Girls' movement is a guide for life

PUBLISHED: 15:21 17 March 2010 | UPDATED: 16:54 20 February 2013

Girls' movement is a guide for life

Girls' movement is a guide for life

Last autumn, Girlguiding UK marks its centenary. As Nofolk units prepare for a year of celebration, Abigail Saltmarsh speaks to some of those involved in the movement here in the county.

Girls' movement is a guide for life

Girlguiding UK marks its centenary. As Norfolk units prepare for a year of celebration, Abigail Saltmarsh speaks to some of those involved in the movement here in the county.

Back in 1959, Pat Pinnington first buttoned up her uniform and stepped out to make the two mile walk to her new Girl Guide unit. Excited at the thought of taking part, along with her sister and best friend, she had little idea at the time that 50 years later she would still be heavily involved in the movement.
I think its wonderful and Im very happy to be part of it after all this time, she says. Today, Im assistant county commissioner for Girlguiding in Norfolk and my family is very involved too.
My daughters were both Guides when they were younger and one of them is now a guider herself. Two of my granddaughters are in the Brownies.
It was in 1909 that a group of girls gate-crashed the first Scout rally at Crystal Palace. Attracting the attention of Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the movement for boys, they asked him to set up something for the girls too.
As a result, in 1910, the Girl Guides Association was formed, under the leadership of Baden-Powells sister Agnes, and units began to spring up across the country.
A junior section for girls aged under 11 was formed in 1914. This was initially called Rosebuds but was renamed Brownies in 1915.

In 1916, senior Guide groups were formed for girls aged 14 to 25. Two years later, Olave Baden-Powell (Robert Baden-Powells wife), was appointed Chief Guide and went on to develop the movement. It was not until 1987 that Rainbows a section for five to seven-year-olds was introduced.
When Pat, now 62, first set out aged 12 for the 8th Edmonton Group in London, it was almost half a century after the movement was first launched. Guiding must have changed significantly since those early days, yet Pat, who now lives in Kings Lynn, points out it was still very different from the movement we see today.
Parading was a huge part of it in those days. We would take part in the Commonwealth March, along with the Boys Brigade and Scouts, and we would practise parading every week, she remembers. We still do it at odd times, but it isnt such an important part of guiding.
The badges and activities have evolved as well. I did things like my thrift and needlewoman badges, says Pat. But I went to a group recently where the girls gave a PowerPoint presentation on a laptop!

Pat, a retired listing officer and manager at Peterborough Crown Court, was a Guide until the age of 16, when she became a leader. She moved from London to Kings Lynn at the age of 20, because of her husbands job, and within a week had joined the 7th Kings Lynn group.
I was bored and so I knocked at the local vicars door to see if there was anything going on that I could join in with and he invited me to become a guider. Eventually the group became too big, so I was invited to set up a new one. I began the 9th Kings Lynn.
At the time, Pat was pregnant with her daughter Melanie but she remained involved in the movement. Both Melanie and her younger sister Nicole joined as Brownies and moved up through the movement. Today Melanie Carter is a guider with the 19th Kings Lynn.
Pat first became involved in the higher levels of guiding in Norfolk when she retired in 2004. Since then, she has been Divisional Commissioner for Kings Lynn, International Administrator for Norfolk County and Assistant County Commissioner for Girlguiding in Norfolk, a five year post, which will take her up to retirement at 65.

More guiders are desperately needed to allow more of the Rainbows, Brownies and Guides currently waiting to join units to take part. Nationally, 50,000 girls are on waiting lists.
We really need them to be involved. It is not about giving up their spare time, but more about developing leadership and team building qualities. These are skills that are really very useful in the workplace and elsewhere in life.
I remember looking at CVs when I was working and if someone was involved in scouting or guiding I would know they would bring certain qualities to the job, including commitment.
Pat also believes her granddaughters Emily and Hannah Carter, aged nine and seven, are developing skills as team players by being part of the 15th Kings Lynn unit.
I think they learn a lot about the world these days as well, about different cultures and travelling, she adds.
We are all going off to camp again together this year and we help each
other out.
I am pleased because it has been part of my life for such a long time, but also because I think you can gain so much by being involved. The girls love it because it is fun and yet they are learning so much at the same time.
People are not always aware of what goes on in Guides its not just about making things from sticky-back plastic!

Being an adult leader with Girlguiding Norfolk provides a great range of opportunities including high quality training, support and mentoring. It also offers the chance to develop skills in areas such as outdoor leadership, accounting and budgeting as well as working with young people. For more information call 01603 502590, visit or

From heading down to Wembley Arena for pop concert the Big Gig this month and holding giant sleepovers, to booking seats at London musicals, Guides in Norfolk will be celebrating the centenary in all sorts of ways over the coming months.

County Commissioner Helen Green says from this autumn, Norfolks 6,500 Rainbows, Brownies and Guides will be joining in an array of exciting events.
There will be a huge range of activities from old fashioned tea parties through to our Seaside Sparkle beach party for 5,000 people next September, she says.
Its going to be great fun and then in five years time we will be holding our own centenary right here. Guiding first came to Norfolk in 1915 and ever since then we have had a very strong presence. Girlguiding Norfolk currently has 8,200 members. We have approximately 400 units and are the second largest of the 12 counties in this region, says Helen. Our leaders are very committed and we have had some strong characters involved over the years, such as the Patteson sisters, who bequeathed their house at Coltishall to Girlguiding Anglia.
This is now used for residential training.

Did you know?

One in four eight-year-old girls is a Brownie and almost half of all the women in the UK have been involved in guiding at some stage in their lives.

Marconi Wireless and Telegraph asked Guides to act as messengers during the first world war. One Guide was even entrusted with the duty of relaying messages from the head of Marconi to the Admiralty.

Girlguiding UKs involvement in war work continued in the second world war when Guides were recruited to deliver the post in many areas.

There have been two groups established at Buckingham Palace: a Guide unit for Princess (now Queen) Elizabeth; and a Brownie unit for Princess Margaret.
Nine young women, all Girlguiding UK members aged between 18 and 33, have set a new

world record tethering and inflating a hot-air balloon at an altitude of almost 4,000m.

In 2008, another team broke a record trekking to Everest base camp to hold the Worlds Highest Coffee Morning, in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support.

Latest from the EDP Norfolk Magazine