After very careful consideration of a number of options by the Executive committees of both Girlguiding Somerset and Girlguiding Somerset North over a number of months, the decision has been taken to sell the Somermead Lodge and Campsite in Wedmore.
Throughout our 111-year history, Girlguiding has grown and changed as the needs of our young women have changed. Challenge and adventure is at the heart of what we offer, and those experiences now include space camps, Girlguiding festivals and extreme weather activity camps amongst many other opportunities available across a number of different venues. But, just as the needs of our young women have changed, so to have the needs of our volunteer leaders, who are busier today than they have ever been. Using a green field venue such as Somermead requires significant time investment from our volunteers to create the experiences that the young women are looking for.
In the three years prior to COVID, during which time the lodge was fully functional, we have seen a decline in the usage of the Somermead facilities to less than 15% of our Girlguiding groups from across both counties.
Somermead has created lots of wonderful memories for girls and adults, and those can never be taken away. However, as Trustees, we need to consider the needs of all of our members, and create the opportunities for everyone to benefit from amazing residential experiences. Somermead is no longer the location choice of most of our members. We are confident that its sale is in the best interests of guiding, and will enable its remaining value to be used for the benefit of all of our current and future girls, helping to fund further adventures and training elsewhere for all guides in the two counties.
The issue isn’t purely financial but also practical. Initially run as an open-air campsite, a new timber lodge, providing dry accommodation, meeting space, food preparation, shower and toilet facilities for some 30 girls and leaders was completed in April 2011. Girlguiding Somerset North provided funding for the Lodge project and in March 2010 became joint owners of the Somermead Campsite and Lodge.
During internal redecoration undertaken in 2020 during lockdown, rot was discovered in the floor of the wetroom. On professional investigation, it was established that there was evidence of rot across the whole of the underside of the timber floor, and the structure was unsafe. This was subsequently confirmed by an independent expert, who identified a lack of sufficient ventilation below the floor as the principal cause. Legal advice concluded that there is no practicable route to obtain redress from the original suppliers or others associated with the construction.
A professional construction estimator prepared an indicative budget for its repair, based on replacing the whole floor throughout the building, giving a figure of some £150,000 including VAT.
Careful consideration has been given to repairing the lodge and how this may be funded (including grants and fundraising). However, the usage figures indicate that the investment made would still only benefit a small number of Girlguiding members across both counties. This has been a key factor in deciding to close the site and achieve value through a sale, reinvesting the resulting funds in opportunities for all our young people and leaders.
The Trustees understand and share in the sadness that the sale of Somermead will entail, particularly for all those who have invested huge amounts of time and money into the site, and we would like to thank everyone for all of the time and effort they have given over the years.