Pettypool Campsite and Activity Centre is set in 17 acres of woodland in the heart of Cheshire. The site has been run by Girlguiding UK for over 35 years. Cheshire Forest Region covers the areas of Warrington, Halton and North Cheshire – a diverse mixture of large towns and rural areas.
The Lookout project provides a replacement for a building that was no longer fit for purpose. The new facility offers residential accommodation for both the Guides and Leaders, plus space for support staff and an activity centre with a dedicated kitchen provision. The building is sited on the grounds of a former house which is set over a terraced landscape in the heart of the forest. The new building sits on the upper level of the steeply sloping site with a cantilevered external deck over the bank towards a lower level campsite with the forest beyond.
The building is composed of two wings which form a courtyard towards the access road and approach. The entrance lobby is generous and provides space for storing coats and boots. A foyer situated beyond the lobby acts as a pivotal point between activity spaces and the residential wing of the building. This includes a series of bedroom suites for the Guides and Leaders. Accessibility and inclusivity are fundamental design principles and the new building provides level access throughout and includes a dedicated ‘Changing Places’ facility that offers a room for a single occupant plus carer along with a mobility hoist that links directly to an enlarged bathroom suite.
The activity room forms the principal space within the building. This is a large open plan hall which gently tapers upward towards a full height openable glazed wall at one end with a kitchen and servery at the other. The Hall opens onto a level access deck area with views towards the forest. At lower level, the deck provides shelter to a covered seating space adjacent to the campsite which can be accessed via an external stair and ramp.
The project sought to continue to explore a language for 21st Century Girlguiding which we first considered at the organisation’s NW Region HQ in Preston (AJ April 2013). The design approach synthesises standard industrial building techniques with aspects of textile production that explores colour, form, texture, contrast and tactility as a response to each site.
An important aspect of the brief was the commitment to invest in young people and to provide an inspirational space that would introduce to many users their first experience of a forest environment. The style of accommodation has also evolved, to meet the needs of new generation, from the contemporary hall space and deck to a series of grouped en-suite rooms. The outcome is a facility that provides spaces for gathering, participation, activity and conversation.