It was a Guiding-friend’s birthday at the weekend, and a group of us went on an adventure to celebrate.
We hopped on a train to London. The journey seems a lot shorter when you’ve got good company to chat to! I’m sure we were only on the train for about twenty minutes before we arrived.*
At the other end we went for a relaxing bit of girly-time in Ironmonger Row Spa. I’ve never really understood going to the spa before, but I think I get it now. After steaming, rubbing ice all over ourselves, steaming, plunging into a cold pool, and relaxing in the lounge, we all felt much better. A couple of the ladies even fell asleep!
After our relaxation session, we got started on the Guiding-adventure part of the weekend. We made our way through the underground system to Hampstead (bonus points for those who have already guessed where we were going). A short walk later and we found this:
Welcome to Pax Lodge.
This is one of the WAGGGS World Centres (of which there are four and a half **). Pax Lodge opened in 1991, although there has been a World Centre in London since 1939. It used to be called Our Ark, and then Olave House, when it was in different parts of the city.
After we checked in and had a look around we got started on the Pax Lodge Challenge. All of the World Centres have a challenge that you can complete while you are there. There are questions on WAGGGS, the centre you are in, the local area, and so on, and also fun tasks such as “take a photo of yourself in a red phone box”, or “climb the Sangam water tower”. Some of them are designed to help you meet people – like “how many beds are there in the Australia room?”, which meant you had to go knocking on doors to find out.
We had a mixed group of people with us. For some it was the first time they’d been to a World Centre, and for some it was the last one they needed to complete the set.
I’ve been to two before – Sangam in India and Our Cabana in Mexico. This is where the Small World effect kicks in.
I went to Sangam with Sara and Alex. On that trip, they met Jo, who they had first met at Our Chalet in Switzerland. Now, in Pax Lodge, Sara and I were delighted to see Rachel, who we had first met at Our Cabana in Mexico. I’ve now been to three World Centres, and at two of them I or someone in my party met someone they knew. That’s pretty good odds!
On Sunday we had a tour of the centre and found out all sorts of fun facts about Pax Lodge. Such as: in the Rose Room (named after Rose Kerr, who helped found the World Centre, not rose the plant) they have a collection of Olave Baden-Powell’s pin badges. The collection is worth £30,000. Seriously. Some of them have diamonds in. ***
They’ve got a lot of really random, but exciting, things at Pax Lodge. It’s well worth a visit if you’re even mildly interested in the history of Girlguiding.
After the tour we were given our Pax Lodge pins. You can only get one by visiting Pax Lodge, and you have to make a solemn promise to keep it for yourself always, as you keep Pax Lodge in your heart.
We lounged around for a while, chatting (mostly about Guiding, which is what happens as a default when that many Guides are all in one place) and drinking tea. A few of us went geocaching, and Katy left a travel-bug in the Pax Paradise cache. I wonder where he’ll end up?
We finally dragged ourselves away in time for an exciting Lebanese lunch at Ya Hala near Paddington before our train home. Tasty food, and friendly staff. We’re considering taking some Brownies there the next time we take some to London, for a bit of a cultural adventure.
I had a brilliant weekend, and I would highly recommend visiting Pax Lodge if you’re ever in London. Even an overnight like we did is good, although I think for the proper World Centre Experience you need to do one of the longer events that they run.
Have you been to a World Centre? What was the best thing about it?
* This is unlikely. On a good day the journey takes 1 hour 45 minutes, and on Saturday there were flooding related issues on some of the lines.
** The fifth one is a pilot project, so I’m not counting it as a whole one yet. It’s different to the others in that it’s community/programme based rather than being a physical location. It moves around different countries in Africa.
*** They also have security cameras. Obviously.