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Why did Baden Powell choose Nyeri, Kenya as his last home?
Posted on Saturday, January 25th, 2014
At about 100 kilometres away from the Africa Regional office of World Scouting, in Nairobi, stands PAXTU, the last residence of the Founder of Scouting, Lord Baden Powell. Towards the sunset of his fulfilled life, the Chief Scout of the World had chosen to retire at the foot Mount Kenya, in the area of the Central Highlands Region, in Nyeri.
His former private secretary during the Great War, Eric Walker, had built there the Outspan Hotel, which still exists todate and accommodates rather fortunate customers since the beginning of the 1920s. Lord Baden-Powell had made a first visit there in 1927, during a trip which was to make him re-examine Southern Rhodesia (ex-Matabeleland and current Zimbabwe), and was allured by the gentle climate of the High Plateaus, in the east of the Mounts Aberdare, and the splendid scenery of the slopes of Kenya’s highest summits, which up until now is still an attraction for trekkers.
At the time of this first stay, thanks to his host BP spent one night at Tree Tops, a house built with trees that formed a canopy near a waterhole where all
the animals from the area assembled at nightfall, a spectacle which enchanted BP. History holds that, it is “while in this tree that Elisabeth became Elisabeth II,
Queen of England”, when she learned there, during a visit to Kenya, the death of her father Georges VI in 1952.
Upon return to England, in his property ‘Pax Hill’, Baden-Powell
, concerned about the evolution of the political situation in Europe, and heeding the initiative of his wife Lady Olave, started to prepare his trip to what was to become his last country – Kenya- with declared intentions to spend his last days there.
His friend Eric Walker made him build a special bungalow on the site of his hotel. This cottage (PAXTU) still exists todate and is visited by tourists and Scouts from all over the world. It is a modest residence
(a living room with la
rge windows, two bedrooms and two small bathrooms, the garden which surrounds it has jacarandas (African trees with blue flowers ), the terrace offers a splendid sight of the mountains and the whole set up confirms Lord Baden-Powell’s preference for life in outdoors.
It is in his ‘African’ house that he passed on peacefully in the morning of July 8, 1941. In accordance with the wish of Lady Olave, and his own predilection, he was buried at the Nyeri cemetery, where his remains rest hitherto, and not at the Abbey of Westminster, the British Pantheon where the dean had reserved a site for him.
Today, PAXTU has been transformed into a museum and shelters various objects that are of interest to the Scout Movement, especially countless written messages of the Scouts who visited the place. The Golden Book bears a message of an American Scout who visited PAXTU some days after the tragic bomb attack of Nairobi in August 1998, during which the first voluntary first-aider to arrive on the scene was a young Kenyan Scout.