From artillery base to refugee camp – now historic scout hut at Decoy Broad needs one more new lease of life

PUBLISHED: 16:06 27 February 2013 | UPDATED: 16:06 27 February 2013

11th Norwich Sea Scout group are aiming to raise £10,000 to repair their scout hut at Decoy Broad. Left to right, Paul Varvel, a long serving scout member and Neil Munt, scout leader pictured at the hut.

11th Norwich Sea Scout group are aiming to raise £10,000 to repair their scout hut at Decoy Broad. Left to right, Paul Varvel, a long serving scout member and Neil Munt, scout leader pictured at the hut. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2013

A £10,000 appeal has been launched to revamp a ramshackle scout hut in the Broads which has seen service at an army base and a refugee camp during its remarkable history.

Nestled in a secretive corner of the Norfolk Broads, this ramshackle wooden hut might not look like anything special.

But its unassuming appearance belies a remarkable history – and its place in the hearts of hundreds of youngsters who it has sheltered throughout the decades after their day on the water.

Now a £10,000 appeal is under way to renovate the run-down hut and give it’s useful past one more new lease of life.

The 11th Norwich Sea Scout group has launched the fundraising effort to repair its building at Decoy Broad – a private campsite and waterway only accessible to members of the Scout movement.

The hut was used by the army during the second world war and was later put into service to house the refugees who fled Hungary during the bloody 1956 uprising against Soviet rule.

In 1966, it was saved from redundancy by the 11th Norwich, who bought it for £20, dismantled it, and re-built it at Decoy Broad, near Woodbastwick.

Here it is still used to store boats and offer shelter to the scouts who come every summer to learn sailing, rowing and canoeing while honing their camping skills.

Someone with longer memories than most is 70-year-old Paul Varvel, who has been involved for more than 60 years with the scout group, now based on Helford Street in Norwich.

Mr Varvel said he remembers planting a sapling outside the hut as a teenager, which now towers over it as a 50ft ash tree.

“The hut might be held together with six-inch nails but it has stood against the wrath of the weather for all these years, and hundreds of kids will have memories here,” he said.

“It was originally used by the army during the war and it was situated at Hales, near Loddon. For what reason it was there, I don’t know, but we think it was something to do with the artillery.

“Then it was done up in 1956 for the Hungarian refugees, which very few people remember now, but there were so many of them here. We bought it from Loddon Rural District Council in 1966, and May Gurney were kind enough to deliver it here for us.”

The scout group hopes work can begin later this year on the refurbishment, which will include a new roof, kitchen and changing rooms.

Money will be raised by a combination of grant applications and planned fundraising events which include supermarket bag-packs and a “sponsored stay-awake”.

Scout leader Neil Munt said: “It means a lot. The scouts use the hut for storing boats and cooking their main meals. We used to use it for sleeping as well, but until we revamp it, there’s not much we can do with it.

“We’ve put in for a £5,000 grant through the Norfolk Community Foundation and we’re very hopeful it will be successful. The sooner we get the money, the sooner we can start.

“It is a big plus for the simple reason that they learn so many things here. There are not many places in easy reach of Norwich where they can come and learn to sail.”

The unspoilt 20-acre stretch of water at Decoy Broad is located between Salhouse and Horning on the River Bure, and forms part of a National Nature Reserve.

The campsite is located on a private farming estate owned by the Cator family, and has been set aside exclusively for use by the Scouting movement since the 1940s.

Mr Varvel said: “You can come down here in the summer and see 250 kids here on an activity day. It is a wonderful, wonderful place.”

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