When Miss Christina Hardiman (a Warwickshire Ranger Guider and County Ranger Adviser) died in December 1977, she left her little round house ‘Roundestina’ in Frog Lane, Ilmington, to the Warwickshire Girl Guides. Her wish was that it should be used for holiday accommodation by guiders and ex-guiders, thereby generating sufficient income ‘to keep it properly maintained and perhaps leave some surplus for general funds’. Unfortunately, the senior County personnel at the time, in consultation with advisers at Commonwealth Headquarters, felt that Miss Hardiman’s wishes could not be carried out because of the small size of the house. ‘Roundestina’ was described, in a letter from Miss Brenda Smith, the County Commissioner of the time, as being ‘a small, round, two bedroomed bungalow, with a central stone chimney and a car port. It is about 13 years old, and stands at one end of a garden of about 50 yards by 25 yards’. With only two bedrooms it could not accommodate enough people to pay its running costs, unless they were charged a very high fee. In addition, someone would have to be paid to care for the building during the period of the year when it was not required for holiday purposes. Since it was known that the Trefoil Guild Holiday Fund had difficulty finding beneficiaries, it was thought that ‘Roundestina’ would not be any more successful in attracting holiday makers. It was fortunate for the Warwickshire Guides that Miss Hardiman’s solicitor appears to have foreseen these difficulties and persuaded her not to make her wishes binding. Written into the will is the clause ‘I do not wish the house to be sold as long as it can usefully be used for the benefit of the Guides’. Thus it was that on 7th March 1978, a number of options were put to a special meeting of the County Executive. These included attempting to use the house as suggested in the will; refusing the legacy, or selling the property and using the proceeds ‘for some specific purpose that would serve as a lasting and suitable memorial to Miss Hardiman’. The minutes of that meeting are not amongst the campsite archives, being a meeting of the Executive, but a sub-committee was appointed and this met on 5th May 1978. The decision taken at the special meeting of the County Executive must have been to sell ‘Roundestina’ because on 5th May, the date of the sale was announced. It was also agreed at this meeting that the County would be responsible for placing headstone on Miss Hardiman’s grave in Butlers Marston churchyard.
‘Roundestina’ was sold at auction on 1st June 1978 for £18,700. The money was deposited in a separate account and the County began to consider ways of spending it. First, the County was asked for suggestions, and then the most popular options were listed for consideration. In May 1979 Division Commissioners received this list, together with the comments of the special sub-committee. The recommended suggestions were listed ‘in reverse order’ as follows:
Coach (for use by members of the movement). It was felt that not only was this a depreciating asset, but that there could be too many problems with regard to insurance, maintenance, drivers with necessary qualifications (eg PSV licence).
Holiday Fund. This is possibly not necessary as there is already the Trefoil Guild Fund not being fully utilised
Great Alne (purchase of Pack Holiday House). As there were only 15 years left of the existing lease, and it would not be worth building extra accommodation, and as the cost of purchasing the building was too great, far exceeding the amount of the bequest, this did not seem practicable.
Permanent Campsite. Very careful consideration was given to this.
The committee set out their ideas and requirements for the purchase or rent of a campsite. These were that the site should be well away from any possible development area; the danger of vandalism needed to be kept in mind; the erection of a building should be possible and sewage disposal needed to be thought about. Information on the construction of a cesspit was also sought.
On 20th June 1979 the County Executive endorsed the recommendation of the sub-committee that a County Campsite should be purchased. A steering committee was appointed, under the chairmanship of Castle Division Commissioner Mrs Peggy Kenrick (Kim).The members of the committee set out with great optimism to find a site. As it turned out the task was to be more difficult than expected, and the enquiries about cesspits were somewhat premature!! Everyone was on the lookout for small plots of land for sale. Landowners all over Warwickshire were approached to see if any would be willing to sell a corner of an estate to the Guides. No-one was interested.
It was to take three years of searching, visiting possible sites, and many disappointments before final success. Meanwhile land prices were escalating and there was no reason to think that they would ever come down again, so the value of the legacy was being eroded all the time. At last, one of the committee members, Mrs Irene Gilkes, heard of a farming friend in Shipston-on-Stour, who had been renting two fields for grazing. The landowner now wanted to sell the fields and Mr Stevens could not afford to buy both. It was suggested that the Guides might like to buy the second field. It had a river which was beautiful as well as having possibilities for water activities, it had a small town with shops, which was near enough for convenience, but distant enough not to intrude.
The committee and the County Camp Adviser visited the field and found that it had a number of useful facilities, the most important of which was a main sewer running across the top end. No need for cesspits after all!
However, there was one serious disadvantage, and that was its situation on the southernmost boundary of the county, almost on the Oxfordshire border – a long way from the north of the county. It was recognised that this would make the site less accessible for Guides in the north of the county. For a unit’s annual camp this may not matter, as many people travel some distance for such camps, but a County Campsite would be used for many county events, and should be as easily accessible as possible.
