Category Archives: Trips

Girlguiding LaSER Discover Day, Greenwich

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The view from the ferris wheel

Back in June, I took my Rainbows to a Discover Day run by Girlguiding London and South East Region (LaSER, which we are in) in Greenwich.

Girlguiding members of all sections were invited to explore Greenwich’s museums, parks and maritime area. It was repeated on Saturday and Sunday (we went on the Saturday), with the option for older girls to sleep over in a museum on the Saturday night.

We travelled there on a coach with the Brownies and Guides from my district, but once we got there we went our own way for the day. We were a tiny group: we’d offered the trip to 3 Rainbow units, but only had 4 Rainbows, plus 3 Leaders and a dad – so a 1:1 adult to child ratio!

We had a great time, and looking back on it we managed to pack a lot into one day. We looked around the National Maritime Museum (which has a brilliant play area for younger children), ate lunch next to the Cutty Sark, went on a carousel and ferris wheel (both at a discount price for Girlguiding members), took a trip on a Thames clipper, walked through the parks, had ice creams in Greewich Observatory, stood on the meridian, admired the views over London, and finished the day in a play park.

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There were other activities on offer, some of them just for Girlguiding members, but that was as much as we could fit in and covered all the things the girls wanted to do.

It was a long day – 10 hours from leaving to returning – and a lot of walking for the Rainbows, but they did well. We only had one moment (at the top of the hill on the way to the Observatory) when one of them sat down and refused to get up! We had a little break, and our dad helper (not that Rainbow’s father) worked some magic and got her going again.

I should mention the event staff. All the Girlguiding volunteers and the venue staff we spoke to were brillant, really open to chatting with the girls and making sure we were alright.

The event was a very reasonable price – we spent more on the coach than on the day itself. The only snag was that we had to enter a ballot for tickets well in advance, and I overestimated how many Rainbows would want to go, so we lost money on the tickets and coach spaces that weren’t used. Next time I’d be more conservative about how many places I asked for, but I’d definitely offer it to my Rainbows again.

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The view from the Thames clipper

 

Wildlife park takeover

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Back in May, I took my Rainbows to a nearby wildlife park. It wasn’t just us: several hundred other Rainbows from around the county were there too, for a takeover day.

In some ways it was a strange day. For one thing, I was the only adult from my unit who could make it, so I put out a call for parent helpers and in the end had 3 mums and a dad with me. They’re all very nice and helpful, but it gave the day a different dynamic from day trips with guiders than I’m used to.

For another thing, the ‘Rainbow takeover’ element wasn’t quite was I expected. Yes, hundreds of Rainbows entered the park at the same time, and we got activity sheets to fill in as we went around, and we saw other Rainbows everywhere we went. But apart from that, we might as well have gone on our own as a unit. There was no big get-together of everyone, and no special activities on just for Rainbows.

Still, the fact is I wouldn’t have thought to organise a trip like this for my unit, so it was really good to have a reason to go there. We had fun seeing all the animals – I especially liked the butterfly house, and got some lovely pictures of butterflies settling on Rainbows’ hands – and of course spending time on the indoor and outdoor playgrounds.

Now that I’ve been and seen that it’s a good day out, I’d consider going back to that wildlife park in future.

National Animal Welfare Trust

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It’s Flashback Friday!

In the summer term my Guides visited our nearest branch of the National Animal Welfare Trust.

I have a friend who works there, and she kept telling me that my Guides should come and visit. So we did.

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A very nice member of staff led us around the centre and introduced us to all the animals they look after. She explained to us that they specialise in taking old animals that need a home for the last few years of their life, although they take others too. At that time they had horses, sheep, goats, rabbits, guinea pigs, dogs, and probably more. I was slightly sad as I’d heard a lot about some alpacas, but they’d been rehomed recently. Oh how I love alpacas. So woolly.

The Guides got to stroke some of the animals, and it opened up interesting conversations about the pets they had, or used to have, or would like. They asked some good questions, too.

My favourite part was meeting the member of staff’s dog. He was a big friendly woolly thing and he spent 10 minutes walking round and round the circle of Guides getting lots of petting.

We also learned about the centre’s community engagement and fundraising work. We came away with some little goodies, plus newsletters and flyers about their next events. We’d asked the Guides to bring donations of pet food and toys, and we also gave them a cheque from our unit to say thank you.

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Theme park trip!

Drayton Manor

It’s Flashback Friday!

In the Easter holidays, I took my Guides and some from the other unit in town to Drayton Manor.

