Monthly Archives: June 2014

A midsummer night’s campfire

On the longest day of the year – for those of us in the northern hemisphere – another district in my division took over a nearby hostel for a Big Brownie Birthday sleepover.

The hostel is up in the downs above the town where I do my guiding, and has one of my favourite views in the world, looking down over the vale for miles and miles.  (Claim to fame: it’s described in the first chapter of Jude the Obscure).  Sadly I don’t seem to have a photo, but here’s one looking up towards the site.

Countryside with cow parsley, oilseedrape, and rolling hills

It also has great grounds, with a decent-sized wood, camping space, and a big flat area where we’re allowed to build a fire.  My district goes there for a bonfire every November, so it made a change to see it in daylight!

The Brownies arrived in the late afternoon and did some activities and a treasure hunt in the woods.  The Rainbows and Guides joined them for a barbeque and campfire singsong, then left the Brownies and Brownie Guiders to their fate sleepover stay-awake-over.  I didn’t stay overnight, but by all accounts it was good fun and something the Brownies will always remember.

Wait, why was I there?  I was invited to lead the campfire singing.  My usual singing partner, Queen’s Guide Buddy, couldn’t make it, but I was helped by two excellent young leaders from this other district.  They really were great, and I’m sure they could have done it on their own, but the arrangement worked well as I did a few songs they didn’t know, and they did some that I vaguely know but wouldn’t have thought to do (including Bananas of the World. A perfectly fine song, but I have a mental block on leading it).  A couple of other leaders got up and led a song or two as well.

A leader (me) with arms in the air, leading a song

I didn’t take any photos this time, but here I am at another campfire…

The Brownies and Rainbows joined in enthusiastically with everything, and most of the Guides with most of the songs.  We sang for just over an hour, by which time I was getting to the end of my repertoire suitable for all the age range without word sheets.

The campfire ended with everyone (over 100 of us) in a big circle, and some Promise ceremonies and reflections on the Brownie Birthday.  Oh, and it was gloriously sunny throughout.  What a lovely evening, and I’m glad to have been able to join in.


Scrapbooking and bedding rolls

This week I must admit the programme wasn’t as exciting as originally planned.  We were going to be practising camping skills like putting up tents and making gadgets, but it turned more theoretical because we remembered that the deadline was looming for a challenge/competition set by our local Trefoil Guild for the Guide units in the Division.  We thought we’d better show willing and make some kind of entry: only two other units have, so at worst we’ll come third!

The challenge is to present a plan for a dream camp, complete with a programme, kit lists, costings and so on.  When we leaders first saw it, we were…not burning with enthusiasm, I’m afraid.  We’d hoped the challenge would be more active, something like a Monopoly challenge or a badge with lots of different sections.

Anyway.  After our mini-campsite night back in April, we thought we’d better do a bit more towards it and put it all together in a scrapbook.  So the Guides got into patrols, and each group considered one aspect of planning a camp – catering, equipment, programme, and transport – and with coloured paper and pens made pictures/labels/diagrams/lists/mind maps for Unit Guider to take away and put together (on a ferry crossing to France!).

We also did a bit of teaching how to make bedding rolls, so the evening wasn’t entirely impractical.  And we were outside, which was pleasant.  In fact, for the first time were were using the garden of one of our new Guides, which has a lovely big lawn and paving slabs and garden furniture, and is right next to our hall, and her parents say we can use it any time.  Hurrah!  There was a tense moment when a few raindrops fell, but luckily they didn’t amount to anything (a massive downpour came later, just as the leaders were leaving).

Fitsteps fundraiser


Participants dancing

Everyone enjoying a…whatever this move was

Recently, we had another fundraiser for International Trip Guide.  A couple of leaders in my district go to Fitsteps classes – Fitsteps is a bit like Zumba but with ballroom dance/Strictly moves, no partner or previous experience required – and because they’re chatty, enthusiastic people who tell everyone they know about Guiding, they mentioned ITG to their instructor and she very kindly agreed to run a taster session free of charge.

Free for the instructor, that is: we charged participants £5 and, as always, there were refreshments and a raffle.  I’ll tell you now that we raised a respectable £172.50, another dent in ITG’s fundraising.

Table of cakes for sale

An antidote to all that exercise!

I designed the posters and distributed some of them, and made some cakes, but I wasn’t involved in running the event; I just turned up and enjoyed!

I had a great time: I do like a good dance, and it was fun working out to waltz steps, quickstep and so on.  Some of the footwork was a bit too quick for me, but I like a challenge!  The instructor was very good (and energetic), and apparently she picked up a few new class members so it was a win all round.

Fitsteps instructor on stage

A bit blurry, but ideal for anonymity!

Attendance was ok, not massive – only one of my Guides came, despite a lot of pushing: you can lead a horse to water etc. – but actually it was a good number for the size of the hall.  Any more and it would have started to feel a bit crowded.  I spoke to a few leaders/Trefoilers/friends’ mums whom I hadn’t seen for a while, which was lovely.


A rounders bat in action

This week, the Guides went to visit another Guide unit in our Division, in a nearby village.  Their summer meeting place is in a field!  (But they’re allowed to use the British Legion Hall when it rains.)

We played a game of Horses and Jockeys – appropriate as there were horses in the next field – and then played a game of rounders, with each team playing for 15 minutes.  As both our units had good attendance, the teams were quite big, about 20-a-side, so some girls were, shall we say, more involved in the game than others!  We think that if we do it again next year, we’ll try to split the group and have another activity going on.

A Guide with a rounders bat and ball

While this was happening, some of our leaders and young leaders were having a productive time planning next week’s meeting, signing off bits of a leadership qualification book, and doing camp admin.  A luxury of having more adults than usual!