The committee was very much aware of this problem, but in view of the time that it had taken to find this site, and the difficulties that had been encountered, it was felt that it was unlikely that the county would ever find anything that would satisfy all of the criteria. It had become obvious over the years that plots of land nears the centre of the county were not likely to be sold for the sort of money that the county could afford, because of their potential as building land. This site had much to commend it, and to offset the disadvantage of its position was the fact that it was in Miss Hardiman’s own Division of Kineton, only about four miles from the little round house at Ilmington. This was taken to be a good omen, and the decision was taken to buy the field. The conveyance document, dated 5th April 1982 records that Mr Arthur Stevens and his son Max, bought the two fields OS numbers 2176 and 0067 from J Poolton Esq, and immediately sold number 2176 to the Girl Guides Association Trust Corporation on behalf of the Warwickshire Girl Guides, for £18,000. Written into the agreement was the right of the Guides to maintain a right of way, not exceeding 10 feet in width, across field number 0067, and to lay water, electricity and telephone lines across the same field.
The field was quickly named Hardiman Fields, in honour of the benefactor, and the right of way was called Newbery Drive, in honour of Mrs Newbery, a local Vice-President and friend of Miss Hardiman.
Mrs Gill Laughlin was the County Camp Adviser at the time, and she remembers the committee’s sense of joyful euphoria as they contemplated their new campsite. She also remembers the rather sour comment of a Scout acquaintance – ‘Now all your problems will begin’ he said gloomily. In some ways he was right, of course, but it was a negative attitude, and having been closely connected with the site for more than ten years, Gill knew that the County would have enough joy from the campsite to far outweigh all the problems.
Many leaders in the Warwickshire still feel, even today, that the site should have been in a more central location, but it is hoped that the explanation of the history of the site will help to allay any idea that it was purchased thoughtlessly. The committee given the task of finding a site really did work hard and conscientiously to get the very best deal for the County. They then formed a management committee to prepare the site for camping and for the formal opening on 7th July 1984.
Field number 2176 was an area of 8.64 acres, on the left hand side of the London Road, and was separated from the road by Mr Stevens’ field, number 0067. The top two thirds of the field was fairly flat and then it fell down a short, steep slope to the flood plain of the River Stour. The river is over ten feet wide and flows along the north-east side of the field. It varies in depth, but is nowhere very deep, so that it was a wonderful resource for water activities such as raft making and bridge building.
Since the opening of the site, named Hardiman Fields, in honour of its benefactor, the successors of that first committee have worked tirelessly, planting trees, building the solid shelters and toilets, and trying to make the site something of which the County could be proud. If the site appeared in the early days not to be well organised and as well used as it should be, it was not because of any lack of commitment on the part of the members of the management committee, but was due in part to the small numbers of those able and willing to give time and commitment to the campsite.
At the time of purchase, the border hedges of the site were not stock-proof, and contained a number of mature trees, though there were no trees in the field itself. The grass was of poor quality and there was a tumbledown barn in the left hand corner by the entrance gate. The management committee realised that there was work to be done!
Mr and Mrs Stevens proved to be good friends and neighbours in those early days, and they gave the county a caravan which they had around the farm. This the committee proudly turned into an office, where they held their meetings, and watched progress. It was an exciting time.
The county was fortunate at this stage to have Kim Kenrick as Chairman of the committee, because she was able to visualise what this bare and rather run down field might look like after a few years of tender loving care, and she set to work to realise that vision.
One of the early projects was to hold an open coffee evening for the people of Shipston-on-Stour, so that they could meet ‘the Guides’ and hear about our plans for the future. The committee felt that it was important to foster good relations with the local community from the start. The meeting was held on 1st December 1982, at the Shipston Guides Headquarters, in the town, because, of course, there was no building on the site to accommodate the guests. The Shipston Guides served coffee and biscuits, Mrs Margaret Hahn, then County Commissioner, spoke about Guiding, Kim Kenrick spoke about the site and Gill Laughlin, in her role as County Camp Adviser, showed slides of camp activities. The evening was a great success, with quite a number of local people attending. They asked interested questions about the future plans, and those who had anxieties about hoards of children invading the town, went away apparently reassured. Strangely, in view of the committee’ anxiety to foster good relations, the experience was not repeated during the following years, perhaps because everyone was too closely involved with the work of the site to look up and out to the community around them.
By the summer of 1983 Kim was able to write in the County’s annual report that the field had been reseeded; mains water and a chemical toilet disposal point had been installed; the caravan had been painted and refurbished; sixty trees had been planted by Brownies and Guides and fireplaces had been built on each camping site by SAGGA. A lifebelt had been provided for water safety, and a gift of £50 from 1st Warwick Brownies had bought a wheelbarrow, a saw and a spade (this appears to have been the first recorded gift to the campsite from members of the movement). Kim also reported that the four camping areas had been named Willington, Tidmington, Barcheston and Blue Cap, names taken from the OS survey map of the
area. People have complained that the names were somewhat dull, but as no-one had come forward with anything more imaginative at the time, the committee chose names which would be meaningful for many years ahead, and local landmarks seemed appropriate. All had brick built bases for cooking.
Barcheston was on the north-east side of the campsite. Originally it did have problems with intruders, because it was nearest to the corner where intruders entered. Improved hedging and fencing dealt with this problem. (Readers may be interested to know that Barcheston has a Grade 2 Church (visible from the campsite) and Manor House, where the earliest English tapestries were woven in the sixteenth century. It is historically of national importance and attracts visitors from all over the world.
