi, was completely refurbished including the purchase of a new drinks fridge, capable of holding significantly more stock.  Following the early success of Calor Gas sales at the site there was further investment, increasing our capacity for cylinders to meet demand, which continued to increase.  New office IT equipment was purchased to speed things up, with a new PC and printer installed.  The main event in 2017 though was the installation of the new Cavebus, our artificial caving complex in a bus!  Arriving in October, the Cavebus moved in to it’s new home in the main field and very quickly became a popular addition to the site!  Late in 2017 plans were drawn up for a new Tomahawk range.  Tomahawk Axe Throwing was introduced at the site during 2017, with sessions being organised in the archery range, however, it was clear very early on that this was a popular activity and it needed a permanent home, so, with the help of Jeremy Edwards, one of our District Scouters and a BushScout member, plans were pulled together for a new range to be built in 2018!


the Cavebus arrives at Butchers Coppice in October 2017



Tomahawk Throwing was introduced at the site in 2017

Butchers Coppice has been popular for camping and training every year since its opening.  Butchers Coppice Activity Centre now welcomes thousands of visitors every year – Scouts, Guides and other young people from across the world, offering camping and adventurous activities like climbing, abseiling, archery and air rifle shooting.  The site is perfect for visitors as it offers easy access to the rich and varied landscape of beaches, forest and heath land of the south coast as well as numerous tourist attractions including Brownsea Island, the birthplace of Scouting in 1907.

Wardens of Butchers Coppice

1931-1939 – Frank ‘Dad’ Atkins

1939-1945 – Miss Violet Oldham

1946-1948 – T A (Alf) Dickens

1949-1955 – F J H Beswick

1956-1958 – H R Whitehead

1959-1959 – K J Riley

1960-1965 – John E Kear

1966-1992 – James E Cassidy

1992-1997 – Jean Sherring

1997-2007 – Bob Oliver

2007-2023 – Darren Gilbert

plaque above the ‘Rooke Room’ in the Dad Atkins Centre in memory of John Rooke, Assistant Scout Master, 20th Bournemouth (St Augustin’s) Scout Group

plaque in the Chapel in memory of Frank ‘Dad’ Atkins, first Warden of Butchers Coppice

this history has been compiled from a report on the early history of Butchers Coppice Scout Campsite by Michael Harley, using extracts from a variety of previous reports, testimony from old Scouters and early Wardens and new writing along with other information from various sources including the annual reports of the Butchers Coppice Management Committee

1950’s photographs courtesy of Sandra Packer from a collection made by the late Peter Percy and Talbot Massey