It’s something that came up every term when we asked what they would like to do, and I thought the time was right to do it. Plus I like a theme park too.

Comparing the market

I looked at a few theme park websites and chose Drayton Manor because

  • I’d heard the Guides mention it as somewhere they’d like to go
  • it wasn’t too far away – about 1.5 hours by coach
  • the tickets were a bit cheaper than other parks
  • not too many rules about age (some of the others I looked at said that under-12s had to be accompanied by an adult all the time)
  • the rides looked about the right level: some scary exciting ones, but gentler ones too

Booking and budgeting

Oh dear, I still hadn’t learned my lesson from the pantomime trip that you should book and budget for a smaller coach and change up if there’s lots of interest. Instead I booked and budgeted for a 50-seater coach and had to change it down because we only had 20 girls coming. That was a perfectly good group size, but it meant the unit funds took a loss from the trip.

I made big apologies to my unit leader. Luckily we’re ok for funds and she’s a generous woman who knows we all make mistakes (and hopefully learn from them).

Drayton Manor were great with our ticket booking, I’d really recommend them. I phoned them to give a provisional number about 6 weeks before the trip, and they said fine, I could pay a day or two before. I phoned the day before to give them final numbers, and they said fine, I could pay when I got there. So if anyone had been unable to come at the last minute we wouldn’t have needed to pay for them.

It was really easy to get in, too: I queued and paid at the ticket booth while the others waited at the side, then a member of staff let us in through a side gate. I guess 24 people is a drop in the ocean to them.

A grand day out

We set up a base for everyone’s bags, the first aid kit etc on a picnic table, then sent the girls off in groups, asking them to report back in a time slot (eg between 11:00 and 11:30, so that if it got to 11:00 and they were queuing for a ride, they could go on it and then report back).

Most of the girls have been on trips with us before, so they know how it works. We had a couple of cases of groups getting separated by accident, but generally they were very good.

There were 4 of us leaders, including a new Rainbow leader who I was glad I invited – I think she had a good day with us and it wasn’t something she could do with Rainbows! We took turns to stay at the base while the others went on rides. I went on a couple of scary ones with the leaders, a really scary plummetty one with Guides (I definitely screamed more than them), and a couple of gentle ones with Guides.

Drayton Manor was the perfect size for a trip like this. It’s compact (you can walk from end to end in 10 minutes), not huge and sprawling like, say, Thorpe Park. As I said, there’s a good mix of different types of rides, so something for everyone.

As with all these places in the school holidays, the queues for the really big rides were really long, but I guess that was an exercise for the Guides in weighing up whether they were worth the wait, or whether to do something less exciting but with a shorter queues – working out how to use their time and abilities wisely! It was a bit disappointing that the log flume was closed for the day, but there were plenty of other things to do.

The younger Guides loved the fairground stalls. Every time I came back to our base, there were more huge cuddly toys sitting there. The parent’s faces were priceless when they saw their girls getting off the coach carrying giant minions and pink fluffy things.

Drayton Manor

Our extra passengers on the ride home

I had a thoroughly good day out, and I hope the girls did too. Definitely a trip I’d do again, to the same park or somewhere else.

Queen’s Guide Exploration

I love this sign

I love this sign

Between Christmas and New Year, Queen’s Guide Buddy and I went on our Queen’s Guide Award exploration.

This was the second element of the “Outdoor Challenge” bit of the award (the first element being completing the relevant modules of the “Going Away With” scheme).  The exploration had to last at least three nights/four days, be done in a group of 4-7 people of our age, and

“be at least 30 miles (50 kilometres) from your home, preferably in a location (urban or rural) that is not known to either you or the other members of your group. If you have visited the area or place before, your exploration must challenge and extend your knowledge of it.”

(For more details, see p.10 ff of the Queen’s Guide Award syllabus.)

We had a narrow window of opportunity to do the trip: it had to be between August, when QGB did her “Going Away With” modules at Guide camp, and my 26th birthday in February.  It also had to be in the school holidays, to fit in with some group members’ work.  We couldn’t rustle up enough friends to go in autumn half term, so Christmas it was.  We found three friends to join us for the whole trip, and another two for a day of it, and we chose York and the surrounding area, on the basis that neither of us knew it very well, and we thought there would be plenty of good things there to explore.