Blue Cap was in the centre of the field, and in the early days was not popular because it was very exposed, and until the trees in the two central copses had matured, it was an extremely windy site.
Tidmington, on the south side of the field, tended to be the most popular site, probably because it had the only (in the early days) dry shelter on it.
Willington, on the east, was a quiet site, a favourite with many people who liked to be ‘away from it all’.
Each site had its own water supply, and a woodpile site, so that pieces of wood would not be left around in the long grass, which damaged the mowing machine.
A solid shelter was built on the Tidmington site, which could be divided into two rooms, to accommodate two camps (Tidmington and Willington) in wet weather. It was hoped to display the Christina Hardiman memorabilia in there, but constant unwelcome visitors and vandalism put a stop to this idea. Money wouldn’t stretch at the time to building a second solid shelter for the other two camps, and it wasn’t until 2000 that with the help of a Lottery grant this dream became a reality.
In the September discussions were held on the laying of the driveway, improvements to the hedging and fencing and the provision of gates. Booking forms were being drawn up and the committee was beginning to think about holding an opening ceremony, so that camping could begin in earnest. From this time onwards there were more frequent meetings, and the minutes show evidence of amazing activity to ensure that the site would be ready for the camping season, and that the opening ceremony would be a day to remember, as indeed it was.
On Saturday, July 7th 1984 the Warwickshire Girl Guides gathered at the campsite for the first time for the official opening of Hardiman Fields. A coach load of Brownies, Guides and leaders from each Division was welcomed by members of the Ranger and Young Leader Service Team who had camped overnight to prepare for the event. The representatives from the Divisions arrived bearing gifts of plastic bowls and buckets for use by campers of the future.
Many activities were prepared for guests to enjoy, and soon Guides were deployed around the field trying their hands at Archery, Pistol shooting, pioneering and a variety of crafts. Meanwhile the Brownies were enjoying a very special Brownie Revels. The campsite badge was on sale for the first time, and there was even a limited edition showing the date of the opening.
At 2.30 pm Mrs Sheila Owen-Walker, former Commonwealth Chief Commissioner, in the presence of Guides and special guests declared Hardiman Fields officially open, and Canon Peter Berry blessed the site, and all those who would use it. For the steering committee this marked the end of six years of searching, planning and physical hard work, which had started with the death in December 1997 of Miss Christina Hardiman. One particularly happy event was that Canon Peter Berry was a link with Miss Hardiman, because it was he who bought ‘Roundestina’ back in 1978.
At the end of the day, when all the guests had gone home, a few Guiders and their families remained to tidy up after the festivities. They looked around with pride at the wonderfully verdant campsite that had been created from field number 2176, and they thought with gratitude of Miss Hardiman, whose generosity had made it all possible.
The official opening of Hardiman Fields was a highpoint in the history of the campsite, but it was only the beginning, and many years have passed since, during which the site has continued to improve. The Campsite Committee accepted responsibility’ to complete the facilities for camping by January 1985, at which time the site would be handed over to a management committee (now called the Management Team). In the event, most of the committee members expressed a willingness to continue to serve the campsite and substantially the same committee was appointed. A new constitution was drawn up and the Hardiman Fields Management Team set to work again.
Over the following years the boundaries were fenced with wooden posts and wire, with some hawthorn hedging. The hedging was thickened and strengthened, and a very heavy thorn hedge was planted in the corner by the river, where intruders were known to have entered the site. The entrance to the site had a sturdy gate, which had slipped on its hinges and was difficult to open, so this had to be repaired. The parking area had tons of hardcore laid, over which grass was seeded. The entrance area was bounded by fences, the gate and two small coppices. The small barn in the corner was restored and has since been used to house the camp equipment, and, until 2010, a pay telephone. A solar panel was provided in the early days before electricity was installed in 2000. A lot of work was involved in clearing the entrance area, which has always been inclined to become overgrown with nettles, in spite of the committee’s efforts, and some building materials had been dumped in the undergrowth. The building materials were moved to a ‘works area’ and the work of clearing the nettles has been ongoing since the day the site was purchased. Originally it was planned to erect a flagpole in the entrance area, but it was decided to put this onto the main campsite area, so as not to advertise the presence of the site to local youths.
Just before the opening ceremony, the committee had started to discuss the possibility of erecting a wet weather shelter on each of the camping sites. This was to become a major preoccupation for the next four years. The minutes of the committee meetings show that throughout 1985 members were making enquiries in all directions about wooden buildings. All were far beyond the means of the Christina Hardiman Fund. Eventually, Kelvin Barber, the committee’s honorary ‘Clerk of Works’ suggested that he would draw up some plans and ask his brother to quote for building it. The offer was eagerly accepted and ‘Kim’ produced some photographs of wet weather shelters she had seen at Waddow (a Guide Assocation Training Centre in the North of England).
It was agreed that we could only afford two shelters and in order to minimise the cost, they were to be built end to end, on the same concrete base. Kelvin set to work on the plans of a building not unlike the Waddow prototypes; his brother’s quote for the building was accepted, and planning permission was applied for.
