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Girl guide campsite and activity centre completed by Walker Simpson Architects


The timber-clad building’s colour, form and texture combines standard industrial techniques with aspects inspired by textile production

Manchester-based practice Walker Simpson Architects has completed phase 2 of a campsite and activity centre project for longstanding client, Girlguiding Cheshire Forest.

Set in 17 acres of woodland in Cheshire, the project provides residential accommodation on the grounds of a former house. The new facility offers space for support staff and an activity centre with dedicated kitchen provision in addition to bedrooms for guides and their leaders.



The building is composed of two wings which enclose a courtyard facing the main access road. It is sited towards the top of a steep slope with an external deck cantilevering over the bank towards a lower level campsite.

At the heart of the building is the principal activity room – a large open-plan hall – tapering up towards a full-height openable glazed wall facing out onto the landscape.



Architect’s view

The project sought to continue to explore a language for girlguiding which we first considered at the organisation’s north-west headquarters in Preston in 2013. The design approach combines standard industrial building techniques with aspects of textile production – exploring colour, form, texture, contrast and tactility as a response to each site.

An important aspect of the brief was the commitment to invest in young people and provide an aspirational space that would introduce many users to their first experience of a forest environment. The type of accommodation has also evolved to meet the needs of new generations – from a contemporary hall space to a series of ensuite rooms. The outcome is a facility that provides spaces for gathering, participation, activity and conversation.

John Piercy Holroyd, associate director, Walker Simpson Architects



Client’s view

The residential building on our activity site was a hotchpotch of simple prefabricated structures which has been added to over the years. It wasn’t fit for purpose, nor fully accessible and was very inefficiently heated. It was important to us that our new building was much more sustainable and fitted into a rural woodland context.

Girlguiding is an organisation which is led by its members. Walker Simpson Architects was cooperative in ensuring our members played a full part in designing this building. The architects ran workshops, explaining about sustainable materials, helping guides to consider the impacts of features such as views out and the landscape’s topography, as well as structure and aesthetics. We all felt fully involved in the creation of the building. 

Sue Lomas, Pettypool committee chair, Girlguiding Cheshire Forest

site plan

site plan

Project data

Start on site Phase 1: October 2016; Phase 2: April 2018
Completion Phase 1: August 2017; Phase 2: June 2018
Gross internal floor area 430m²
Form of contact Traditional
Construction cost £1.04 million
Architect Walker Simpson Architects
Client Girlguiding Cheshire Forest
Structural engineer Shepherd Gilmour Leeds
M&E consultant A&P Dynamic Design
QS Simon Fenton Partnership
Ecologist Rachel Hacking Ecology
CDM coordinator Simon Fenton Partnership
Approved building inspector Butler & Young
Main contractor City Build Manchester
CAD software used AutoCAD + Revit


Readers' comments (2)

  • So the Girl Guides are still a single sex institution but the Scouts are no longer allowed to be. Is that today's equality?

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  • I do hope the Girl Guides administrators have set aside a sizeable contingency fund to address the maintenance nightmare the pretty timber 3x3's? will become in a few years time.

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