P is for pony trekking

P is for pony trekking

We gave the trip some structure by doing an A-Z of attractions and activities (an idea I totally ripped off someone’s Queen’s Guide presentation I watched a couple of years ago).  Some were obvious (M for Minster), some led us off the beaten tourist track (D for Dick Turpin’s grave), some we did in the comfort of our holiday home (Y for Yorkshire puddings), some required a bit of creativity (Z for zebras in a toy shop), and some were just fun things we fancied (P for pony trekking).  We did a mixture of free and non-free things, and part of the planning was deciding how much we wanted to pay for and ask our friends to pay for.

M is for Minster

M is for Minster

We’re doing a “presentation” about the trip to our Guides tonight in the form of a guess-the-letter-of-the-alphabet game, so more about that another day.

C is for Chocolate Story

C is for Chocolate Story (highly recommended)

It was a very pleasant few days, and a good way to fill the quiet days at the end of the year.  QGB and I did wonder if, by going on what was essentially a holiday with friends, we were cheating a bit: it would have been an adventure if we were 17, but hardly such a challenge for 25-year-olds Queen’s Guide candidates.  Still we met the criteria, and we did do much more planning than we would for a normal (non-guiding) holiday, and got more out of it because of that.  I tried a few new things (never been on a ghost tour before), learned some pub quiz facts (Guy Fawkes was born in York – managed not to find that out until we actually got there), got to know a couple of new people, and I feel like I know the city tolerably well now, for what that’s worth.

Onwards and upwards: only a few more signatures in the QG book!

F is for Fountains Abbey

F is for Fountains Abbey

Division leaders’ sleepover…and they all lived happily ever after

I recently went to a division night away for adults and Young Leaders.  Our Division Commissioner (who is also my Unit Leader), wanted us to get to know each other, have fun and pick up some new ideas to use in our units.  We stayed at a local hostel, so it was easy for people to come and go if they couldn’t stay the whole time, and were there from Saturday lunchtime to Sunday lunchtime so it didn’t take up the entire weekend.

Great view from the grounds.

Unit Leader enlisted people from our district to help run the weekend, and in a glorious mini-rerun of summer camp, Co-Activity Leader and I ran most of the activities.  We decided (I can’t remember how, but it was late on the last night of camp) on a fairytale theme, hence the snazzy decorations.

Great inside, too.

As everyone arrived, they made paper crowns with their names on – more fun than name badges!  Some were  basic, and others very elaborate.  Later, to encourage crown-wearing, the QMs decided that they would only serve dinner to those wearing them.

We played the helium stick game as an icebreaker, first as a race between groups and then (with bamboo canes taped together) with all 30-odd people together.

Then we cooked lunch on trangias, very ably explained and supervised by Queen’s Guide Buddy.  We stirfried vegetables and chopped-up sausages, which was very tasty but we really mustn’t fry things on borrowed trangias again.  There will be burnt bits, and they will have to be laboriously scrubbed off.  Boiling all the way from now on.  For pudding, we made fruit kebabs and melted chocolate in bowls over hot water in the smaller trangia pan.

After lunch, we had a cup of tea and split into groups rotating around three activities:

  • a game like charades with teddies, getting the teddies to act out fairy tales.
  • planting a “magic bean” (a bulb from a mixed bag of tulips, daffodils and hyacinths) in a toilet roll tube, decorating it with a little rhyme instructing them to make a wish when planting it out.
  • a game hunting in the woods for words on sticky labels, which they then stuck onto fairy tales to fill in the gaps.  I ran this game and was quite pleased with it – might write another post about it.

Hunting for wordsAfter everyone had done these, we had a lovely cream tea.  By this stage, some of our newer leaders and Young Leaders had started to notice a feeling that those with more residential experience take for granted, that they were simply drifting from one meal to the next.

Did someone mention food?  Our next activity was building and decorating gingerbread houses.  I have a friend who, for the last 10 years or so, has hosted a gingerbread evening at Christmas: she provides the house pieces and cement (melted chocolate and icing) and the rest of us bring sweets and decorations to share.  It’s a highlight of my year, and I wanted to do something similar for the Guiders.  I had an epic baking session making over thirty sets of house pieces, and for a unit meeting I think I’d just use shop-bought biscuits, but it was worth it on this occasion to see the adults enjoying themselves and getting into the construction and decoration.  I have a theory that knowing that the gingerbread was home-made made them put more effort and care into putting them together.  Whatever the psychology, don’t they look good?

Such a creative bunch. There’s even a garage and a tasty-looking rubble heap!