Sadly ‘Kim’ did not live to see the completion of this project, as she died in the summer of 1986. The minutes of the meeting of 16th July record the committee’s grief and their appreciation of all her efforts for the site.
Planning permission was granted on 26th August 1986, but it was to take another year before the building started to rise. At last, on 12th December 1987 the committee was able to hold a luncheon party to celebrate the roofing of the wet weather shelter. On the menu were Casserole and Jacket Potatoes, washed down with celebratory wine, but the pièce de resistance was the Christmas Pudding, boiled on a trangia, by Hilary Pickup and Mollie Barber.
Another building project which was completed rather more quickly, was the renovation of the barn, in 1985. Community Industries of Coventry rebuilt the brickwork, re-pointed the outside, dug out the floor, and replaced the door. All the tiles were removed from the roof, and the timbers repaired, before the tiles were replaced. Windows were put in and shutters were made to protect them from vandalism. The finished barn looked smart and very much in keeping with the surroundings. It made an ideal store for the County Camp Equipment, although we have fought a running battle with the mice over the years – and sometimes they have won by chewing their way through very expensive tents. We won in the end though, by putting all the tents into plastic dustbins, and this seemed to have put a stop to their tent meals!
The committee applied to the BBC Children in Need appeal for funds to provide a toilet for the disabled, in a shed with a chemical toilet, with handrails and an extra wide door, and with a wheelchair ramp, and through their generosity, this was provided in 1989.
From the start, it has been the policy to plant trees on the campsite, for windbreaks, to give privacy to the individual sites, to encourage wildlife and just to enhance the
beauty of the place. The committee was advised to use only indigenous plants, and in general that advice has been followed, although individual specimen trees have varied this policy. Four copses were planned and planted in the first two years, and in those early days there were many problems with sheep getting in among the trees and nibbling the growing shoots. The copses were fenced, but the sheep jumped over them. The sheep were banished to Mr Stevens’ field, but they broke through the hedges and jumped into the copses again. Eventually, in 1986, Mr Phil Harris, the father of one of the Warwick Rangers, came to the rescue. He offered to re-fence the copses and to make them sheep proof – well, almost! From that time on, he spent many hours in Hardiman Fields, working alone, planting and tending the trees, and waging war on the sheep.
The boundary fencing was also replaced over the years, and from time to time hawthorn whips were planted to fill in the gaps in the hedges. The last sections were planted with over two hundred whips in the winter of 1993/4, so that the whole site was made stock-proof, and will eventually be sheltered by hedging.
One of the nice things about tree planting at Hardiman Fields is the fact that many people have planted trees in memory of Guiding friends, and in thanksgiving for happy times in Guiding, or in their personal lives. An early example of this was the trees given by Castle Division to mark the retirement of their Division Commissioner, Mrs ‘Kim’ Kenrick, in December 1982. ‘Kim’ had asked for trees for Hardiman Fields instead of a personal gift, and the trees were planted in the South-West corner of the field, which later became known as Kim’s Corner. As tends to happen with trees, some did not survive, and there are now only two, but they grow sturdily.
Margaret Hahn had a copse planted in memory of her husband Oscar, who died during her term as County Commissioner. The trees were well grown specimens when they were planted, and they have flourished so that they now form a lovely little wood between Tidmington and Willington sites.
Miss Ruth Waugh, who held many County appointments over the years, planted three specimen trees in the middle of the field, and these now serve as her memorial since her death in 1991.
There have been many similar plantings – a tree and hundreds of spring bulbs were planted by Shipston Guides and Brownies in memory of Mrs Margaret Everson, a local Guider, and the first booking secretary for the campsite. There are also a number of trees, planted as memorials, which were once accompanied by memorial plaques. However, a decision was taken by the committee to start a memorial book for such memorials, rather than to have plaques around the site, as we wanted the campsite to be a happy place for young people, and not to have plaques all over the place. So each tree or gift is now recorded in a memorial book, which is brought out at County events at the campsite. We do encourage people to wander around the site, remembering the people associated with the trees, and thinking of the contribution they made to the campsite and to the life of the County.
Apart from the trees, many other gifts have been made to the campsite. There was the wheelbarrow, spade and saw from the 1st Warwick Brownies, and the plastic bowls and buckets given at the opening, which have already been mentioned. In 1984 the Coleshill Trefoil Guild gave a handmade wooden postbox with a brass plaque on the front, which was placed on the roadside beside Mr Stevens’ gate. Unfortunately, it deteriorated over the years, and by 1994 it needed replacing, with a smart new metal box, thanks to a gift of £44 from Nuneaton Trefoil Guild. Another gift made in the year of the opening, was an anonymous donation of £100 which was used to buy a trolley for moving equipment around the site.
Two years later the campsite received a gift of £75 worth of cooking equipment from Stratford-on-Avon Trefoil Guild. This included two dixies, a double boiler and a set of Patrol billies. A second gift of £75 was made by Mr John Woodridge, who specified that it was to be used to help disabled Guides. This was spent on handrails which eventually went into the toilet for the disabled.
Another anonymous gift of £500 in 1989 enabled the committee to provide solar generated electric lighting in the barn, and eight benches for the wet weather shelter. In 1992 a donation in memory of Gladys Barden’s husband, who spent many hours at Hardiman Fields, with his wife, doing essential tidying up.
