BUSY lives and dwindling membership have forced many groups and associations to close or left them struggling to survive.

So how refreshing it is to hear of one local group that has stood the test of time and is still going strong as it marks its very special milestone.

It is 95 years since 1st Spen Valley (St Paul’s) Scout Group was formed in Birkenshaw by the Rev Alexander Bellman, vicar of the village church, St Paul’s, in 1924.

Alan Holmes, who recently received the prestigious scouting honour - the Acorn Award - for services to Scouting, believes the vicar spotted the benefits scouting was bringing to the boys offering outdoor activities and camaraderie following the rigours of living through the First World War, and the Birkenshaw group was born.

A 1914-18 sectional army hut, and all the equipment, was brought from a closed Gomersal group and constructed in the vicarage gardens where it remained until the 1970s.

The Scout Hut was then pulled down and replaced by a purpose built sectional concrete headquarters in the grounds of St Paul’s church where it stands today.

The troop flourished - even during the Second World War - when 18 of its members were “called up” to the services. Some sadly never returned but are remembered on the Spen Valley War Memorial in Birkenshaw Church.

Sponsored by the church, Birkenshaw Scouting has been at the hub of village life contributing to the local community through events such as the village spring fair; assisting at the Birkenshaw Lights switch-on, supporting the British Legion and taking part in the Remembrance Parade, hosting Gang Shows and being involved with community projects.

Hundreds of boys have been part of the group, including Cubs, Scouts, Leaders and Committee members - all having fond memories of Scouting.

One group member likened Scouting to a “thread of friendship which started on joining the Cub Pack, carried on through Scouting and becoming a leader. Friendships which have stood the test of time over many many years, and still carries on some 60 years later with the thread intact.”

The group continues to prosper - young people are selected for the World Jamboree taking them later this year to America where they will join thousands of scouts from around the world, sharing experiences and fostering new friendships.

Of course its survival is also down to the commitment, dedication and support of the volunteers - the leaders of the Beavers, Cub Scouts, Scouts and Explorer sections who give their time, and the Executive Committee providing the “Back Up” to the leaders, raising funds for equipment.

Today (June 22) the group is celebrating its special anniversary with a fun afternoon for younger members of the group with children activities and a BBQ.

A reunion takes place in the evening for past and present members to share memories.

For more information, or to get involved, call 01274 682258.

By Sally Clifford