My life as a girl guide

Linda Grant is the Guiding Country Comissioner for Sheffield.

She was born in the dining room of the house she grew up in on her parent’s plant nursery in Bradway. After school Linda had a year out exploring ways of increasing food production and researching breeding daffodils in Cornwall. She met husband Neil at Wittle Agricultural College when she borrowed a yellow crayon in their soil science lecture.

They got engaged at college and returned to Sheffield. After helping her parents sell their Bradway nursery, Linda and Neil then take over the old Whitethornes nursery at Coal Aston - now Ferndale - in 1982 at the age of 23. Two years later, Linda’s sister Helen joined them as the third director. Linda’s role includes gift buying, administration and finance and outside work she loves dog walking, reading, cooking- especially baking cakes, and of course Guiding.

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“I have been leading Guiding groups for more than 30 years now. I’ve tried to give it up twice, but found I miss it too much - so despite a hefty workload, I keep spinning the plates and remind myself I’d only get bored,” says the 55-year-old mum of two. “It definitely provides light relief from my work life- when I am leading Guides, I simply can’t think about anything else, so it’s good stress relief.

Linda joined the Girls Life Brigade at Totley Methodist when Brownie and Guide units were fewer and far between. In her teens she became a Ranger and started assistant leading a Rainbow unit when a friend asked her to help in the late ‘80s. Since then, she has been both District and Division Commissioner.

“My highlight has to be taking the girls to one of the four world Guiding centres in Mexico. I have also had the privilege of visiting the Swiss centre twice, to India but strangely- never to the fourth world centre in London.”

Next summer she’ll be assistant leader for a trip to Denmark camping with 14-19 year olds.

“I love seeing how girls grow and develop when they are with us. We recently took 20 brownies on their first camp who had never been before. They were so much more grown up after just two nights away. They quickly got used to mucking in and helping out, schools are so regulated and they don’t seem to do this as much at home anymore. That’s the attitude we cultivate.

“Guiding is about giving girls somewhere they can talk about the things that are bothering them away from school, like body confidence, mental health issues and bullying- as well as getting involved with community campaigns and international issues. For 3000 girls in our area alone, it’s a safe space away from those environments that might be creating problems for them. We can always do with more adult volunteers and former Guides may love to come back and help.

“We watch them gain invaluable leadership and life skills, which will stand them in such good stead with employers. I don’t think we realise in this country how ground-breaking Guiding is - giving girls a voice.”