Of course, it is not only gifts of money that are valued by the Hardiman Fields Commttee. We have received gifts in kind, and gifts of time. The early gift of the caravan has already been mentioned, and we were most grateful for the sturdy tables given by Northgate Methodist Church in Warwick, when they bought new ones for the church. Some of these are still in use by the campers. Another example of donations for which we were immensely grateful, was the regular supply of wood for our fires from the Alderminster Brick Yard Timber Merchants. This was particularly valuable before our trees matured sufficiently to provide our own wood. Someone mentioned the need for a signal to call people together on activity days, and somehow the message found its way to the town of Alcester, and almost immediately a bell appeared, the gift of John and Jill Vincent, retiring landlords of the Bell Inn.
So back to the progress of the campsite! When the toilet blocks were built, at a cost of approximately £50,000, with full facilities for the disabled, the existing disabled toilet shed was used to store the numerous altar fires over the winter. The original committee considered many options regarding the toilet blocks – should there be one block on each site; should there by a single block at the top of the field, in line with the sewer, should they build one block at a time, and build more when money became available, or wait and build all at once; if one block only was built, should wooden cubicles be provided on each site for chemical night toilets, should showers be put into the toilet blocks, and so on? With so much to consider, it wasn’t until the 10th anniversary of the site (in 1994) that the toilet blocks (one for each site) were built. The then County Commissioner, Judith Morley opened the site from the air, in a small Tiger Moth plane, by throwing down toilet rolls, which the Brownies enjoyed chasing and catching as they dropped onto the field!
Early plans included constructing a chapel area, possibly in ‘Kim’s Corner’ (a quiet corner of the site) where it would be possible to hold Guides’ Owns, or just to be quiet. Over the years, however, it was decided that the best use of this corner would be to have trees and shrubs planted, have a sitting area, and people could enjoy the quietness of the site from a lovely vantage point. The original landscaping was expensive, and not practical, so some revamping took place, and Kenilworth Division Trefoil Guild took over caring for the area, planting bulbs, and generally giving it the loving care that it deserved. It was created in memory of Kim Kenrick, who was the Chairman of the search and first management committee, and who died before she was able to see the culmination of all her efforts for the campsite.
It had also been planned to construct a permanent campfire site, by the stream leading into the river, and that site remains to the present time. River access was also improved, by building two robust landing stages, making it much safer for users.
In the early days there were problems with the mowing of the grass. It was difficult to get right, because whilst sheep grazing over the autumn and spring, kept the grass short, they left the field dirty, and this was unpleasant for campers. We needed the sheep, to help with the much needed funds, but cleaning up after them before the start of the camping season was hard work. The first management committee had hoped to get some help from the Council gardeners in mowing the field, but this came to nothing, and in the end a local farmer was commissioned to do the mowing, which though expensive, keeps the field looking absolutely pristine.
Use of the campsite was sparse in the beginning, starting with the County Training Camp, on the second weekend in May, and there were usually one or two camps each weekend from the end of May until September. There were occasional Division days for Brownies and Guides, and one or two County events, though these were rather exceptional occasions. Over the years usage has grown considerably, and with being able to advertise on the World Wide Web, campers from all over the country now camp on the site, and return year after year.
It was always the intention that the campsite should be a conservation area. It is a topical issue, and children seem to take an interest in it. The original plans included bins for recycling as much rubbish as possible, but this proved to be impossible to manage as it was not possible to arrange for the collection of the recycling bins. There was an old upturned bath on the Wilmington site, and it had been hoped that it would be a natural spring that could be turned into a pond for wildlife and bog plants. However it turned out to be a broken drain, and so it was necessary to put in drainage channels and abandon the idea of a pond. The original committee was advised that there were fossils in the river, and it had been hoped that campers might search for them, though with the Health & Safety regulations that came in later, this was another idea that had to be abandoned. One thing that did develop though, was the studying of the wildlife that came to out site to enjoy the newly planted copses. Deer, foxes, badgers (we have a sett on the site), rabbits, voles, and numerous birds have all been seen on the site. A peacock even visited one year, which had escaped from one of the local farms – to where it was safely repatriated!
The copses and hedges were developed and over 3000 trees and hedge whips were planted, supplemented in 2009 by a further 950 trees donated by the Woodland Trust. A further 100 trees were planted at the end of 2009, plus a 30 year old oak tree put in the centre of the field to mark the Guide Centenary, and a Warwickshire Drooper and a Crab Apple tree in memory of Norah Crossland and Joyce Beckett respectively, both supporters of the site.
Pioneering poles were provided, although originally there was a battle with the woodworm (which the woodworm won with the first set of poles). Later poles were treated before they were put out, and activity sheets were provided to give instruction on using the poles. An orienteering course was also set up, with various grades available for Rainbows, Brownies and Guides. An ongoing battle with the mowing machine kept the management committee on their toes, to ensure that the markers were not gobbled up by the machine. Materials were also provided for raft building on the river, which of course meant drawing attention to safety rules.
Early plans also included setting up a weather station, so that campers could do some basic weather forecasting, though this has never materialised.
