Provincial Heritage Centre
WESTERN CAPE SCOUTING
The Story of Gilcape - Eerste River
The search for a new Gilcape was prompted by the steady development of Diep River into a residential area and it was generally felt that the property had become too urban for Scouting purposes. The property having a high value for business purposes was sold and the Three Arts Theatre was built on the site.
The sub-committee that was formed to find a new site recommended the purchase of a small holding of approximately 4 morgen that was for sale in Forrest Road, Eerste River. As the adjacent plot was vacant, and it was ascertained that it could be purchased, both plots were bought under a consolidated title given in 1952 having a total of 8 morgen and at a cost of £1800. The purchase price and the cost of a warden’s house were obtained by the sale of the Diep River ground which was sold for £6100.
Initial development consisted of fencing, Warden’s cottage, ablution block, hall and general developments (water supply, trees, roads & camp sites).
The first training course at Eerste River was a Cub course held in 1952. There was no den and no established camp sites, but a marquee was erected as a den and gave some protection from the South Easter and the cub-masters constructed what facilities they could.
Considerable development then took place during the fifties and sixties to ensure that the camp had all its basic needs. The training area now had a hall, quartermaster’s store and a team room. Then in 1964 another adjacent small holding came on the market. It was purchased and added another four morgen and a cottage. That brought Gilcape to approximately 12 morgen.
In 1977 a Development Committee was formed and proposed the construction of a river, lake with island and a mountain with a cliff for a variety of pioneering and adventure activities. Many hours by many volunteers went into the creation of Gilcape’s further development. Clifford Harris was one their mentors and an inspiration for many of the projects. By 1980 Brownsea Island, Lake Bennington and Cliff Harris had been completed. Courses like Handyman and Pioneer were also put to good use in building infrastructure.
Synonymous with Gilcape is the name Bunny Bennington, and one could ask, would we ever find anybody who would give of himself as much as he did towards the creation of Gilcape. Had circumstances been different Bunny's 'monument' would have stood for many years to come. He was the power behind Lake Bennington, Cliff Harris, the ablution blocks and the barn as well as many other buildings and improvements. He was for many years Chairman of the Gilcape Committee. Kenward "Bunny" Bennington died, at Gilcape, while serving the scout movement, on Saturday 10th September 1983.
In the final years Denzil Roberts (the only existing member of that Committee) who held the position of Manager for 9 years, went out to Gilcape every week to pay the staff and attend to other matters. So many people worked hard to make Gilcape what it eventually became, including many Scouters with their Packs and Troops, and it would be risky to mention some names and in all innocence omit others. Every bit of work was a great contribution.
Once again because of the steady development of the neighbourhood into a residential area, it was felt that the property had become too urban for Scouting purposes and a search for a new Gilcape was one again initiated.
Hawequas became the Area’s property on 1st October 1986 and towards the end of August 1988 the last of the Gilcape (Eerste River) equipment was moved to Gilray or Hawequas.
Source: Various documents from the Western Cape Scout Headquarters Archives