The Girlguiding South West England Region is made up of 16 diverse Counties and Islands, each with Divisions and/or Districts and individual Units which are often quite unique from their neighbours. All enjoy a variety of advantages and face different challenges, but the Region’s Leaders and Commissioners work hard to ensure that Guiding continues to be fun and accessible to as many girls as possible, of all ages, regardless of where they live.
A large proportion of the Region is coastal which offers fantastic opportunities for all kinds of outdoor activities on the beach and water all year round, although an influx of summer tourists does obviously impact on the life of the locals. The weather on the coasts and particularly on the islands is often a deciding factor on where and when Unit meetings take place; for example, in the Isles of Scilly, the most westerly part of our Region, travelling to a meeting by boat is often the norm. The Brownies on St Martins make the journey across to St Marys during the summer months, but are unable to do this in the winter, and even on some summer evenings when the weather suddenly draws in. Island Guiding does make it more difficult and very expensive for girls to take part in events and activities which are held on the mainland and this can make them feel rather isolated.
We also have the beautiful New Forest, Exmoor, and Dartmoor National Parks within our Region which enable local Units to make the most of the wonderful outdoors. But on Dartmoor there are very few local Units and girls may have to travel quite a distance each week to meet up with the friends they only see at their Rainbow, Brownie, Guide or Senior Section meeting. Here again the weather can change very quickly and planned activities may need to be re-arranged, and the outbreak of Foot and Mouth some years back meant that many girls were unable to attend meetings whilst local roads were closed and travel restricted.
The wonderful outdoor opportunities which are available to our Members in coastal and rural areas are not so easily accessible to those who live in our large towns and cities. Here Units are restricted to using local parks for wide games, but camping and campfires are not possible and personal safety is a consideration when out and about. Units in these areas do though have much easier access to museums, swimming pools, bowling alleys, climbing centres and other attractions and girls don’t usually need to travel so far to attend meetings which are also less weather reliant! The distraction caused by all the other activities which are available in a busy town or city can however, sometimes mean that girls get drawn away from Guiding.
For those attached to the armed forces which are stationed within the Region, Guiding can provide a sense of continuity for girls and Leaders whose families move around the country, and indeed around the world. Many have benefitted from the warm welcome which Girlguiding extends to them wherever they go and have found that it is much easier to make friends in a new area when they have Guiding in common. The Units which are based on Salisbury Plain receive practical and financial support from their local garrisons in recognition of the help which Guiding provides to service families.