“Ooh – do we get to use axes?” Scout aged 11
After 6 months of lockdown, and doing-our-best by zoom, but not (if we’re being really honest) enjoying it, we were all looking forward to some time outdoors as a troop in some wide-open green spaces. So, when Bonaly Scout Centre announced they were ready to open their gates again we were one of the first in the queue.
We booked for the all-day Saturday slot, in order to do some daylight activities in before winter, and settled on a 3-base rotation plan for 18 Scouts with a game at the end. Planning was not too onerous – Bonaly had COVID-19 site risk assessments and systems already in place so all we had to do to do was plan, risk asses and prep some activities that could be achieved within the Scouting COVID regulations.
“I love whittling. I even love just saying the word whittling. Whitt…er…. ling.” Scout aged 11.
The obvious first choice for a socially-distanced base was knife skills and whittling. With many of the Scouts now used to keeping a distance from each other, we thought there would be less chance of them invading each other’s blood circles. Our prediction was right and the base went well with only one small plaster being required for the whole day. We reviewed basic knife safety and skills by making pointy marshmallow-toasting sticks and then instructed the Scouts in how to whittle a mushroom out of a thicker stick sourced from the surrounding woods. Many Scouts ignored the creative direction and chose to invent their own artworks- a whittled squid, a submarine, a white stick, and a wooden shaped thing – all creations were beautiful and unique and as long as the scouts were being safe and enjoying sitting on the sun-deck created by the old tepee bases, whittling and chatting, we just let the creativity flow.
“We got to ride on chariots that we’d made from wooden poles. I was like the Duchess of Bonaly being carried around on my chariot!” Scout aged 11
The second base was pioneering. Each Scout had their own stave and string to start with to practise some basic knots and lashings and then they worked together in groups of 2-3 to make chariots. The chariots were large enough that the Scouts could work on their own without getting too close to each other and the older (12-plus) Scouts were spread out appropriately. And they did indeed carry each other proudly around the field like Dukes and Duchesses in a manner that would have made even the original residents of Bonaly Tower proud.
“I lit my first fire with a striker. I should have brought my phone to take a photo of it!” Scout aged 12
And because a day at a Scout centre is not complete without a toasted marshmallow or three – the third base was obviously campfire cooking. We used 3 alter fires for each group of 6 Scouts so they could spread out and get lots of practise. We learnt about using natural resources to start fires and found some in the woods but then delighted in the help of cotton wool and vaseline to allow rapid striker success. We cooked calzone pizzas using ingredients that required no leader hands-on-prep and could be cooked individually wrapped in tinfoil in the embers. Smores were achieved using chocolate digestives rather than chocolate pieces to ensure less food handling and even the middle-aisle Gods were shining on us as Aldi had vegetarian marshmallows that week!
“I loved that game. Can we play it for longer next time?” Scout aged 12.
At the end of the day we all came together (but kept apart) for a game of pop-the-balloon with social-distancing ensured by using extra-long pieces of string. A bit of riotousness and group fun (and the usual leader cheating I think!) to end the day.
“I really like Scouts….. So far.” New Scout aged 10 ½.
By necessity to put our safety first, compared to previous trips to Bonaly, the day definitely felt a bit odd. I really missed having the noise and bustle of other groups sharing the site, or the ease of being able to show Scouts hands-on how to use a bushcraft knife or a striker. But for young people in particular, lockdown has been tough. They have been distanced from things that are vital to their childhood and their wellbeing and things they have a right to – like fun, play, nature, connectedness, the great outdoors and big green spaces. On Saturday, Bonaly Scout Centre gave us all these things back again for a bit and, while still putting our safety first, allowed us to appreciate some of the things we loved, and took for granted, about our ‘old normal’.
Thank you Bonaly for a truly grand day out. We will definitely be back and are already looking forward to our next visit!
“Oh wow- smell that fire. I have really missed the smell of campfires”. Scout leader, age undisclosed
Scout Leader 25th Braid
108th Pentland – Bonaly Returns