Gradually as everyone finished, we tidied up, gave the tables a good wipe-down, and had a bit of free time before dinner.  Which was lasagne, delicious and very savoury: just what we needed after all that sweetness.

After dinner, we did some fairytale-themed “minute to win it” challenges, with teams of Rainbow Leaders, Brownie Leaders, Guide Leaders and “Others” competing against each other.  The challenges didn’t all go as expected and my point scoring wasn’t the most accurate in the world, but they had good competitive fun (and the Guide Leaders won, of course!).

That was the end of the organised fun for the day.  We sat on comfy chairs and nattered for a bit, and one of the leaders had brought a Christmassy colouring book – a few of us enjoyed sitting there colouring!  It was nice to do this without having to think about whether the Guides/Brownies were getting to sleep ok.

Likewise, in the morning, it was lovely not to be woken by early-rising Brownies or have to get up early to get the girls up and ready.  I woke up fifteen minutes before breakfast to the smell of eggy bread.  Love the lovely QMs.

After breakfast, Co-Activity Leader and I set out crafts, and everyone dabbled for about an hour and a half.  There were pipe cleaner teddies, decorating horseshoes, cross-stitch memento badges, frog princes, and spinning wool.

Just before home time, we all sat together and said our best bits and reflections.  Another leader and I were awarded our Going Away With certificates and badges, and four Young Leaders made their Promise.  We sang two versions of the Rainbow goodbye song, Brownie Bells, and three versions of Taps.  Most people left, and a few of us cleared up and left an hour later.

There were lots of things I liked about this event.  I enjoyed meeting people whom I didn’t know before, including a very new Leader in my district.  She said that she felt very welcomed, which is a relief.  I liked that it gave the Young Leaders a chance to mix with the adults and be treated as such (the age range was 14-85!).  I know it can be strange to make the transition to having an adult relationship with women who used to be your Rainbow, Brownie and Guide Leaders, and I hope this helps them along the way.  I really liked walking around listening to everyone’s conversations.  It seemed like every time I listened, people were getting to know each other, sharing what they were doing with their units, catching up on news, signing off training books, recruiting for next summer’s camp, throwing around ideas for future events, and having a giggle.  In short, bonding, which was what Division Commissioner wanted.  Not one to put off till tomorrow what she can do today, she’s already booked us in again this time next year.

BIG GIG 2014

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A few weeks ago I went to the BIG GIG – a pop concert for members of Girlguiding aged 10+ – with a coachload of Guides, Senior Section and adults from my District.

We left in the afternoon and arrived in Wembley in good time – in fact, so early that we saw everyone coming out of the afternoon concert as we drove past the arena.  It was our first glimpse of groups in matching clothes and/or headgear – we would see many more over the course of the evening – and the Guides were fascinated.  I was happy to hear one of them say in wonder, “and just think, they’re all Guides.”  None of the girls had been to a national guiding event before, and most haven’t even been to a county event, so I think it was a bit of an eye-opener to see that they are part of a huge movement of girls and women like them.

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The coach parked, and we ate our packed teas, applied glitter and handed out matching flashing head boppers before getting off the coach.  We walked past Wembley stadium to the arena, queued for a little while, and then got let inside.  We were among the first, so we found our seats and let the girls go off to the toilet/food stalls/merchandise stalls, while we watched the auditorium fill up.

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Finally, the concert started, and I enjoyed myself much more than I expected.  I knew the atmosphere would be great – with thousands of excited Guides, it couldn’t not be – but I liked the music too!  I didn’t recognise all the artists, but it turned out that I knew quite a few of the songs from the radio, or because they were covers.  There was a good mix of artists – boy bands, girl bands, solo men, solo women, and a dance group – and of genres and songs to appeal to everyone, and I had a good bop along most of the time.  I liked that there was plenty of room in front of the folding seats, so there was space to stand and dance, but also the option of sitting down when one wanted.  I had a good view, but felt for some of our little Guides who managed to be in seats behind tall adults from another group.  Luckily those adults were happy to sit down most of the time; and the Guides spent a lot of the time as far out into the aisle as they could get away with.

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It was a really good trip, and I thoroughly recommend it.  My Guides, from the 10-year-olds to the 14-year-olds, kept saying how much they enjoyed it, and their parents have told us how excited they were to have been to their first concert.  We got the tickets by ballot in the summer, and didn’t find out if we’d got them till the middle of the holidays, so it was a bit of a rush to tell the girls about it and get numbers in the first few weeks of the autumn term, but it was well worth it.