It was nice to see that this unit, which re-opened just a couple of years ago after the village had been Guide-less for a long time, is going from strength to strength: both in terms of Guide numbers, and a growing team of adults and a young leader.  As the Unit Leader told me, it’s a great relief to have a team after being the only warranted leader for a long time.  It’s meant they’ve been able to offer the girls more opportunities, like going on their first camp a few weeks ago.

We finished off with singing round an altar fire (which was great except for when my co-leader swallowed a bit of dandelion fluff and had a coughing fit!) and toasting marshmallows.

Rounders 3

One of the best bits of a campfire

Coming up with a theme

I love a good holiday theme.  I’m sure you don’t need telling this, but a theme draws a holiday together and gives you ideas.  It’s great fun when the leaders and girls really go with it, and it leads you to do things you wouldn’t otherwise have thought of.  It can also make a holiday more memorable, especially if you go to the same venue a lot.

When I wrote the post totting up my nights away with guiding, it brought back happy memories of the themes we used.  One thing it got me thinking about was where the ideas came from.  This of course isn’t a definitive guide; just a few of my stories!

Ask the girls

I’ve got to put this first: guiding is girl-led and what better way to find a theme they’ll like than to ask them to choose?

Sometimes it might be completely random.  A few years ago, Unit Leader was chatting to a few Guides in a meeting and asked them what they thought the next camp theme should be.  One blurted out “Grease” and we liked the idea so much that Grease it was.

For a district Brownie holiday, the leader in charge chose three options (and included activity ides) and asked each unit to vote for their favourite.  That was interesting, as the winner (Ancient Egypt) was the random wildcard that the leader threw in without expecting it to be popular.  Which just proves that we can’t always predict what girls will like; we have to ask them!

Here are some other places where my groups have found ideas:


Does the place where you’re staying remind you of anything?  One pack holiday was in a wood, so we chose a Robin Hood theme (Winnie-the-Pooh would be another option).  This summer, my Guides are camping next to a building with a wooden porch that reminds us of a cowboy town, so we decided to have a Wild West theme.  The most tenuously-linked theme I’ve done was a weekend camp in a leader’s back garden.  Unit Leader mentioned beforehand that the staircase in the house reminded her of the one in The Sound of Music, and based on that we made that the theme.  None of the Guides (or I!) ever went inside the house to actually see the staircase, but it was a fun weekend.

Current events

Is there a memorable event going on while you’re away?  Examples: the Olympics, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, Girlguiding’s Centenary.


Are the girls keen to gain an interest badge or challenge badge?  A holiday gives you the chance to spend quality time on it and do bigger/longer activities that you can’t do in normal meetings.  And everyone gets an extra badge as a souvenir!  I’ve done the Circus Skills badge on holidays with Brownies and Guides.

It worked before…

Once we had a weekend Guide camp where most of the planning was done in the summer holidays and we left it quite late to choose a theme.  Unit Guider had recently helped at an Alice in Wonderland-themed pack holiday so she had plenty of fresh ideas (and a costume) from that.  We thought the Guides would enjoy it as much as the Brownies, so Alice it was, and very good it was too.

Where have you got your themes from?

Cook-out (1st of 2014)

Burning campfire with Guides in background

I didn’t take any photos this week, but here’s a fire from past times.

This week we had our first cook-out of the term.  It’s one of the simplest meetings to run, and one of the most enjoyable for everyone.

A leader in our division kindly let us use her garden, which is large, a bit wild, and has a good supply of wood.  I got there early with Unit Helper and we started turfing out fire pits and beating down the stinging nettles around the wood pile.*  Other leaders arrived with tables, camp chairs, newspaper, utensils, food, foil, damper mix, hair ties, buckets, and other odds and sods.  The Guides arrived with their food, drinks, plates, foil, utensils, wood, waterproofs, and again other odds and sods.  Each patrol chose a fire pit, we gathered everyone together and brief them, and then we all got going.

I was impressed with the patrols’ fire-building skills.  We must have taught the older ones well in past years, or else they’ve picked it up somewhere else.  The younger ones seem to have learned it in Brownies, which is fantastic.  It helped that it was a fine evening (mainly – we did have a couple of very light showers) without much wind, and the wood was perfectly dry and crackly.  As usual, most groups needed encouragement to keep gathering wood and make a wood pile – some would have blithely sat around while their fire went out! – and to wait until the flames had died down into embers before cooking their meat.  But that’s all part of the learning experience.

I was also impressed by the array of food.  There were lots of sausages, burgers and marshmallows, of course, but also some sweetcorn, salad, bananas with chocolate, pitta bread pizza and I even found one patrol toasting crumpets!  Most of the girls tried dampers, which went down well.

All in all it was a lovely evening, and I’m looking forward to the next one in a few weeks’ time – who knows what culinary delights await us then?

*My favourite laugh of the evening: Unit Helper has just come back from holiday in Australia.  When the Guides arrived and found her shovelling the fire pits, they said “You’re back from Australia!” and she said, deadpan, “Yes, but I’m digging my way back there.”

Brownie hat templates

At my division’s Big Brownie Birthday tea party a couple of weeks ago, one of the finishing touches was card cutouts of Brownie hats through the ages, on sticks, for people to pose with.  We managed to get a photo of the town mayor “wearing” the classic woolly hat.

Here are the templates to download, should you ever need a picture of a Brownie hat.  We printed them straight onto yellow and brown card and taped them to garden canes, but you can do what you like with them!

Brown pork pie hat with buttons 1917-1936 templateBrown wool beret 1950-1973 templateKnitted brown bobble hat 1973-1990 templateJeff Banks yellow baseball cap 1990-2002 template