Official opening by Girlguiding head

The head of Girlguiding UK was on hand in person yesterday to officially open new facilities at a popular residential and activity centre in the heart of Norfolk.

The head of Girlguiding UK was on hand in person yesterday to officially open new facilities at a popular residential and activity centre in the heart of Norfolk.

Chief guide Liz Burnley visited Great Hautbois House, near Coltishall, for a tour of the estate and to open the new extension, which backs on to the country house and provides a dining room and a conference and training centre.

More than 300 guides, brownies, rainbows and adult helpers attended the event, which had an "on safari" tour of the site, which includes opportunities for camping, raft building, abseiling, pond-dipping, crafts and African drumming.

Mrs Burnley then opened the newly completed extension, which has spectacular views across the estate, including the River Bure. "It is really something special," she said.

"There are a lot of environmentally friendly features included, such as a rainwater harvesting system and a hear recirculation system.

"These are issues which are of great importance to the girls and have gone down very well.

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"But the extension also means more can be offered from this excellent site, which itself is a very important part of the guiding movement and gives the girls a chance to take part in activities they would not necessarily be able to access elsewhere."

And with the national launch of volunteers week yesterday, Mrs Burnley took the opportunity to thank the 100,000 volunteers who help girl guiding operate in the UK to the benefit of 600,000 girls.

"We could always do with more volunteers of course, in fact we estimate there are 50,000 girls wanting to join up and with more volunteers we could take them on.

"The key thing is we are providing a girl-only space in what we do, which we feel is important now and will be for years to come."

Girlguiding Anglia chief commissioner Tricia Dundas said: "2007 will be remembered as the year we realised a long-held dream to create a centre where everyone is challenged to fulfil their potential in an atmosphere of fun and friendship."

The extension also houses a lift, allowing greater accessibility for those with mobility difficulties.