Set in a remote rural location near to Heath Charnock, Bibby’s Farm was purchased some 15 years ago to serve as a Scout Campsite as a replacement for previous sites in Bolton. The site was run very successfully for twelve years solely by volunteers, until three years ago when Peter Sturgess was engaged as a full-time site manager, although he is still backed by around 50 volunteers. Under Peter’s leadership use of the site has trebled over the past three years.
Bibby’s Farm, although principally a campsite, is far more than that, being a centre for many challenging activities, both indoor and out, for groups of young people. The centre caters for over 20,000 users every year, with the numbers still growing. Around 40% of these will be scouts, a further 20% guides and the remainder a mix of Duke of Edinburgh, Church Youth Groups and Youth Clubs – in fact, any registered group catering for the needs of young people. The site is open every day, all year, only closing on Christmas Day.
Participants may be visiting for a day or may be on a residential course being accommodated in the bunkhouse, which has been converted from a former barn. Of course they may also be simply camping in tents in the surrounding campsite fields, but have the use of cooking, toilet, washing and laundry facilities provided on site. Other farm buildings have been converted into centres for indoor activities.
A popular area for the young people is the play area, which offers challenging climbing and exercise facilities which have been built over the years by the volunteers. However, as Peter Sturgess explained, there is now a need for more professionally built climbing equipment including a large ‘Jungle Climber’ but the cost of this is expected to be some £7,000. While the centre does have some funds a great deal has been recently been spent on building and equipping a first class new bunk house, again with the help of both volunteers and sponsors providing services and equipment. Peter explained that some Masonic funding had also been provided towards the cost of this building. The bunkhouse is due to open in late September and will be a superb facility enabling the centre to cater for many more residential activities. The gable wall of this building will even serve as a screen for an outdoor cinema! (Note the speakers on the wall)
In October 2017 the Bolton District Freemasons successfully applied for funds from the ELMC Grant Making Committee to assist in the purchase of the new ‘Jungle Climber’ and were awarded £1,500. Due to the demand on time in building the new bunkhouse the Climber has not yet been installed but we are told that this is now imminent and will be the next project to be undertaken. A further visit will be made to see this new equipment in use.
Although on the day it was pouring with rain, visiting this site was certainly an ‘eye-opener’ with the number of activities and scope of facilities available to its users being quite amazing. The map below gives some idea of this.
A visit to their website at http://www.bibbysfarm.org.uk will give a far greater insight into the facilities that the site provides.
Report by Gerry Russell