Round-up of Explorers activities in 2019

Explorers have been involved in all manner of activities with their Units and Districts, often well beyond the confines of their hall, with the assistance of their excellent and committed leaders.  At a Regional level, interest in international Scouting continues to be high: a full contingent attended WSJ 2019; 27 will be attending ESJ 2020 in Poland; recruitment is under way for Blair Atholl 2020. 

Cooperation across Districts has been encouraged: a Regional Camp in September 2018; a number of joint projects on ESYL training and DofE; assisting with events like Holocaust Memorial Day in the Scottish Parliament (see photo) and the Walk for Autism.  The Explorers themselves always appreciate the chance to meet and share experiences with others and do so with great enthusiasm.

Almost half of our Explorers are ESYLs and this is widely recognised as a key part of Scouting, offering training and skills which help young people develop into responsible adults.  Most ESYLs find the experience extremely rewarding and the younger sections benefit hugely from their presence. The revised training programme is bedding in, and, as so often, the key is to involve many adults to share the tasks.  The Region has supported the introduction of the new Logbook which should now be being used by all ESYLs, and a scheme to ensure that all ESYLs can complete the important First Aid module.  It is also hoped to involve interested Explorers at Bonaly in a role similar to that of ESYL, following a pilot a couple of years ago.

We have a very encouraging number of candidates and have developed an effective model for expedition training and cooperation between Districts.  The key is working together and involving a range of people, rather than leaving one person to try to cover the significant amount of work required. 

Success here is linked to the improved support being given to help leaders acquire the permits required for the delivery of the Expedition section – T1, T2 and Nights Away.  DofE is the ideal way for Explorers to work systematically towards the Chief Scout’s Platinum and Diamond Awards and the prestigious Queen’s Scout Award. Initiatives are under way to encourage and support Explorers and young Adult Leaders to achieve these, particularly as they have until the age of 25 to do so.

And finally, three very different groups of Explorers from five Units in Braid and Craigalmond plus two Explorers from other Regions completed very successful Silver Duke of Edinburgh’s Award expeditions in September 2019.  All the groups enjoyed the experience of getting to know new people and they all worked together extremely well. They appreciated the extended periods of conversation that replaced their phones and, perhaps as a result, one group took to identifying themselves and the leaders by names of characters from Lord of the Rings.  These Explorers did not just go through the motions but showed real commitment, supporting each other through the difficult bits and relishing the rewards – relaxing in the glorious sunshine over a long lunch or staring at the spectacular, starry skies.  By bringing young people and adults from different areas together to achieve this, these expeditions demonstrated the power of Scouting.

John Buchanan
ARC Explorer Scouts

Cubs and Beavers have fun outdoors

Cubs and Beavers from the 82nd Craigalmond (Cramond) Group had a brilliant September Camp at Netherurd, a fantastically equipped and located Guide centre. In total 42 Cubs and 5 Beavers spent two nights away with the camp theme of Space.

Activities at camp included zip lines, backwoods cooking, shelter building, rocket making (and launching), scavenger hunts and star gazing. Everyone who attended went on a very sunny hike that took us all up to the summit of a local hill with great views.

Thanks to a fantastic set of leaders and some thorough planning it was a very successful weekend! The camp was blessed with great weather for September and everyone went home very tired but happy!

A proper expedition – not just tourists!

Two groups of Explorers formed from Braid and Craigalmond carried out an excellent DofE Gold expedition over four days at the end of August, walking from Corrour Station and completing their circular route at Rannoch. 

One candidate unfortunately had to drop out on day 3 with an ankle problem but the other twelve completed the expedition in style, one group singing ‘Country road, take me home …’ to keep their spirits up on the last stretch. 

“It was fun.”  “I’m rather sad it’s over.”  “The views were spectacular.” “We really loved seeing a group of tourists watch us wade over the flooded causeway then turn back rather than do the same.” “The best bit was on the last day when we could see back up to the saddle we had climbed on the first day and we realised what we had achieved.”

They all had a sense of humour.  For instance, when asked how they had crossed the river the answer was “After considerable discussion and deliberation”.  And one commented at the debrief session near the end “No ticks, but there’s still a kilometre to go.”

Both groups enjoyed being out in the wilds with no phone signal and relying on burns for water.  They had built up their skills over the previous levels and really appreciated meeting and working together with new friends and having time to chat about things at the campsites.  They were delighted by the perfect weather: almost no rain and enough wind to keep the midges away for a lot of the time. They all intend to get back into the hills again.

The groups did very interesting presentations based on their purpose: one studying Gaelic place names, the other comparing the three big estates they walked through.

They can take a real pride in their achievement and are to be congratulated on it.  Thanks and congratulations are also due to the many adults who helped directly and indirectly with the training, practice and qualifying expeditions done at Bronze, Silver and Gold over several years, and without whom this would not have happened.

John Buchanan DofE Assessor, and ARC (Explorers)

A busy night at Cubs learning to tie the Reef Knot and Round Lashing

A busy night at Longniddry Cubs learning to tie the Reef Knot and Round Lashing. The Cubs then had to capture an escaped lizard, make a flagpole higher than the Bowling Club’s one, drop a tennis ball into a space on the roof and make a 4 metre selfie stick! As you do!