The original campsite committee consisted of a Chairman, Secretary/Booking Secretary, Treasurer, 4 Division representatives, who had to be Campers Licence holders, a Construction Consultant and an Agricultural Consultant. In addition, the County Commissioner, County Camp Adviser, Kineton Division Camp Adviser and Chairman of the Friends of Hardiman Fields were all ex-officio members. For a few years some young people were employed, who were paid a small subsistence allowance, to work throughout the summer, dealing with the equipment and activities.
The Secretary and Treasurer were kept busy dealing with committee business, as well as bookings and payments.
It was always intended that the day to day running of the campsite would be self financing. Site fees covered the cost of such things as water, mowing and basic maintenance. Equipment fees covered everyday wear and tear of the equipment, although it did not allow for the replacement of large items such as tents. Originally the equipment was the responsibility of the County Camp Committee, though this later became the responsibility of the Management Committee.
The consultants gave generously of their time when big projects were in hand, such as the construction of the toilet blocks, which meant that the bulk of the actual management tasks fell to the Chairman and the Division representatives. However, the Chairman’s main job was to co-ordinate the efforts of the other committee members and to concentrate on the development plans.
As the years went by, the consultants left the committee, and it was increasingly more difficult to get Division representatives, and so the committee became made up of the
officers, plus interested volunteers, which works well, and all are committed to the upkeep of the Fields.
The Chairman of the Friends of Hardiman Fields (formed in 1986) had the task of trying to encourage support and enthusiasm both within and outside Guiding. The Friends also supplied extra pairs of hands when work parties were needed. They undertake lighter tasks and are always present to give a hand when there is a big event taking place. They are particularly in evidence when we have tree planting days, and when we hold ‘tidying up’ days in the Autumn and Spring. They also run a 200 Club which is their main source of income, which is expended by donations to the site. Over the years they have spent many thousands of pounds and have replaced all the indoor tables and chairs, have provided electricity to the Barcheston/Bluecap dry shelter, materials for the maintenance of the front driveway, provision of an activity track, and provision of safety flooring for some of the jumps (which came about because of the losing battle with the undergrowth under the jumps), replaced the old trolley with two custom made trolleys, and a host of other things that have made life easier for the campers.
The Friends are also responsible for the souvenir shop, which sells campsite badges, t-shirts and a number of souvenirs. Guides and Leaders alike love the shop, which strives constantly to find souvenirs that the campers will want to buy. Judging by how quickly items sell out, the Friends seem to have got it right!
Originally insurance was paid by the County, although, again, this became the responsibility of the management committee in 2009. County grants were given in the early days, but these stopped in 2006, which caused considerable stress to the management committee, as their remit was not fundraising, and it meant, for the first time, that it appeared that the campsite always ran at a loss, and the management committee relied heavily on the Friends of the Campsite for its basic needs. It also became necessary to buy more souvenirs to sell to help with the fundraising.
Over the early years various appeals were made to help with the development of the site – units were asked to donate to help with the toilet blocks, tiling of the floors, donation of trees, benches, seats etc. One early idea was that each Division should donate a tree so that there could be a semi-circle of trees in the entrance area, one for each of the then eleven Divisions.
Each campsite now has its own barbeque (through a bequest from Irene Gilkes, and from fundraising), and with the help of a Lottery Grant, a solid shelter was built between Barcheston and Blue Camp sites, which was furnished with chairs and tables donated by the Friends of Hardiman Fields, and electricity laid on by profits from the 200 Club run by the Friends.
The biggest blow in the campsite’s history came in 2008 when it was announced that Max Stevens had sold half of his field to Warwickshire Rural Housing Association, and that there were plans to build 26 low cost houses on it. This was a bitter pill to swallow, because the first of the original criteria in finding a campsite was that it should not be in a potential development area. Judith Morley, the then Chairman of the Management Team, spearheaded a furious campaign to fight the plans, but despite everyone’s best efforts, permission was granted, and the building went ahead. One cannot pretend that there were not difficulties, but despite the disappointment, the committee forged a good relationship with the builders (Wates), and a reasonably good co-existence was established. Wates spent their Community Day on the site, and did several good turns for the Guides, including building superb wood shelters for the sites, clearing the landing stages, and making several repairs to the site. Over the year that they were on the site, they continued to support the campsite, doing many favours, and clearly feeling, as Girlguiding did, that the estate should never have been allowed to have been constructed so close to a Guide campsite.
Since then there has been a general acceptance of the situation, and the site is much easier for campers to find, given the new entrance through the housing estate. In the early days of the development there were teething problems, with children of the residents getting onto the site and causing some damage, but the Housing Association
quickly dealt with the offending families, and in the main there is a peaceful co-existence between the residents and campers. In fact the residents take a keen interest in the site, and some are quite protective towards it.
Unfortunately, the need for a friendly eye has been one of the problems foreseen by a Scout acquaintance in the early days. There were a number of incidents of
intruders, vandalism and theft from time to time, and the police have had no success in catching the perpetrators. We suspected that the culprits were all youngsters with nothing better to do, and most of the damage has been of a fairly minor nature, but it was annoying to find that no sooner was the site tidied up and looking smart, than the windows were broken yet again, or fires had been lit and the ashes and charred logs left lying around.
