Historic shrine that’s home to boy scouts and girl guides

Thursday March 3 2016

Nyeri County Scouts programme commissioner John Mwangi (right), assists visiting scouts in placing a wreath on the grave of Lord Baden Powell and his wife Baroness Powell in Nyeri town during celebrations to mark the World Scouting Movement founder’s day on February 22. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Nyeri County Scouts programme commissioner John Mwangi (right), assists visiting scouts in placing a wreath on the grave of Lord Baden Powell and his wife Baroness Powell in Nyeri town during celebrations to mark the World Scouting Movement founder’s day on February 22. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

On February 22 every year,  members of the Kenya Scouts Association and Girl Guides Association host hundreds of their counterparts from across the world at a sleepy quarter in the outskirts of Nyeri Town to honour the founders of the Scouts and Girl Guides movements.

It is here that the bodies of Lord Robert Baden Powell and his wife Lady Olave Baroness Powell, the two movements’ founders respectively, are buried, making this one of the most revered shrines and pilgrimage sites in the world. 

The serene environment at St Peters Park, on the western slopes of Mount Kenya, along the Nyeri-Kin’gong’o road is a must-visit spot for any visitor to Nyeri County.

On January 8, 1941 Lord Powell died calmly in his cottage at the foot of Mt Kenya and was buried at the church’s graveyard, in keeping with his last wishes.

His wife’s body was also later flown in from England after she died, to be buried beside her husband’s, sealing their legacy in Kenya.

The grave stone of Lord Powell and his wife’s memorial is decorated with Scouts movement symbols that are eye-catching.

One of the pieces of art on the tomb is an oval inscription doted at the centre — the scouts’ jargon for “I have gone home”.

NATIONAL MONUMENT

The shrine attracts hundreds of tourists all year round, in addition to the annual pilgrimage by scouts and girl guides.

It has been described as a jewel that can turn around tourism fortunes in the region.

The government gazetted the international place of pilgrimage for scouts and girl guides as a national monument in 2001, putting Kenya on the world map as home of the two movements that aim at nourishing young people mentally, physically and spiritually.

After travelling around the world spreading the ideology of the Scouts and Girl Guides movements, Lord Baden Powell, a retired British Army lieutenant-general and his wife settled in Nyeri in 1939 at Paxtu Cottage within the precincts of Outspan Resort build for him by his associate and hotelier Mr Eric Walker.

The house has since been turned into a museum by the Kenya Scouts Association and hosts Lord Powell’s original writings, paintings, photos and scouting relics.

Visitors to the shrine and museum also scribble messages in a special visitors’ book christened; “Golden Book”.

The lush green gardens of the humble bungalow overlooking Mount Kenya to the east and Aberdare mountains to the north, is dotted with blue blossoms of Jakaranda tree canopy.

Its serenity creates a calming, awesome and amazing feeling, confirming the reason why the scouts’ founder made the place his home.