The story of Houens Odde
The time before the centre was born
In a forest at Kolding in the middle of Eltang cove and Gudsø cove there is a scout centre: Houens Odde International Scout Centre.
It has not always been so, even thoug we know that people have been living here since 5200-4200 AD. Middens have been found at the place that is now home to the Gilwell complex. The name Houens Odde and Gudsø cove aslo suggest that this has once been a place of the gods.
The king of Denmark, King Christian IV had plans for Houens Odde where he planned to build a fortress after backing out of the thirty year war. There should also be a city here, the king thought. His advisors did not agree and instead the building took place at Lyngsodde, directly across from Middelfart. Thus Houens Odde got to be left in peace until the 19th century when the forest was split up into smaller plots and bought by local land owners. A dam was built over Eltang cove and provided grassing areas for livestock.
In 1907 the scouts were invented at a small camp at Brownsea Island in England, and soon the movement spread around the world – also to Denmark where a local group from Kolding suddenly discovered a nice place to make camp: Houens Odde. They often came to the forest, which was reachable by land and from the water.
In 1947 a very special offer came to this scouting group: Would they like to buy Houens Odde?
That could be very interesting. The group from Kolding forwarded the offer on to the KFUM-Scouts in Denmark, and they needed a place they could dedicate to the training of leaders. Houens Odde would be the ideal place to build it.
45.000 DKR would be the price for the 45 acres of land, according to the owner, Sommer Daugaard. That was a lot of money, and the price was successfully negotiated to 30.000 DKR.
The KFUM-Scouts did not, however, have the money for the downpayment of 10.000 DKR, but they borrowed them from the group from Kolding, which had earned some money by doing a scouting exhibition. The condition for borrowing the money was that the group from Kolding would be permitted to build their own cabin at Houens Odde. The purchase went through in 1948 and the tip of Houens Odde was transferred to the ownership of the KFUM-Scouts in Denmark.
The first buildings
The very first structure at Houens Odde is still here: a small shed, Kimen. It was built in 1952 and today it has been converted into a place to gather thoughts.
At the same time measurements were made for even bigger projects: the Gilwell cabin and a bike shed, known as Siberia – this is now the dining hall – and a material house, which is at present called Nordhuset.
The foundation in the Gilwell cabin is built on stones which has been sent from groups across Denmark, and a lot of them has carved their name into them. This was done to show their contribution to the project.
Many large pine trees were cut down to make room for the cabin, and these were sine used in the building. The project was carried out as a collaboration between hired professional workers and volunteers.
The Gilwell cabin was inaugurated in 1953 and it is still to this day the center of the leader training: the Danish official Wood bagde.
In 1954 another small shed was built just across from Kimen. This one is called Prikken – the Dot – to mark the end of the project.
The cabin that the group from Kolding was permitted to build on the site was situated a bit further inland and was completed in 1955. It was used by the group itself and was also the center of the KFUM-Scouts’ Roland training camps for scout.
The Rovers’ place
The leader training at the scout training had now gotten their own places at Houens Odde. The only thing missing was a place for the Rovers. A man called Hans Hansen made it his mission to make sure this happened and suggested a new cabin called Roverknuden. He traveled to Norway for his own money to study Norwegian log cabins, because nothing less than this would be appropriate for a Rovers’ center!
Hansen was a very thorough and finicky gentelman – but unfortunately not very fast. When the project was two years old, the cabin was only four logs tall. The board of the KFUM-Scouts decided to have Hansen removed from the project and put others in charge of the completion.
Today it is clearly visible where Hansen’s work ended and others began. Where Hansen worked not even an earwig can squeeze itself in between the joinings. This cannot be said for the rest of the work!
On December the 26th 1971 there was a very nice light in the sky over Kolding Inlet. However, the occasion was very sad: the cabin belonging to the group from Kolding burned to the ground and the group chose to have the insurance paid out to modernise on another cabin they owned. Thus they left Houens Odde for good in a structural capacity.
But the site was not left empty. An activity centre was erected in its place and this was built by a volunteer workforce. The Activity Centre was completed in 1974 and a small group of volunteers from the building project was attached to the place. These are to this day known as Houmen.
Extension and expansion
It became increasingly difficult to realise building projects at Houens Odde because it was important to conserve the unique nature and wildlife. This was the reason to purchase yet another plot of the forest in 1979. This contains the small house Skovhytten, which is now the official residence of the center manager of Houens Odde.
In 1981 there was a need to expand the sleeping accomodations at the Gilwell cabin and it was approved to build two new wings: Spejderlængen and Skovlængen which was completed in 1983. At the same time a new wing was constructed to the Dining hall so it was possible to seat every overnight guest at Gilwell.
The islands in the inlet
In 1985 the KFUM-Scouts in Denmark turned 75 years and the possibility arose to buy some small islands situated just off the coast of Houens Odde as a birthday present for the organisation. It was not an easy process due to the environment board, but the purchase was made with the clause that the islands were not to be used between April 1st and July 15th due to the breeding season in the large colony of cormorants that inhabit the smallest of the islands. It is a strict rule that no more than 8 people may visit the island at a time.
Farm for sale
In 1988 the general secretary of the KFUM-Scouts had a request. The owner of the farm Stensgården, that lay at the beginning of the road to Houens Odde wanted to sell. Would the KFUM-Scouts like to buy?
The board approved of the idea and the purchase was made of the farm and the 24 acres of land that came with it. The farm itself needed a thorough renovation and Stensgården was inaugurated in 1995 as a base of the KFUM Scouts’ nature and environment education.
The final additions
Between 1996 and 1999 work began on building plans for new toilet houses with flush and running water. That project ended up with the construction of full sewerage on Houens Odde and for new toilet houses was built at Stenagården, Roverknuden, the Activity Centre and Gilwell.
In the years 1995, 1997 and 1999 it was decided to buy the last plots of forest at Houens Odde and as such the KFUM-Scouts in Denmark now own all of Houens Odde from the drive way at Stensgården and all the way out to the tip.
The latest building project at Houens Odde took place in 2002 when a first floor was constructed atop the old barn at Stensgården to accomodate a flat for the international volunteers living at the centre. These days they have the company of Houens Odde’s two Give-A-Year-Scouts that are living and working alongside them and the other employees at the centre.
To this day, Houens Odde Scout Centre is a conference and scout centre with good facilities and we never have to go far to find water, forest and rich wildlife. The centre has a large circle of Houmen attached to it and they collaborate with the employees in maintaining and developing the facilities and environment. All are tirelessly working on making Houens Odde Scout Centre a place with a strong anchorage in the storytelling about nature and environment, which is also profiled on our environment policy, which includes garbage sorting and living up to the requirements of our SCENES-certification.