In 1986 intruders were causing some anxiety and the committee started looking at security systems. Before the days of proliferate use of mobile phones, a telephone was installed in the barn for campers to call for help if necessary, notices were put up to emphasise that the site was private property, and barbed wire was added to the top of the fencing. Campers were encouraged to bring their animals to give warning of intruders, and it was made clear that husbands and other friendly menfolk were welcome to camp on the site.
The committee looked at the possibility of installing security lighting, but at the time the idea had to be abandoned because of the disadvantages that became apparent. Firstly, there was no electricity on the site, and we were quoted £900 to bring it onto the field, even before it was wired up to the lights. Secondly, if we had lights on permanently during the hours of darkness, we would run the risk of drawing attention to the site, rather than making it more secure, not to mention the confusion for local wildlife who only came out in the dark. Permanent lighting would also destroy the rural nature of the area. Security lights which came on in response to movement were not practicable on a campsite, because animals, birds and campers going to the toilet in the night would all trigger the mechanism. Lights coming on and off throughout the night were thought to be likely to cause alarm rather than reassure. Finally, since most of the intruders came onto the site during the hours of daylight, mainly when the site was empty, the lights were thought to be irrelevant and something which might themselves become a target of vandalism. The Chairman at the time wrote a letter to Guiding Magazine, asking if anyone else had experience of deterring intruders, hoping it might generate a lively debate, with lots of ideas coming forward. Instead, there was one letter in reply, suggesting that we hang strings of cans in the hedges, to warn of the approach of strangers! This solution was not thought to be practical – especially on windy nights!
The police Crime Prevention Officer came to examine the site and in his opinion, we were doing all that we could. The police have been very helpful to us over the years, and they actively encourage campers to let them know if they have any problems so that they can drive down and we seen to be around the campsite. They rarely say no to a cup of tea or hot chocolate in the early hours, if they are not rushing off somewhere else!
The Friends, along with many others in the County, turned out in force for the ‘Challenge Warwickshire’ on 23rd April 1994. This was our own version of ‘Challenge Anneka’. The County Commissioner, Judith Morley, dressed up in a blue jump suit (borrowed from the milkman) and dashed around all day whipping up enthusiasm amongst the seventy or so workers who had gathered to give the site a facelift. The day saw many much needed jobs completed and resulted in a very nice article about Hardiman Fields in Guiding Magazine. A success all round.
There have been a number of special events at Hardiman Fields since that first celebration on the opening day. In May 1986 the County round of the British Meat Cookery competition was held at the campsite. Two years later two hundred guides gathered for the County ‘Mayflower’ camp, which was the highlight of the camping year, and is fondly remembered by those who attended.
The County’s 75th anniversary as a Guide County, was celebrated at Hardiman Fields in 1992 with a huge birthday party for 1500 girls. The weather struggled to be kind to us for most of the day, but finally ended in a downpour just as the campfire was about to be lit.
In 1994 we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the opening of the campsite. It was a low key affair because it occurred only one month before the start of the second County International Camp. As so many people were heavily involved in Arden ’94 we could not expect the County to turn out in force to celebrate at Hardiman Fields. However, those who did turn up enjoyed a very pleasant Do-it-Yourself barbeque lunch, followed by a 10p Fair and guided tours of the campsite.
Of course, County camps are now held at our own campsite, such as the County Theme Camp, and Orbit, as are regular Patrol Camp permit weekends and Ranger Duke of Edinburgh Award camps. The Senior Section have also organised incident days for older Guides. Several District and Division camps have been held at Hardiman Fields as well as Activity Days and Brownie Revels.
With things going so well, it was almost as if someone wanted to throw a spanner in the works for this lovely place, because in 2014 we heard that Max Stevens was trying to sell the other half of his field to yet another Housing Association, this time to build 92 dwellings, which would very much overlook our Tidmington site. This was another bitter blow for us, but we teamed up with the Parish of Barcheston (who look after the Barcheston tapestries, mentioned earlier in this history) and with local residents, to fight this second development. We were successful after the first consultation, because the number of dwellings was reduced to 56, but despite another rigorous campaign and huge support from residents and councillors, the Planning Committee reluctantly had to grant permission for the development to go ahead. The general consensus was that even though the Councillors did not want the development to go ahead, they had no good reason in law, that would stand up in the event of an appeal. However, fortunately for all of us objectors, Peter Brittain from the Parish of Barcheston picked up on a legal technicality, which meant that there had to be another hearing of the application. This time, because of the legal technicality, the application was turned down, and we had a reprieve. At the time of writing, we know that there is to be an appeal to the Secretary of State, but no application has yet been lodge, and so nothing can be done until it is. We all do so hope that the decision will go in our favour again, but it’s very much a matter of wait and see at the moment!
