There has been lots of Scouting going on across the Region, both virtual and face to face. More recently, despite the challenges of COVID-19, our leaders/adult volunteers have worked brilliantly to undertake some excellent DofE expeditions, in the hills and on the water. In addition, the 85th Braid Scouts have been keeping entertained using Minecraft.

  1. How did 59 Explorers from 4 Districts do a DofE Expedition in the Pentlands in October 2020?

Explorers: prepare, pack, distance, decide, walk, talk, comply, cook, reflect, relax – repeat.

Leaders: plan, persuade, cooperate, communicate, purchase, print, organise, supervise – celebrate!

Coronavirus restrictions meant that planned expeditions could not take place this year but, right at the end of the season, there was a window of opportunity that we seized with both hands – suitably sanitised, of course.  This mammoth operation, involving 59 Explorers, their families, their leaders and a host of other volunteers, was master-minded by David Newton, the Craigalmond DESC, assisted by their DofE administrator Val Bichener.  Simon Cocker acted as lead for Braid as we built on the very successful existing expedition partnership known as ‘BraidCraig’, and I coordinated at Regional level to include two other Units from the Borders and East Lothian.  Using the flexibilities provided by ‘DofE With A Difference’, and following Scouting guidance to navigate the requirements of all the various regulations, the expeditions counted as a Silver Practice and also, for those who needed it, a Bronze Qualifier.

The Expeditions ran over two weekends with the same structure: the Explorers attended a Zoom meeting on Friday evening; they were delivered individually to their start point on Saturday morning to hike one of three routes before cooking a meal then returning home for the night (no overnight activities permitted); they followed the same routine on Sunday with a different route. 

Equipment was more complicated than usual as we had to avoid sharing where possible, items that were shared had to be cleaned between uses, and we required special items for first aid kits.  The various leaders dealing with this did a marvellous job.

Supervision was planned and shared as a very elegant graphic by Phil Young, with Simon Cocker and Neil Wotherspoon joining him in charge of the routes, assisted by an extremely competent team of leaders from a wide range of Scouting backgrounds – not just the Explorer section.

The weather was excellent on the first weekend but the second Saturday was very misty, requiring real use of navigation skills.  As these were Silver practice expeditions, the leaders supervising were able to offer training and assistance at suitable points while also ensuring that the groups had a chance to experience walking under ‘remote supervision’.

Feedback was very positive, including comments by members of the public impressed by what we were doing. The leaders thoroughly enjoyed providing the remote supervision and liaising with each other via walkie- talkies and WhatsApp.  The Explorers agreed that it was really good to get out and walk together – one commented that it was the first hike in months, which shows a healthy expectation for normal Scouting activities.  Many of the walking groups came from different Units/Districts and they really appreciated meeting up together; all of them would be happy to do another expedition with the same people.  All were able to explain what they had learned from their experience and how they would be better prepared for their Silver qualifying expedition.  Overall, this was the Scout Method in action: “Scouting takes place when young people, in partnership with adults, work together based on the values of Scouting” and covered most of the seven bullets points.

These non-standard expeditions stand out as a huge success at this extraordinarily difficult time.  They allowed the Explorers to progress with their DofE and Chief Scout’s Awards; they gave a number of leaders the chance to build experience for hillwalking permits; above all, they demonstrated how much we can achieve in Scouting by working together cooperatively beyond our immediate area and section.

Congratulations to all the Explorers, whose Units are listed below. Our grateful thanks are due to all the adults who contributed.  Leaders directly involved are named, but this does not include many others who supported with administration and organisation, Bonaly staff for facilitating our visits, and Mike Treanor for general support. 

Explorer Scout Units

Borders: Lauderdale 

Braid: Albatross, Meadows, Myreside, SMESU

Craigalmond: Cramond, Douglas Brown, Pink Panthers

East Lothian: North Berwick

Leaders directly involved

Andy Barnes 

Andy Beaumont 

Sonya Beaumont 

Val Bichener 

Hector Black 

John Buchanan 

Simon Cocker 

Celina Davis 

Duncan Davis 

Alasdair Dunlop 

Fraser Dunmore 

Katie Goudie 

Victoria Hammersley

David Ingram

Steven McIntyre

Nicola Maclean

Steven Leach

Peter Miller

David Newton

Mairi Rogers

David Smith

Cathy Southworth

Diane Winnard

Neil Wotherspoon

Phil Young

John Buchanan ARC (Explorers) and Regional Adviser (DofE)

