HRH the Duchess of Cambridge helps inspire a new generation at Gilwell Park

HRH Kate Den

This week we were incredibly proud to welcome HRH The Duchess of Cambridge to Gilwell Park for a day of activities, celebration and skills for life.

Against the stunning backdrop of open woodland and with trees in full blossom, she supported a group of young people taking part in our early years pilots – helping four and five year olds develop skills to succeed. The Duchess’ visit was also timed to coincide with the centenary of Scouts at Gilwell Park, our UK headquarters.

Outdoor learning

In brilliant spring sunshine, the Duchess took a full part in a wide range of indoor and outdoor activities ranging from den building to hand painting.

Greeted by the Scouts’ Chair, Ann Limb, Chief Executive, Matt Hyde and Deputy UK Chief Commissioner Kester Shape, along with local dignitaries, the Duchess was soon involved in activities – including building balloon rockets - with young people.

But it was being outdoors, shelter building with the four and five year olds that she seemed to enjoy most. Climbing inside one of the dens, she even invited one young person to check it was waterproof by pouring water on the roof made of sticks and leaves.

Meeting parents and young people

Throughout the visit she engaged fully with the young people, and also made time to speak with leaders and parents about the progress of the year-long early years pilot scheme, thanking them for their support in making it possible. The Duchess showed her extensive knowledge of early years’ development, chatting knowledgeable about the potential benefits to young people.

The Scouts early years provision pilot programme for four and five year olds was announced in November 2018. The pilots are about exploring how younger children can benefit from the Scout programme to improve their confidence, problem solving skills, emotional resilience and communication skills. The pilot scheme also encourages active participation from parents, helping them to support their child’s early development.

‘We were incredibly excited to welcome HRH The Duchess of Cambridge,’ said Matt Hyde, CEO of the Scouts ‘During her visit, the Duchess was able experience first-hand our pilot programme for four and five year olds and the work we are doing to help them prepare for their futures.  Research has shown that high-quality early years work can make a significant positive impact on a young person’s development and their life chances. We are proud to show the Duchess the success we are having just four months into this programme.’

Iram Shoaib from Blackburn is a parent of one of the young people taking part in the early years pilot said ‘It’s been such a fantastic opportunity for all the young people to meet HRH The Duchess of Cambridge,’ she said. ;They have already got so much out of the early years pilot. Each week I see them learning new skills, becoming more confident and resilient.’

While we’re thrilled our work is receiving so much attention, we must emphasise that a decision around wider roll-out will only be made after the pilots have been fully evaluated. We will also be looking at how they might be able to help us recruit more volunteers from different backgrounds.

Please remember that, at this stage, Groups do not have permission to start early years provision outside of these pilots. Unofficial provision is against our rules, could affect the pilots, and is not insured. 

A lasting legacy

As a lasting legacy from the visit, the Duchess planted an oak sapling, supporting by four Explorer Scouts, to mark the 100 year anniversary of Gilwell Park’s as the home of Scouting. It grows close to the great Gilwell Oak, which towers over the Scouts’ famous training ground and symbolises the movement’s continued strength across the UK and around the world.

Find out more

The Scouts help over 460,000 young people in the UK develop skills for life, supported through the generosity of 160,000 adult volunteers.

Find out about flexible volunteer opportunities at 

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