A great Scouts Summer Camp 2019 at Ardtalnaig, Loch Tay

Our 2019 Summer Camp was held at one of our favourite sites on a greenfield site at Ardtalnaig on the south shore of Loch Tay.  On the Thursday evening we packed the van with hundreds of pieces of kit including the kitchen sink. We travelled on the Saturday morning in a monsoon and feared that we would have a very wet week as that experienced in 2018. However, thankfully not long after we arrived, the rain ceased. The advance party had managed to do a great job putting up two marquees, two mess tents and numerous leader tents. The 32 Scouts, supported by the Young Leader team, put up the patrol stormhavens and dining shelters as the Leader Team prepared the rest of the camp.

On the Saturday night after, a communal dinner, we introduced our theme of “Famous Pioneers and Pioneering” and assigned Patrols to Neil Armstrong, Roald Amunsden, Christopher Columbus, Amelia Earhart and Edmund Hillary. We also introduced a Camp Challenge – 20 challenges to complete over the week. The Scouts spent the first evening learning about their famous Pioneers and drawing maps and making figurines to represent what they had achieved – the picture of Earhart’s plane was particularly impressive. We finished the first evening with hot chocolate and a camp fire on the beautiful shores of Loch Tay with excellent views of the Lawers mountains.

On Sunday, after the first breakfast cooked by the Scouts, we had our first patrol inspection (to set the camp standards) and then we had our Regatta Day on the Loch. A number of the Sea Scout Leaders arrived and facilitated an excellent day of raft building, kayaking, yachting and power boat riding. The weather was excellent and the Scouts honed their sea scout skills whilst having a fun time. Given the weather we changed our plans and brought forward our backwoods cooking and BBQ meal so we could continue to enjoy the sea scout activity into the evening. We concluded the night with some pioneering skills with the task of building a bridge with only balsa wood as preparation for the next day.

Scout Skills day took up most of Monday as the Scouts developed a range of new skills including axe and saw work, navigation using a very novel approach, tent skills, cooking butter and pioneering which involved building a life size bridge with pioneering poles. In the evening, the Young Leaders had prepared a widegame on the Pioneer Theme which went down very well with the Scouts.

On Tuesday we did Canyoning and Gorging with external leaders – all involved really enjoyed jumping into plunge pools, sliding down waterfalls and undertaking an exciting abseil. In the afternoon the Scouts helped build a monkey bridge with pulleys and ropes across the creek next to the camp. After another evening meal cooked by the Scouts, they were given a couple of hours to focus on their Camp Challenge – and the competitiveness was certainly on show,

On Wednesday the older Scouts were due to go on their overnight expedition but the weather forecast of severe thunder and lightning put paid to that so we hastily changed our plans and went to Aberfeldy where we went on a walk to the Birks of Aberfeldy, swam in the local swimming pool, played in the local park before heading back to the camp. We had fish and chips as a storm broke and drenched the camp once again. We improvised the evening entertainment with a “Cramond Scouts Got Talent” evening with lots of sketches, comedy routines and songs – some budding stars were found.

The weather forecast for later in the day/overnight Thursday was not much better with thunder and lightning forecast so the Leaders took the sensible decision to cancel the overnight expedition and undertake a day walk in the hills above the camp. The younger scouts went on a walk to the lower hills above Achran where we visited a Hermits Cave, had lunch at a historic Stone Circle before returning via the excellent Achran falls. In the evening the younger Scouts searched for “unlabelled” tins for their dinner – meatballs, hot dogs, tomato soup, peaches and prunes were the best find!! The older Scouts pitched their expedition tents at the far end of camp and cooked their own expedition meals. In the evening the Scouts painted their own faces on ping pong balls before racing them down the creek – we ensured none ran down into the loch.

We started to strike camp on Friday, taking the dining shelters down in dry weather. The Young Leaders then brought together a great “Olympics” with much competition to try to gain those points which would win the prizes.

In the evening, Karen, our camp cook, prepared a superb Pioneer Themed banquet meal of Columbus Melon Boat, Corn on the Cob with Earhart Bread & Butter, Hillary Mountain of mash, chicken and veg, followed by Amundsen Polar Cone and Armstrong space dust – 50 portions all made in the middle of a field!!! Our guest of honour was (Lady) Fiona Black with an unscheduled attendance by Lord Hector Black.

Another successful sleepover for Pencaitland Beavers!

Despite the wet weather, the 6th Annual Pencaitland Beaver Sleepover went ahead on 9 August at the Carriage House in Pencaitland.

Thirteen beavers, some of them spending their first night away from home, bunked down at the Carriage House after an evening comprising a barbecue, a (very muddy) nature walk in the Winton Estate, making mini clay monsters and cooking: ‘smores’, chocolate bananas and toasting marshmallows.  We also made get well cards for our assistant Beaver leader, Bede, who was badly injured in an accident over the Summer; get well soon Bede! 

The evening was brought to an end with a campfire and enthusiastic renditions of ‘Heads, Shoulder, Knees and Toes’ and, rather appropriately, ‘Singing in The Rain.’ 

After an early breakfast, the Beavers played team games in the Carriage House courtyard between showers, before a few rounds of the obligatory camp game  ‘Are these your socks?’ Once packed up, the Beavers devoured a snack of juice, fruit and crisps and we split into two groups for crafts (printing and making bookmarks) before coming back together to put up a tent. 

Parents arrived to pick up their charges just as the rain stopped.  Another successful sleepover to kick off a new term of Beavers in Pencaitland was in the bag!

David Donohoe, Beaver Leader, East Lothian District