2. DofE Expeditions by water

On the back of another successful combined ‘BraidCraig’ Duke of Edinburgh Expedition Session in 2019 and increasing numbers signing up (including from Pentland District), we looked at offering alternative methods for Expeditions.  All the Explorers were polled with suggestions of doing their Expeditions by bike or water as an additional option to hillwalking. Water proved a popular choice for some of our Silvers and Golds, in fact this year we have no Gold walkers.  Whilst our walking groups started their training back in January and February, it took longer to decide whether it would be by sail, canoe or kayak for the water group. David Newton, Craigalmond DESC then orchestrated another team of enthusiasts to make this happen for our Explorers, and we embarked on canoe expedition training, led by Steve Hankin (9th Pentland ASL at the time, now ESL with the relaunched Longcraig Explorer Unit).

Throughout lockdown, Steve ran regular Zoom Training Sessions on topics including safety & wellbeing, navigational waterway rules, weather, canoeing kit, route planning, and kept their interest up whilst we were all firmly stuck at home.  Finally, after restrictions were lifted, the full Leader team could deliver the practical skills training on the water.  Others in the Leader team providing invaluable support to Steve are Stuart Young (Granton Explorer Unit), Donald Sturgeon (Cat Welders Explorer Unit) and Eilidh Sturgeon & Sam Dickinson (Borestane Explorer Unit).

One glorious Sunday morning, our group of 9 Golds and 6 Silvers finally got out on the water, practicing their paddling skills and doing journeys on the Union Canal.  It’s a group with very mixed abilities, some preferring kayaks to the tandem Canadian canoes.  As a parent watching safely from the bank over the various sessions on the water, I can say that Steve and the Leader team have done a fantastic job coaching them to get them ready for a Practice Expedition.  There has been fantastic improvement in their paddling skills.  Sadly our 2-day weekend practice at Invertrossachs Scout Centre on Loch Venachar had to be cancelled due to the Covid travel restrictions in October, but undeterred we instead headed to Harperrig Reservoir in the Pentlands where they experienced Force 4 winds and learnt how to rescue each other after a capsize.


So as a parent of one of the Gold Explorers and on behalf of the other parents we wanted to thank Steve and the Leader team’s commitment and enthusiasm for helping our Young People in this new Expedition format for us, which the Explorers have now decided they want to be a mixed fleet of kayaks and canoes….so Steve & the team’s work is not over yet! 

If this of interest to your Explorers for next year, Steve is setting up a base for the expedition training at Longcraig where Explorers from any Unit can join and get all the training and support needed.  We’re really pleased that water Expeditions will now be a regular option for our Duke of Edinburgh groups and look forward to seeing the challenges and achievements they make.

More details/Contact here: 


Val Bichener
Craigalmond District Explorer DofE Manager  

3. How We used Minecraft to Connect during Lockdown .

When lockdown started, our Scout Troop decided that it would be a great idea to set up a Minecraft Server, because we were not able to see each other as we normally would do. Our Assistant Scout Leader, Tom, took it upon himself to run and moderate the server, as he had experience in Minecraft Servers before.

One of the main ways of playing the game is ‘Survival Mode’. In this certain game mode, you collect materials and resources, fight monsters and work together with others to expand your world. Inside the Survival World in the server we even have an economy of our own where we can buy and sell items to other scouts, and many of us have built up our own houses and shops.


The main ‘Spawn’ area of the Minecraft world

We also have a part of the server dedicated

to the ‘Creative’ mode of the game. In the Creative mode we are given a large expanse of flat ground to build and create anything we want without the worry of having to collect the resources ourselves. Some challenges we have taken part in include building a castle, building the church hall we normally go to Scouts at and creating an Edinburgh landmark like Princes Street Gardens or the Castle.

So that we can communicate more easily, we have our own Discord Server where we can chat and show off work we have done towards badges. Discord allows us to voice chat privately, so we can talk to each while playing at the same time.

On the Discord server we can overall, I believe congratulate other’s achievements. Minecraft is an amazing and inspiring tool for making friends, practising teamwork and leadership, as well as developing many more very important qualities like perseverance and improving many other life skills.

We can have fun with friends any day here!

Isaac Murdoch
Cobra Patrol Leader
85th Braid Scouts