A toddler’s trike warped from the heat of the flames stands in the corner, its handle bars coated in spots of tar black soot.
Charred piles of paper flung from melted filing cabinets by the force of the blaze and the twisted frames of chairs lie in mountains across the blackened floor.
As the torch flickers across a charred Scout medallion lying amongst the heaps of devastation and comes to rest on a baby’s changing cot one heartbroken villager says “it’s really going to affect the local community badly.”
It has been four days since a blaze ripped through the Scout Hut in Fiddlers Lane and the people of Saughall are trying to come to terms with the loss of the a building right at the heart of their village.
For the past 16 years the hut has been filled with laughter, dancing and music, as villagers from babies to 100 year old pensioners meet to socialise, enjoy lunch, learn to tie knots and even defend themselves.
Now, with the smell of smoke still thick in the air, the community has been dealt a devastating blow - it’s just lucky no one was hurt.
Elderly members of the Friday Club – who meet at the hut every week for lunch and to socialise – were tucking into their main meal when the blaze started in the electrical cupboard at around 2pm on Friday (January 30).
Leaving behind bags, keys and treasured belongings – and some wearing slippers – the 12 pensioners, who are in their 90s and included a 100 year old man, were evacuated from the building by volunteers and into a nearby hair salon – just moments before flames were seen leaping through the windows.
“It was absolutely dreadful,” said parish councillor Jeanne Storrar, as she shows me the burnt out remains of the kitchen, toilet area and store cupboard filled with blackened toys, once the prized property of the toddler group.
“The meters have gone and everything, it is all melted. The firemen must have moved things, they must have pulled all this out. The doors were open, Dennis [Dennis Holman, vice-chairman of Saughall and Shotwick Parish Council] had been in to see if there was anything salvageable, he closed the doors and found he couldn’t open them again because the handles had all melted off.
“It’s really going to affect the local community badly,” she said as we stare at a Girl Guide badge once proudly painted on the wall, its paint now smeared in soot and dripping black down the wall.
Among the piles of debris, blackened and half eaten by the flames, are all the parish council records, who used the hut as their meeting house – the village’s essential paperwork has been destroyed.
“There are just some covenants we wish we could find,” says Jenny Young, vice president of Saughall and Shotwick Parish Council as she explains the history of the building.
“We were in the process of a plan to refurbish the play area but all the designs and pictures have gone up in smoke. The knock-on effect is an unbelievable loss.”
The hut was opened in 1998 for the village’s uniformed groups, but it has become a much-loved meeting point for around 23 regular groups, including the Beavers, Rainbows, Brownies and Guides, Tae Kwon Do, art classes, the toddler group and the Friday Club.
In fact the Scout Hut was so popular in the village that the groups were planning to replace it with a new multipurpose building with better facilities, including separate sex changing rooms for the sporting clubs and better disabled facilities so more clubs than ever could meet in the village.
Now, with the future of the burnt-out Scout Hut resting in the hands of the insurance company, these groups are homeless unless the Saughall Community and Sports Pavilion Committee can raise £350,000 to build the new meeting place.
“We are in the process of raising money, but this has come as a big blow,” said Mrs Young, who said churches and local businesses had come to the rescue of some of the groups, but that they all needed a permanent home.
“We have applied for grants and have an application in at present with Active Sport, for CWaC rural funding and we are at present applying to many other providers. We have raised £40,000 from various donations and many fundraising events.
“So many local businesses have come to see what they can do, but we cannot advise them until the insurance is sorted out and we have a direction to go in.”
Now with more than £300,000 to raise towards the new building the committee needs every penny they can get and are asking for help from the local community.
“Anything would be welcome,” added Councillor Storrar.
“Look after the pennies and the pounds look after themselves, but we need a lot of pennies.”
Can you help Saughall raise the money to keep their community groups going? Contact Chronicle reporter Rachel Flint on 01244 606414, email firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @Chronrachel