At the end of June, I went with the Guides on what has become our annual night hike and sleepover. We’ve been doing it for so long, mainly thanks to the leader of the other Guide unit in my district, that as long as nothing unexpectedly goes wrong (which it didn’t this year), it runs like a well-oiled dream.
Here’s how it works: everyone arrives at a local village hall at 9:30pm, dumps their overnight gear in a suitable spot, gets their beds out, and gets ready to walk.
This year we took a bumper crop of 36 Guides from 5 units in the division. We leave as soon as possible, before it’s properly dark, leaving our torches off to make the most of the remains of the daylight, and use our night vision.
As an aside, night walking is one of my favourite things to do in guiding. It’s such a simple activity, but for a lot of Guides, especially the young ones, it’s a new experience to be out so late, and to take pleasure from walking in the dark. I love it how the things we see, hear and smell at night are different from in the daytime, and how conversations open up in a way they wouldn’t if you could see each other. I love showing the Guides that darkness isn’t something they have to avoid or be afraid of.
Anyway, we walk up to the downs and along a ridge, admiring the night-time view. This year we saw two firework displays going on! Usually some people make their Promise here.
Then we turn our torches on and walk down in a loop back to the hall, arriving about midnight, where some kind volunteer has stayed behind to get hot chocolate and biscuits ready for us. Everyone gets ready for bed…
…stays up chatting and midnight feasting…
…and eventually drops off (I called it a day at 2:15; the last Guides were nattering till 3am). This can be a very productive time for leaders! It’s a chance to catch up with leaders from other units, and to talk without the pressures of a unit meeting. Last year we helped someone to finish signing off their Leadership Qualification; this year we did some much-needed planning of the programme for camp.
In the morning, leaders start crashing about getting breakfast ready at 6:30 or so, we have a leisurely breakfast (in this case drinks, cereal and eggy bread, yum), everyone gets dressed, packed up and tidied, and if there’s time, the Guides have a play in the play park outside until they’re picked up at 8 o’clock. The leaders do a last sweep of the hall and off we all go!