Earlier we spoke about gifts to the site. We could not finish this history of the site without mentioning the gifts of time that have come from so many people, so many that we hesitate to pick out any to mention by name. However, Phil Harris (our Tree man), and three of the husbands of committee members, have to be mentioned. They are Kelvin Barber, Sid Kenrick and Ivan Laughlin. The have all spent many hours supporting their wives and working on the site, when they would probably have
preferred to have been doing something else! They have weeded and planted, hammered and nailed, replaced broken windows after the vandals, sprayed after the woodworm and the nettles, and done so much more. Meanwhile Irene Gilkes, Dorothy Hutchings and Edna Jervis, and their respective families have given invaluable support and local knowledge, whilst our neighbours Dr Martin Thomas and Mrs Fay Kernahan have looked after the campsite keys and kept a friendly eye on the site. Some of these people are no longer with us, but their contribution must be acknowledged, for without them, the campsite possibly would not be here today. And their enthusiasm has set the standard for the present day, when we have a totally committed and immensely hard working team of ladies who form the Management Team, and give their all to ensure that the site remains beautiful, for the memory of those who set it up, and for the enjoyment of those who come to visit.
There is now quite a high level of use of the campsite, although it could be used even more. Guides and Scouts coming in from other counties are almost always complementary about the location and amenities, and we hope that Warwickshire Guides realise what a wonderful asset they possess, thanks to Miss Hardiman’s bequest, and the foresight and hard work of the committee members who have laboured to turn a plain field into a campsite of which to be proud.
This history will be updated as time passes, but in the meantime, it seems appropriate to find out who Miss Hardiman was. Most people will never have met her, so a little about her is given below.
MISS CHRISTINA HARDIMAN
Christine Hardiman was born in the North East of England, near Durham on 10th September 1911, and her family moved to Warwickshire during her childhood. She was educated in Rugby and later trained as a teacher. Mrs Newbery remembered that she was once a teacher at Kineton School, and that she was Kineton’s Guide Captain. However, the most vivid memories of ‘Hardi’ date from the time when she was Head Teacher at Butlers Marston School. It seems to have been an especially happy and active period in her life.
Anne Fox remembered arriving in Warwickshire to take up a teaching post in the late 1940s. She started a Guide company in Harbury (in Kineton Division at the time), and ‘Hardi’, who was then the Division Camp Adviser, invited Anne to bring her Guides to a weekend camp at Pillerton Hersey. They camped in the Vicar’s field, with Guides from other parts of the Division, and Anne was the QM (Quartermaster). Anne recalled that there were several of these Division camps before it became accepted that she was ‘Hardi’s’ QM in exchange for taking the Harbury Guides to camp with the Kineton Guides.
Miss Hardiman was apparently a memorable character, who was about six foot tall and drove a little Austin Seven. She used to hold camps which few people would contemplate these days. Anne says she would book a site for three weeks at a time and have units from her own Division coming and going and alternating with the units of her friends from Rugby and Coventry. Sometimes the camps would overlap and there would be two camps on site together. Anne would then find herself cooking on open wood fires for up to eighty people. Miss Hardiman used an old ‘sit-up-and-beg’ bicycle to get around these large camps and she was accompanied everywhere by her little dog Tina.
During this time Miss Hardiman lived in the school house at Butlers Marston with her widowed mother, who kept house for her. Later, when Miss Hardiman was appointed Head Teacher at Ilkington School, the two ladies moved to Ilmington Schoolhouse.
Her mother continued to keep house until her death, and it has been said that after Mrs Hardiman’s death, her daughter had great difficulty in coping with the housekeeping, at which she was so inexperienced.
After her mother’s death Miss Hardiman continued her busy life. She ran both Guide and Ranger Units and in addition to her roles as Guider and Division Camp Adviser, she was a certificated Ranger Trainer and County Ranger Adviser. She was the organist at Ilmington Church, and she was also very involved in the Red Cross. Indeed, she was a Commandant in the Warwickshire Red Cross.
Unfortunately Miss Hardiman’s health began to deteriorate as she developed Multiple Schlerosis and diabetes. First she had to take early retirement, then she had her car adapted for hand controls, and eventually had to take to a wheelchair. She still kept in touch with Guiding though. Judith Morley recalls that in 1975 she was unable to take her Guides camping as she was heavily pregnant, and so booked Ilmington Village Hall so that her Guides could have a holiday together instead of a camp. Miss Hardiman was a regular visitor to the Village Hall, which was also used during the summer as a Brownie Pack Holiday House, and she came in her wheelchair, aided by a Ranger from London who was living with her to help her to cope. She told us that she always visited when there were Brownies holidaying there, and she loved spending time with the girls. She had a meal with the Guides, and insisted on sitting alongside the girls, and not with the Guide Leaders. She went away in the afternoon, but wanted to come back in the evening for campfire singing, where she taught the Guides a new song, and also told them that her camp name was ‘Woof Woof’, although Judith can’t remember how she got that name. Judith also remembered that Miss Hardiman was very frail, but very jolly, and did so enjoy being with the young people.
Miss Hardiman’s Ranger eventually left Ilmington, and Miss Hardiman was unable to live independently, and so she spent the last years of her life in the Ellen Badger Hospital in Shipston-on-Stour. She died quite suddenly, at the age of 66 on 9th December 1977.
When her will was read, the Warwickshire Girl Guides were surprised and delighted to learn that they were to inherit ‘Roundestina’ and its contents. It was sad that Miss Hardiman’s wishes regarding the use of the house could not be carried out, but in view of her love of camping, it seems likely that the purchase of a permanent campsite would have met with her approval.